NBA GMs Need To Be Drafting Anthony Bennett; He’s The Next Larry Johnson

By: 06.06.13
UNLV's Anthony Bennett (photo. UNLV Athletics)

UNLV’s Anthony Bennett (photo. UNLV Athletics)

The 2013 NBA Draft has consistently been described as one of the weakest classes in recent history, and arguably one of the least talented in the last 15 years (although we’re still going to leave that spot for the 2000 Draft class). The top of this year’s class isn’t stockpiled with future Hall of Famers, but there are a few prospects that stand out from the rest of the potential role players that’ll be selected on June 27.

Anthony Bennett is one of the most talented players in the 2013 Draft. That point is not debatable. As a freshman at UNLV, Bennett produced one of the best seasons of any first-year player in the country. He scored 22 points in three of his first four collegiate games, and out of the Running Rebels’ 16 out-of-conference games, Bennett recorded double-doubles in seven of them. Yet Bennett shined brightest in an early December game against the Cal Bears, scoring 25 points, on 53 percent shooting, and pulling down 13 rebounds.

However, conference play revealed a completely different side of Bennett. By that point the focal point of many scouting reports, the 6-7, 240-pound Canadian found it a lot harder to be as dominant as he was at the beginning of the season. In 19 conference games, Bennett was held under double-digits seven times, even scoring zero points against Wyoming (left after four minutes with an injured shoulder) and one point against Nevada in 17 minutes of action.

UNLV has produced many NBA players, 20 in total, but no player entered the NBA with more hype and attention than Larry “Grandmama” Johnson. Depending on when you were born, you either remember Johnson as an elite physical specimen with strength and athleticism beyond the wildest imagination, who occasionally wore dresses, or as a stocky stretch four that sent the New York Knicks to the NBA Finals in 1999 thanks to a four-point play against the Indiana Pacers. Well, neither of these descriptions do “LJ” full justice.

In his first year at UNLV, he averaged 20.6 points and 11.4 boards a game, shooting 62 percent from the field and 34 percent from beyond the arc. In short, he could do just about everything. At only 6-6/6-7, Johnson wasn’t the tallest of forwards, but what he lacked in size he made up for with will, strength and athleticism. No one voluntarily stood in front of LJ when he came thundering down the lane and no one could keep him off the boards if he went to get a rebound. Johnson’s talent landed him a First Team All-American spot, as well as a national title for the Runnin’ Rebs.

He returned for a senior season that saw him average 22.7 points and 10.9 rebounds a nigght, while upping his shooting percentages to 66 percent (field goal) and 35.4 percent (three-point). Johnson took home a stack of awards as well — NABC Player of the Year, Nasimith Award, Sporting News Player of the Year, USBWA Player of the Year and the Wooden Award — but was unable to capture a second NCAA championship. Still, Johnson was the undisputed No. 1 selection in the 1991 NBA Draft and the Charlotte Hornets soon unleashed “Grandmama” on a national scale.

Keep reading to hear what separates Bennett from the potential busts…

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