Anthony Bennett First Top Pick Since Kwame Brown to Miss Rising Stars Challenge

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistJanuary 30, 2014

SACRAMENTO, CA - JANUARY 12: Anthony Bennett #15 of the Cleveland Cavaliers in a game against the Sacramento Kings on January 12, 2014 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rocky Widner/Getty Images

For Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Anthony Bennett, two's a crowd.

A slow start to his NBA career has left him on the outskirts of the league's Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star weekend, putting him in the company of someone he could do without linking himself to: Kwame Brown

Joining Brown isn't good for Bennett.
Joining Brown isn't good for Bennett.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

According to the Akron Beacon Journal's Jason Lloyd, Bennett is the first top pick to not receive an invite to the Rising Stars Challenge since Brown in 2001.

Ouch.

Bennett's exclusion was inevitable, but that doesn't make it any easier to accept. The rookie has struggled in every aspect of the game, posting averages of 2.8 points and 2.4 rebounds on 27.9 percent shooting through 33 appearances.

When compared to Brown's performance through his first 33 games, Bennett's numbers are (un)remarkably similar:

Kwame vs. Bennett: The First 33 Games
PlayerMPGPTSFG%FT%REBSASTSSTLS
Bennett10.82.827.960.02.40.20.4
Brown11.13.034.768.92.80.40.2
Via Basketball-Reference

Double ouch.

Brown isn't company Bennett wants to have. Though he carved out a 12-year career, he's considered one of the worst No. 1 picks ever, if not of all time. His lifetime averages of 6.6 points and 5.5 rebounds per game are enough to make your skin crawl after reminding yourself the Washington Wizards drafted him in hopes he could save the franchise.

We all know how that turned out.

"I give the kid a lot of credit," Cavs coach Mike Brown said of Bennett, per Lloyd. "He’s had a tough start, a really tough start."

A really, really tough start. 

ESPN's Chad Ford already told The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Jodie Valade that Bennett was "looking like the worst" top pick in 20 years. If he wishes to avoid the dreaded bust label and a fate similar to Brown's, Bennett must get busy. Like, yesterday.

And it seems he already has.

In a season-high 31 minutes of action Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, Bennett went for 15 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one block on 5-of-10 shooting. His effort came in a loss, but his performance was a relief, nonetheless.

It might even be something he can build on. A turning point.

Something he can use to put distance between himself and notorious busts like Brown.

 

*Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.