The Cleveland Cavaliers have had great success when picking No. 1 overall in the NBA draft … for the most part.
The Cavs turned their franchise around in 2003 when they selected LeBron James with the top pick. Cleveland nailed it again in 2011 when it picked Kyrie Irving at No. 1 overall despite playing just 11 collegiate games. And while Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in 2014, never played a game for the Cavaliers, he’s turning into a fine NBA player.
The one glaring omission in Cleveland’s recent draft success was the selection of Anthony Bennett with the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. Bennett played 52 games in his rookie season, averaging just 4.2 points and three assists per game.
It didn’t take long for the Cavs to move on from Bennett, though, as the team shipped him in a package, along with Wiggins, to the Minnesota Timberwolves in exchange for Kevin Love in August 2014. Bennett’s value only has decreased since, as he’s made forgettable stops in Toronto, Brooklyn and Phoenix. He even was released by a Turkish team this past May.
Bennett was the consensus top pick in 2013, so it came as somewhat of a surprise that he flaked out of the league so quickly. In Jason Lloyd’s new book, “The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland’s Deliverance and the Making of the Modern NBA,” former Cavs general manager David Griffin, who served in the front office at the time, owned up to the whiffed pick and explained why Bennett didn’t work out in Cleveland.
“The issue with Anthony was, and we had no way of knowing it at the time, the kid had no desire to overcome adversity whatsoever,” Griffin said, as transcribed by The Athletic. “As soon as it was hard, he was out. His whole life, he rolled out of bed bigger, better, and more talented than everybody else. As soon as it was hard, it was over. And I was the one on campus at UNLV. I’m the one who got sold the bill of goods and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. You f–k up sometimes. But I feel bad (former GM) Chris (Grant) took it for that, because Chris was the one guy who wasn’t sure.”
In Cleveland’s defense, the 2013 class was exceptionally weak. The top five was rounded out by Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter Jr., Cody Zeller and Alex Len, all of whom have amounted to average NBA players. Giannis Antetokoumpo, the No. 15 overall pick, undoubtedly is the best player to come out of that draft, but the Milwaukee Bucks star was viewed as a major work-in-progress at the time.
We doubt the Cavs are dwelling too much on the Bennett pick, though, as the franchise has experienced quite a bit of success in recent years.
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