“This is a SHOCKER. Nobody had this.”
That is what I wrote in our instant draft analysis back in 2013 when the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Anthony Bennett No. 1. Bennett was considered a lottery pick by most teams, but teams had him more in the 7-13 range. Out of UNLV, Bennett was an athletic guy with a lot of questions. It wasn’t a great draft, but the Cavaliers took Bennett in front of Victor Oladipo, Otto Porter, Nerlens Noel, C.J. McCollum, and Ben McLemore, to name a few. We all know what happened from there, Bennett played just 151 games across four NBA seasons and is already out of the league (he was in training camp with the Suns this year but was released). He is the poster child of a draft bust.
Former Cavs’ GM David Griffin — who was the No. 2 guy behind Chris Grant back in 2013 in Cleveland — owns up to the mistake in Jason Lloyd of The Athletic’s new book The Blueprint: LeBron James, Cleveland’s Deliverance and the Making of the Modern NBA. An excerpt is up at the Athletic.
So when the Cavs front office sat down before the draft to cast their vote on who to take, the final tally was 9-1 in favor of Bennett. The one vote against taking him? Chris Grant…
“The issue with Anthony was, and we had no way of knowing it at the time, the kid had no desire to overcome adversity whatsoever. As soon as it was hard, he was out,” Griffin explained to Lloyd. “His whole life, he rolled out of bed bigger, better, and more talented than everybody else. As soon as it was hard, it was over. And I was the one on campus at UNLV. I’m the one who got sold the bill of goods and I bought it hook, line, and sinker. You f–k up sometimes. But I feel bad Chris took it for that, because Chris was the one guy who wasn’t sure.”
Talking to people around a draftable player and getting a sense of their drive and work ethic is one of the most important — and most challenging — parts of being a GM. Just like for students in school or the rest of us in everyday life, grit and determination matter more than talent. The greatest have both — Michael Jordan personifies it, but from Bill Russell through LeBron James everyone in the pantheon has both — but there are a lot of guys in the NBA now who have some talent and a lot of grit, and were willing to put in the work needed to become an NBA player. J.J. Redick had the shooting skills in college, but he reshaped his body and his game to become a quality NBA two guard, and he’s just one of many examples.
Not knowing Bennett lacked grit is on the Cavaliers’ staff, but it’s always hard to predict. Projecting the future of any 19-year-old at anything is next to impossible, and that doesn’t change if you’re doing the research before making a multi-million dollar investment. He might have put in the work in college, but things changed.