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Cavaliers’ No. 1 pick looks good in Summer League. No, not that one. Anthony Bennett.

Jul 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

Cleveland Cavaliers v San Antonio Spurs Getty Images

LAS VEGAS — The first thing you notice is Anthony Bennett is in shape now.

Not the spare tire shape he was in last season, when shoulder surgery slowed his summer workouts and had him packing on the pounds. Which led to whispers around the league about his work ethic. No, Bennett is in legitimately good shape — he’s dropped 19 pounds according to the Cavaliers official Web site, although that may sell it short based on the eyeball test.

“It wasn’t really that tough,” said Bennett, who added he has a personal chef now. “My body is kind of weird. I can gain weight fast, I can lose weight fast. So it was just me maintaining it. Watching what I eat at night.”

The next thing you notice is that improved shape has him playing with real energy and purpose, and he is able to maintain it for an extended period of time. That really showed Sunday at Summer League on the glass when he pulled down 14 rebounds.

“You grab 14 rebounds you got a place to play,” new Cavaliers coach Dave Blatt said.

Anthony Bennett has looked like a solid, quality NBA player in Las Vegas.

Still not No. 1 overall pick material, he doesn’t flash the potential of Andrew Wiggins (who has packed the gym in Vegas with fans). However, after a rookie season that made him an NBA punchline, Bennett has come out in Vegas and looked like a quality NBA player. Like a guy who could get minutes on an obviously much improved Cavaliers team.

“AB has been good since Day 1, since I came,” Blatt said. “He’s really working hard to get himself in shape. He’s really, really trying hard to do a lot of things on the court to help the team win and not be under pressure to do one thing just to stay on the floor. It’s a work in progress.”

“It was kind of a setback for me with the shoulder stuff but I’m just trying to put that in the past, come out here and have fun,” Bennett said.

He wasn’t having fun last season, when he was having statistically the worst season a No. 1 pick who was healthy ever had.

“Most definitely,” Bennett said when asked if last season was hard on him. “Just putting a lot of pressure on myself, things were’t going right for me. Everything just collapsed and was building up. I got down on myself, but my teammates help me out a lot, just told me to keep going.”

The Bennett in Vegas looks and plays like a different guy.

Sunday night he showed off a pick-and-pop midrange game. Overall he was 5-of-8 shooting but more importantly he was 3-of-5 from the top of the key area when he popped instead of rolled, showing a nice facet to his game.

“Anthony has shown the ability to do a lot of things. He can play with his face to the basket, he can play with his back to the basket,” Blatt said. “I think it’s important that he feels comfortable and he tries not to hurry. As long as he lets the game come to him, as long as he makes good decisions, he’s in a good place like he was today.”
Back home in Las Vegas where he was raised, Bennett is finding a comfort level in the NBA.

“I see my high school principal here, a few teachers, my AAU coach, a few friends. I just feel more relaxed,” Bennett said.

Expectations are through the roof in Cleveland, bringing in LeBron James will do that. Bennett is going to have to fight for minutes.

Plenty of guys have looked good in Summer League and been unable to translate that to the regular season. Bennett still has a lot of work to do.

But from where he’s come, he looks good. Continue on this trajectory and the Cavaliers may be adding another good young player to the mix next season. One they already had in house.

  1. goraidersgospurs - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:12 AM

    A #1…. who does not average alot of points should grab 14 rebounds every game!!!

  2. balsagna - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:19 AM

    It doesn’t look like anyone was worthy of the #1 pick last year, but AB has a lot of upside. With Lebron in the fold, the AB at the 3 conversation can be put to rest as well.

  3. illogic87 - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:21 AM

    Trade Bennett to Wolves for Klove

    • titansbro - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:46 AM

      if they could they certainly would

      • tompeppermint - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:22 PM

        As long as the Cavs agree to trade LeBron to the Wolves for JJ Barea.

    • bball242322 - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:56 PM

      That’s illogical

  4. juicyjwebb - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:29 AM

    Good to see him in shape and improving. He obviously has a lot of potential, he just has to stay healthy, in-shape, and continue to improve. If he does, the Cavs will be THAT much better. He’s a good young talent who may or may not live up to his draft selection status (I don’t think he can live up to #1 pick hype), but signs like this and the addition of LeBron makes it much more likely that he achieves the former.

  5. csbanter - Jul 14, 2014 at 8:52 AM

    Cavs are trying to talk him up to anyone that will listens. Summer league and actual NBA regular season night and day.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:36 PM

      Yeah, but playing well in Summer League certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s better than not playing well in Summer League, which is kind of a death sentence.

    • dondada10 - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:48 PM

      At this point, unless the Cavs get blown away in an offer or he’s required in a much larger deal (Love, ect.) they’re better off keeping Bennett. His value is only going to increase.

  6. genericcommenter - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:12 AM

    Looks like 100 lbs.

    • jollyjoker2 - Jul 14, 2014 at 7:08 PM

      Yep – its going to make him play 300% better to become average. can’t wait.

  7. saint1997 - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    This has been a genuinely entertaining summer league. Almost every team has had consistent standout performers and the standard of competition has seemed high. A lot of guys, like Bennett, Goodwin, Giannis and Hardaway Jr, have shown evidence of hard work and much improvement over the break!

  8. spursareold - Jul 14, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    The problem that Bennett will have is a couple of years down the road. Even if he becomes a serviceable player, his year four qualifying offer is going to be stratospheric, much like Evan Turner’s was a couple of years ago. Turner’s was like $7M or so. Udoh was cut for the same reason. He was developing, but not fast enough, and his QO was huge.

  9. ravenswhat - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:03 AM

    I would imagine having Lebron around will force you to get on your game. This Cavs team is scary.

  10. themagicfanguy - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    ‘Dipo and MCW would both have been worth the #1 pick last year.

  11. campcouch - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    At least it was a positive blog about the guy.

  12. lbeezyse - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    And with this the Cavs have become as annoying as the Heat once were.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      Haha. Love it.

  13. BrownsTown - Jul 14, 2014 at 10:36 AM

    You mean a player has more than one year to prove himself?

    • bkbell3 - Jul 14, 2014 at 1:41 PM

      Shocking!! I think we should just kill him now and be done with it. lol

  14. lbeezyse - Jul 14, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    The media is really pushing to get Love in a Cavs uni.

    • antistratfordian - Jul 14, 2014 at 12:38 PM

      But he has stood out. They’re not making that up.

  15. bknowledge - Jul 14, 2014 at 3:36 PM

    First team since the 80’s Lakers with 4 guys who were the first overall pick the draft?

  16. pukpokito - Jul 14, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    Good for him. He is getting a 2nd chance for it. It doesn’t get easy once the competition gets a lot tougher when the season begins.But he has a better chance to show better now that he is in shape and slowly getting some confidence.

  17. cnyle01 - Jul 16, 2014 at 11:23 AM

    Hard to prove yourself when you play less than a min per game the first 50 or so games. Mike Brown wouldn’t use him or send him to the D-League so what can be expected?. This kid has plenty of upside and is in a great spot to flourish if he isn’t traded.

    • Kurt Helin - Jul 16, 2014 at 12:16 PM

      He was fat last year. That was the problem.

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