As if the Lakers could possibly use yet another power forward, a fairly intriguing one might very well make his way to the open market sooner rather than later. This, via Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
Yahoo Sources: Minnesota progressing on contract buyout with former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett. He would be free agent if clears waivers.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) September 21, 2015
On one hand, Bennett will probably go down as one of the worst first overall selections in NBA – if not sports – history. Yes, he’s shown flashes as an effective stretch four, but in general, if you’ve been traded to one of the league’s worst teams and subsequently bought out by said bottom-dweller, you haven’t lived up to the value that comes with being picked first in any draft.
Cavs gonna Cavs (and still be great because LeBron happened to grow up 37.9 miles South).
The Lakers also feature their own high draft pick at Bennett’s position, Julius Randle. No, we do not know what Randle brings to the table as he’s played all of 14 actual NBA minutes. Still though, Randle is right next to D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson in terms of importance to the franchise, so Bennett potentially taking minutes is not ideal.
Randle will not, however, be playing 48 minutes per game – not even close. I’d actually set his ideal MPG at right around 26, leaving plenty for another role player off the bench. Bennett, maybe? Not so fast.
The Lakers also invested a first round pick on Larry Nance, Jr. We have even less an idea what he might offer on the court as this season is literally his rookie year. Taking minutes from him, before his career even starts is, again, less than ideal.
The Lakers also signed Brandon Bass in the offseason. Sure the deal isn’t much of a commitment financially or long-term, but immediately putting into question a newly-signed player’s minutes is not particularly smart, and might affect how fringe free agents view the organization moving forward.
Everything I listed above should already be reason enough not to sign Bennett, but there’s also that whole “Byron Scott is still the Lakers head coach” thing. Annoying, I know.
If Mike D’Antoni was still head coach, I’d fairly comfortably assert that Bennett will be utilized properly. Heck, even Ryan Kelly looked like a professional basketball player under D’Antoni. Crazy, I know.
There is no guarantee Scott plays Bennett at the four as he probably should. I’d even take it a step further and say I honestly don’t think he would. See Kelly, Ryan. I would trust D’Antoni with a reclamation project because we’ve seen him reclaim a few projects. Scott simply doesn’t have that history of success in that department.
Look, I’m all for trying to find value wherever possible. A former number one pick on the free market is a great – repeat, GREAT – place to find said value. If Bennett does come over and plays to even a percentile of the talent that convinced the Cavs to take him first, the Lakers stumbled into something they might not have otherwise.
In the NBA and any other professional league though, an athlete’s success is almost completely derivative of their surroundings. Could Bennett go to San Antonio and resurrect his career as the successor to Boris Diaw when the latter eats just one too many macarons? Absolutely. Given all the factors working against him in Los Angeles though, it’s just not worth it. For either side.