This is the fourth installment in a 15-part series running Tuesdays and Fridays profiling each Minnesota Timberwolves player leading up to the start of the NBA season.
There are few NBA sophomores with more to prove than blockbuster trade acquisition Anthony Bennett.
It comes with the territory for any No. 1 overall pick that, relative to his draft status, heinously underperforms in his rookie campaign. But Bennett didn’t merely endure a sluggish adjustment to the professional level — asthma, sleep apnea and the fatigue and frustration that come with them further derailed the power forward from UNLV’s first foray into the NBA.
But the potential lying somewhere within Bennett’s 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame was enough for him to become the tertiary piece in the deal that sent Kevin Love to Cleveland.
And after the way Bennett’s inaugural NBA season went, a change of scenery might be just what the doctor — or the sleep specialist, or the team trainer — ordered.
2013-14 stats (Cleveland): 4.2 PPG, 35.6 FG %, 24.5 3-point %, 2 RPG, 63.8 FT % during 12.8 MPG in 52 games
Last year: Nothing about Bennett’s 2013-14 metrics screams perpetual hope. He couldn’t shoot, didn’t rebound and had a hard time keeping up with some of the world’s best-conditioned athletes.
Even the most elite talent requires a mental and physical shift to the requirements of a sport’s highest level. In short spurts, Bennett exhibited such a skill set.
On Feb. 11 against Sacramento, he went off for 19 points and 10 rebounds in one of two double-doubles on the year. During a seven-game stint from Feb. 3-18, he averaged 9.4 points on 47.9 percent field-goal shooting and 5.7 boards per contest.
But those were just strands in an overall tapestry of inadequacy. After showing up for training camp out of shape, Bennett’s 4.2 points per game would’ve ranked 14th out of last year’s 30 first-round picks.
And per the league’s rookie scale, he made more money than all of them.
Health factors significantly impacted the picture. Asthma frequently caused him to lose his wind during games and workouts. Sleep apnea prohibited necessary rest on occasion.
The Cavs, in turn, crawled to a 33-49 overall record and finished five games out of a playoff spot in the lowly east.
This year: There weren’t a whole lot of reasons for Bennett to smile during his rookie season. A trip to the Minnesota State Fair last month was a different story.
Sitting alongside new teammates Andrew Wiggins, Thaddeus Young and Zach LaVine, Bennett was welcomed to the Twin Cities as an integral part of the young core upon which the franchise will rely moving forward. The Wolves traded Love to Cleveland in exchange for Wiggins and Bennett and snagged Young from Philadelphia in a three-team deal.
Having Young to grow behind ought to render Bennett’s development more gradual. Having a fresh start in a new city won’t hurt, either.
Furthermore, there’s reason to think Bennett’s troubles are behind him. He had his tonsils and adenoids removed this summer, and says he’s fully recovered from a torn patellar tendon strain that kept him out of 17 straight games down the stretch last season.
He looked more comfortable during his first summer league appearance, averaging 13.3 points on 42.6 percent shooting and 7.8 rebounds in four games for Cleveland.
All summer, he dealt with trade rumors as the Love drama unfolded. Then came the Aug. 23 trade and a Great Minnesota Get-Together welcome at the fair a few days later.
Now, the 21-year-old Bennett can move on. And, he hopes, up.
Quotable: "I can play. I know last year, I never really got a chance to showcase that." — Bennett at the Minnesota State Fair.