When we were last in the film room, we took a look at the Cavaliers over-helping on three-point shots and the resulting consequences. As always, if you have any ideas for film room topics, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. This week, we’re going to look no further than Anthony Bennett’s performance against the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night and how it showed a preview of what Bennett can become as a player. You can find my NBA Draft film room on Bennett here.
By now, you’ve seen the stat line: 19 points, 10 rebounds, and 6-of-9 shooting in 30 minutes to lead the Cavaliers’ to their third straight win at the time, a 109-99 victory over the Kings at home. It was much more than Bennett’s first career double-double, however. In this game, we saw a decent chunk of the skills and potential that made the now-terminated Chris Grant choose him with the first overall pick. We’re seeing a slimmer, more confident Bennett, and we’re going to take a look at a few of those instances.
Let’s begin with a pick-and-roll at the top of the key between Bennett and Kyrie Irving. Let’s get the easy joke out of the way about Bennett’s sometimes lazy screens in the past. But, his frame and his skill set make him a tough cover when the effort is there. Here, he picks Isaiah Thomas as Irving drives left to use the screen.
Quincy Acy, who is guarding Bennett, helps Thomas as Irving drives down the lane left. It leaves Bennett out top all alone.
Irving delivers the ball to Bennett in the free throw circle. From there, Bennett could easily shoot the basketball. In fact, in the early part of this season, he probably would’ve rushed to shoot without even thinking about it and clanked it off the back of the rim.
Instead, AB gives a little ball fake to Acy (and really, it wasn’t even that great of a fake) and goes right by him as he dribbles left. Even lazy ball fakes work sometimes. Just imagine when he decides to start really selling those shot attempts. You can see in the shot below that Tristan Thompson does a nice job of sealing off Demarcus Cousins underneath the basket as Bennett starts his drive. Little plays like that go unnoticed, but they’re essential to offensive success.
In college, Bennett was very much a player comfortable taking other forwards off the dribble from the perimeter all the way to the basket. It’s why some people thought it was conceivable for him to play small forward. Cousins finally moves over, but it’s too late, and all he can do is foul Bennett.
Moving on, we see Bennett doing some nice work off of the ball. The Cavaliers actually have some nice offensive movement on this possession. Anthony is underneath the basket in the paint, setting a pick just above the baseline for Alonzo Gee.
Gee curls through after a staggered second pick from Henry Sims while Bennett flashes through the paint to set another pick underneath the hoop for Dion Waiters.
Matthew Dellavedova passes it to Waiters on the left wing as Bennett returns to the left side of the floor and fades to the corner.
Dion delivers the pass to the former Runnin’ Rebel who buries the wide open trey. In this game, we didn’t see the rush in Bennett’s shot as he canned all three long-range shots that he attempted.
In this next sequence, Delly heads up the court without numbers, but you see Bennett just getting over halfcourt.
No one cuts off Bennett, so he just keeps running down the middle of the court where Delly delivers the ball at the foul line.
Another ball fake on Acy and a spin move this time get Bennett into close range where he gets fouled again.
Bennett’s shooting just 64% from the free throw line this season, and his lone blemish in this game was the 4-of-9 clip at the line. However, he was 11-of-12 over a three game span last week. At UNLV, AB shot freebies at a 70% clip. One of his best skills going forward in my opinion is going to be his ability to draw fouls due to the variety in his shot selection. If he can shoot respectable from three-point range, crash the boards, and get confident on isolation drives to the basket in addition to posting up occasionally, he can use that body of his to draw contact.
Still in the second quarter, Bennett and Delly are at it again out high. First, Bennett picks left and sets it a stride or two above the three-point arc. Setting a pick that high gives Delly a better chance at a pull-up jumper or a quick kick with better floor spacing.
An effective variance on the pick and roll is setting another pick in the opposite direction immediately following the first one. AB does that here with another pick (this time, to the right) on Jimmer Fredette. Derrick Williams1 takes a more active effort in showing on the second pick as Delly pushes it right.
Bennett slips it after that second screen, occupying the open area in the middle of the floor made possible by the good pick being set and the Cavaliers excellent offensive spacing.
In a continuing theme where Bennett isn’t just settling for jumpers, he catches the Delly pass and takes it right to the hole against Cousins.
Bennett goes up strong and back to the line it is. As he gets stronger, some more of these should turn into and-one chances.
We have time for one more, another pick and roll out top with Delly. Bennett picks right and Williams is already out there showing as Marcus Thornton is stonewalled by the big man.
Williams can’t recover as Bennett floats to the left wing. Thomas is the only one that is in position to help, and Bennett has a whole foot height advantage on him. Bennett could easily pop the shot. This is where the pick and roll gets incredibly difficult to defend when you have options. Bennett can pick and stay (and potentially pick again), roll to the basket, fade to an open spot on the perimeter, or cut and allow someone else to flash to the ball.
Once again, though, he takes it right to and through Cousins, crashing into him with all his might. Cousins’s right heel being on the charge circle makes this a three-point play opportunity for Bennett as he cashes the bucket.
I’ve got one more picture for you guys. Below is a grab of Anthony Bennett running down the floor on offense at about the 5:16 mark of the second quarter. He is the first Cavalier down the court. This is after being out on the floor for a nearly 11-minute run, and he started this fastbreak from inside the paint at the other end. He had to sprint past guys down the floor. This may seem like much ado about nothing, but I can assure you this is a different Bennett than we’ve seen in the first half of the season. Those 30 pounds shed are doing wonders, and as he drops even more weight, it’s only going to help him get up and down the floor and log more minutes.
Some of the other observations that better spoken than seen with Bennett include his commitment to boxing out on the defensive glass. I saw a consistent effort to find a man, put a body on him, and THEN go get the rebound. Additionally, AB was rarely out of position defensively in this game. It was obvious to me even in the preseason that Bennett was going to be a work in progress on that end of the floor but he was making an effort to learn Brown’s system. His biggest problem on that end of the floor right now is the lack of lateral quickness when covering the perimeter and crafty post moves in isolation. He ends up looking silly at times when a guy like Cousins or Josh Smith puts a multi-layered post move that includes a spin on him.
How good has Bennett been lately? Let’s look at a couple stats.
In his last nine games, Bennett has averaged: 8.6 PTS, 4.8 RBS, .431 FG%, .467 3PT, .645 FT, 1.1 TO. That includes four double digit scoring efforts and six games with 20+ minutes. In his last ten, Bennett’s offensive rating (107.7) is drastically higher than his season rate (97.2) as well as the team’s season mark (102.2). His rebounding percentage is up and turnovers are down. His true shooting percentage is also up 12% from his season mark (39.6%) in his last ten (51.6%). In that Sacramento game, the team scored 1.36 points per possession with Bennett on the floor. To give you an idea of how impressive that is, the team on the season has scored 0.86 points per possession.
Kirk Lammers grew up on the Marblehead Peninsula and is a graduate of THE Ohio State University. He now lives in Northeast Ohio, and you can find him at the ballpark, at the Q, or far too often on Twitter (@WFNYKirk)."