Sprung: Top Pick Bennett Has Historically Bottomed Out

Anthony BennettPoor Anthony Bennett tried to keep his head up.

His right shoulder was heavily wrapped after a 31-point loss to the Knicks, and there was disappointment in his eyes.

Bennett had another empty, unremarkable game just two days after a seemingly encouraging 15-point performance against New Orleans. It turns out that it was just a blip in a season of disappointments for both player and team.

Bennett, the top overall pick in June’s draft, is not just having a bad rookie season. He is having the worst rookie season for any top overall draft pick in league history.

By a lot.

And we have the stats to prove it.

Since it’s hard to compare players from different positions with traditional stats, we used Player Efficiency Rating (PER), the number of points scored and allowed per 100 possessions (offensive and defensive rating) and the number of wins contributed to the players’ teams (win shares).

Here are the major stats for the first season of every top draft pick over the last 20 years. The results are dramatic and startling.



What you should notice is how far Bennett lags behind everyone else. Kwame Brown was widely panned as the worst of these picks over the last two decades and even his feeble numbers with Washington dwarf what Bennett is doing right now for Cleveland.

Bennett and Brown are the only two players on this list to play under 20 minutes per game. However, Brown shot over 10 percentage points better from the floor, had an exponentially higher PER and was 26 points better than Bennett per 100 possessions.

Bennett and Michael Olowokandi are the only top picks over the last 20 years that contributed negatively to their teams overall in their rookie seasons. Bennett has nearly cost the Cavs an entire game just by being on the floor for an average of just over 11 minutes per game.

That negative rating justifies the 12 DNPs Bennett has accumulated this season, an alarming number for a top overall pick. Statistically, the Cavaliers have a better chance of winning by not playing Bennett.

He’s been that bad.

Related: See our Michael Scotto’s exclusive interview with Bennett

After looking through other top picks over the course of the NBA’s common draft era (starting in 1966), only LaRue Martin from the 1972-1973 Portland Trail Blazers really compares when it comes to truly pathetic first seasons for a top overall pick.

Though BasketballReference didn’t have offensive and defensive ratings data for that era, you could see that even Martin wasn’t as bad as Bennett is this season.

L. Martin12.939.64.44.610.5 NA NA NA-0.4-0.019


Anthony Bennett and IMartin was also a negative contributor to that Blazers team, but his field goal percentage and overall efficiency rating was better than Bennett’s in their first seasons.

This article is not meant to call Bennett a bust, because that will be determined BY the rest of his career. But Bennett is not only having the worst rookie season of any top pick in NBA history, he may be the worst player in the NBA this season.

In the entire league.

According to Basketball-Reference’s handy statistical ranking of the 453 players who entered an NBA game this season, Bennett’s minus-0.9 win shares is the worst mark in the league. Bennett’s 2.6 PER is the worst in the league among players who have logged at least 300 minutes. His 72 offensive rating is the worst for players with at least 150 minutes. His 28.1 percent shooting is second-worst in the league to Boston’s Phil Pressey for players with at least 25 games.

Let’s see Bennett’s horrible shooting in action. There’s a lot of red, and it doesn’t signify red-hot.

Bennett shot chart 2/5/14

Bennett was injured over the summer, costing him important and valuable developmental time in the summer league.

However, coach Mike Brown and the organization refuse to send him to the D-League for the experience and playing time he sorely needs.

Bennett is just another example of the dysfunction that rules the Cleveland franchise right now. Expected to contend for a playoff spot, the Cavs are 16-32 and five games out of the final postseason berth in the awful Eastern Conference. 

Bennett’s historically bad season can still be fixed over the season’s final two months, but it looks like he will have the worst rookie season of any top pick in the history of the league.

Shlomo Sprung is a national columnist for Sheridan Hoops who loves advanced statistics and the way they explain what happens on the court. He is also the web editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. A 2011 graduate of Columbia University’s Journalism School, he has previously worked for the New York Knicks, The Sporting News, Business Insider and other publications. His website is SprungOnSports.com. You should follow him on Twitter.


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