Feb 21, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett (15) watches a free throw next to Toronto Raptors forward John Salmons (25) at Air Canada Centre. The Raptors beat the Cavaliers 98-91. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Bennett has struggled his rookie year but started to come on shortly before the All Star break. Unfortunately the addition of Spencer Hawes and the return of Anderson Varejao were sure to limit his minutes for the stretch run. Now news today that Bennett will miss 3 weeks due to a strain in his left knee. Bennett should be able to return for the stretch April run but the Cavaliers may be out of the race at that point, that may have been true with or without the rookie. Lets take a look at a few concerns that comes with the time missed for Bennett:
Bennett is a young player who showed significant “baby fat” earlier in the year. Much of this could be contributed to his shoulder surgery that kept him from doing conditioning for months. He was rounding, pun intended, into form prior to this injury which will be a huge setback in terms of cardio. With a knee issue Bennett will again be unable to do conditioning to get himself into shape. 3 weeks is a long time for a high class athlete to be on the shelf for a strain. During the later stretches of that time he should be able to do some cardio but until then Bennett will have to try to get his heart rate moving and keep the lethargy away in other non weight bearing activities. He could build his upper body during the time but needs to not impact his jump shot. How he looks getting up and down the court when he returns will be vitally important.
While the addition of Hawes and the return of Varejao may have impacted his amount of time on the floor the Cavs still need to see what they have in him. Do they have a athlete that can stretch the floor from the 4 spot, do short duty at the small forward spot and take bigger players off the bounce? This becomes increasingly an issue if the Cavs fall totally out of the playoff race, not unlikely given their tough April schedule. If the Cavs are bottoming out giving the young guys time on the floor is vital. Bennett will miss this time, this precious learning situation. For the Cavs they will have less time to evaluate what they want to do at the power forward position. Tristan Thompson seems like an average player who doesn’t trust his jump shot but will hustle, grab boards and get double digit points. Not exactly a world beater but not a bad player. Bennett seems like he can contrast that with his dynamic offensive game. Yet the Cavs will most likely not know if that is true going into next season.
Last but not least is possible confidence concerns for Bennett. Not just confidence in his game but confidence in his body. A big shoulder surgery after his freshman year and now this knee injury. While not severe being out for so long in a calendar year could start to impact his psyche, which may not be strong in the first place. Could he look to protect himself by settling for more jump shots instead of banging down low? Does he keep from playing the kind of sturdy defense needed from a power forward? Does he mope on during rehab and not come back in a timely manner? How he responds to this injury could be a sign of his ability to move on from the past.
What concerns do you have regarding Bennett’s injury? Do you think the Cavs shut him down if they didn’t acquire Hawes? Should they shut him down for the rest of the season?