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Anthony Bennett and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Rookie of the Year Campaign

Feb 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Anthony Bennett (15) during the first quarter against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center. The Cavaliers defeated the Sixers 114-85. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

It was a conspiracy theorist’s dream. In an effort to prevent Cleveland fans from abandoning the NBA entirely and in a move to apologize to the Cavaliers for the way LeBron James left for greener pastures and bluer waters in Miami, the Cavs managed to land the number one overall pick for the second time in three years. The situation could not have broken more perfectly.

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The Sampling Period

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There comes a time in every person’s life where multiple paths are laid out and must be narrowed to one. For some, the traditional path is the one most obviously trodden; others may find themselves, as Robert Frost once did, on a road not taken.

In the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference panel “10,000 Hours vs. The Sports Gene,” authors Malcolm Gladwell and David Epstein debated myriad ways in which an athlete transitions from who they can be to the athlete they were meant to be.

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Game of the Night: Toronto Raptors Vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

On Tuesday night, the Toronto Raptors will travel to Cleveland to take on the shorthanded Cavaliers in an Eastern Conference matchup.

Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavaliers have a couple of players currently battling injuries. Coach Mike Brown says he hopes to have C.J. Miles (ankle) and Anderson Verajao (back) back in the lineup soon, but there is no date that he expects either to return. Guard Dion Waiters still hasn’t ran since injuring his knee on a dunk against the Philadelphia 76ers, but says he shouldn’t be out too long. The Cavs are trying to make a run for the postseason, but these injuries won’t help. They were on a six-game winning streak, but the Raptors snapped that streak four nights ago in Toronto, starting a two-game losing skid, so they are seeking revenge and will be looking to get back on track on Tuesday night.

The Raptors are in a completely different position than their opponent, sitting comfortably in the third spot in the Eastern Conference standings. At 31-25, the Raptors are far from the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers at the top of the conference, but are just one of four teams in the conference with a winning record. They have won five of their last six games. Kyle Lowry has been excellent over that stretch, scoring 19.5 points per game, 9.5 assists and has hit 33 of 36 free-throw attempts. DeMar DeRozan has also been playing well for the Raptors, as he is averaging 25 points in ten February games.

When these teams met last Friday night, the Cavaliers took a five-point lead into halftime. In the third quarter, the Raptors outscored the Cavs 37-21 and they ended up winning the game 98-91. Lowry scored just 14 points, but added nine assists and just two turnovers. Kyrie Irving struggled for the Cavs, adding 17 points on just 3-16 shooting and nine assists. The Raptors shot 43 percent compared to the Cavaliers 39 and played some great defense, forcing 14 turnovers and they stole the ball eight times. Luol Deng led the Cavs with 21 points.

In four games since his All-Star MVP performance, Irving is averaging just 17 points on 37 percent shooting and has hit just two of his last 11 three-point attempts. The Cavs are going to need him to step up if they want to climb back into the playoff race, as they currently sit in tenth place in the East and five games out of the eighth and final spot. On the bright side for the boys from Cleveland, first-overall pick Anthony Bennett has been playing well of late, averaging 8.6 points on 47 percent shooting and 5.6 rebounds over the past ten games, including two double-doubles. He had nine points in the first meeting between these two teams.

The Pick: The Raptors did a great job of defending the Cavs the last time these two teams met. The Cavaliers’ 42.4 field goal percentage on the season is the worst in the NBA. The Raptors have the eighth best field goal percentage defense in the league (44.5 percent) and held the Cavs to 39 percent Friday. Irving and the offense will need to get going and be more efficient if they want to have a chance to beat the Raptors, who seem to be improving every week. The game is in Cleveland, but the shorthanded Cavs are starting to struggle again. Kyle Lowry will lead the Raptors in to Cleveland and get a 97-89 win.

Where: Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio

When: 7 p.m. ET

Television: FSOH

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WATCH: Anthony Bennett Throws Down Mighty Dunk

Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Last June’s No. 1 overall draft pick may finally be starting to come around.

Anthony Bennett of the Cleveland Cavaliers began his rookie season struggling enormously from the transition of college basketball to the NBA-style of play, but has picked up his game of late. In his last five appearances, Bennett has recorded the first two double-doubles of his young career.

In Friday night’s matchup against the Toronto Raptors, the 20-year-old threw down a powerful dunk late in the first quarter to give his team the 22-14 lead. Spencer Hawes received the ball in the middle of the paint, which led the Raptors to double-team him. After a quick cut, Bennet found himself alone under the basket.

Bennett finished with 9 points on 4-of-6 shooting and 3 rebounds, 1 steal and 1 block as Cleveland fell to Toronto 98-91.

 

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Prediction of the Night: Anthony Bennett Will Finally Score His First NBA Basket

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been four games – enough is enough. Anthony Bennett will finally score his first bucket of the season and get the gorilla off his back. The No. 1 overall pick in last June’s draft is a combined 0-of-15 from the field thus far in the young season, including 0-of-8 from beyond the arc. In his defense, however, he does have two points off free throws.

 

Anthony Bennett's Shot Chart

Anthony Bennett’s Shot Chart

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday night, and Bennett will break through. The Bucks (1-2) are 19th in defensive efficiency (giving up 101.8 points per 100 possessions) in the league, and allow opponents to shoot 50 percent from the field between 10-14 feet away, tied for second worst in the league.

Confidence, especially for 20-year-old rookies, is key. If Bennett can push an easy basket across the board, it can do wonders for his game. For Bennett to begin successfully making shots, head coach Mike Brown should run a couple of plays for the 6′ 8″ small forward:

 

 

Yet, it appears that Bennett’s struggles have already gotten to his head. After the Cavs 93-92 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night, he told The Plain Dealer that he feels “like there’s a lid on the basket.”

Bennett also took to Twitter to express his frustration, announcing he needs some time away from the social media giant.

Going ghost for a bit, think it’s be best for me at this point .. If you don’t have my number DM me

— Anthony Bennett (@AnthonyBennett) November 5, 2013 

The tweet, however, has been deleted since he first posted it.

Worry no more, Mr. Bennett. Wednesday night will be your long, overdue night of success on an NBA basketball court. Oh, and if it is any consolation, I’m still looking for my elusive first bucket as well.