Anthony Bennett Emerging as Biggest Winner of Kevin Love Trade

Stephen BabbFeatured ColumnistAugust 14, 2014

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 30: Anthony Bennett #15 of the Cleveland Cavaliers stands against the Brooklyn Nets during a game at the Quicken Loans Arena on October 30, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. 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 License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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While it remains unclear where exactly Anthony Bennett will be playing in 2014-15, it's all but certain the 2013 first overall draft pick will move on from the franchise that selected him.

Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported this Aug. 7: "The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached an agreement in principle to send All-Star forward Kevin Love to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and a protected 2015 first-round draft pick."

Beyond that initial relocation, Bennett's fate becomes murkier.

According to the Philadelphia Daily News' Mark Perner, "The Sixers will be sending veteran forward Thaddeus Young to Minnesota for a package that will include Bennett."

While the Star Tribune's Jerry Zgoda concedes that "there is a possibility the Wolves could strike a separate deal with Philadelphia for veteran forward Thaddeus Young," he adds that the "trade would not, at this point, involve swapping Bennett for Young."

Beyond those conflicting reports, there's been no confirmation about Bennett's final destination, but barring an unexpected reversal, his short tenure with the Cavaliers is over—and that's a good thing.

The 21-year-old's rookie campaign didn't go as hoped. A confluence of factors kept him from making a significant impact, and Bennett ultimately averaged just 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per contest. He saw action in 52 games.

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 29:  Head coach Mike Brown of the Cleveland Cavaliers provides instruction to Anthony Bennett #15 during a break in the action against the Golden State Warriors at The Quicken Loans Arena on December 29, 2013 in Cleveland, Ohio. N
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"AB's biggest trouble last year was he never really had the opportunity to play enough because he was either hurt or not in good physical shape," Cavaliers coach David Blatt told reporters during the Las Vegas Summer League. "As you can see, he worked very hard at that. That's a good first step. He did some good things."

As Sports on Earth's Sean Highkin put it, "Bennett's rookie year was a nightmare on every level. Coming off shoulder surgery that ended his UNLV career, he showed up out of shape...and was generally awful when he did play for the Cavs."

Per Highkin, Bennett explained, "I just put a lot of pressure on myself. Things weren't going right for me. Everything just collapsed and built up. I got down on myself."

Bennett also added that his conditioning issues are behind him, saying, "For me, my body is kind of weird. I can gain weight fast, I can lose weight fast. It's a matter of maintaining it, watching what I eat. I've had a chef for the whole year. He's been giving me the right stuff to eat."

By all accounts, Bennett also made the most of his opportunities during summer league play. Highkin wrote that "at summer league, Bennett is a different player," further confirming his weight loss and citing his aggressive disposition during the tournament.'s Zach Harper similarly observed, "His play in summer league was also much different than we saw at any point last year."

So we can conclude that Bennett is leaner, more confident and generally ready to make up for an underwhelming rookie debut.

That's not even the best news.

Whether he winds up in Minnesota or Philadelphia, Bennett will have opportunities that simply weren't available in Cleveland. The Cavaliers already featured 23-year-old Tristan Thompson as their starting power forward, and LeBron James' comfort at both forward positions reduced any prospects Bennett had for increased playing time.

The additions of veterans Mike Miller and James Jones further crowd a wing on which Bennett might have otherwise claimed some bench minutes.

Moreover, James' return entails a win-now mandate that would have complicated Bennett's development. After such an incomplete rookie campaign, his sophomore effort will require plenty of patience. Bennett needs minutes, touches and the opportunity to develop a rhythm.

That's something he should find with either the Timberwolves or 76ersBoth clubs will be rebuilding this season and thereby looking to develop young, in-house talent with an eye to the future.

Minnesota hasn't made the playoffs since 2003-04 and has spent the Love era as a middling franchise, trying in vain to retain its superstar with the presence of veterans like Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic. That approach is bound to undergo a radical shift as the organization now looks to build around the 19-year-old Wiggins and 23-year-old point guard Ricky Rubio.

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 3:  Andrew Wiggins #21 of the Cleveland Cavaliers behing the scenes during the 2014 NBA rookie photo shoot on August 3, 2014 at the Madison Square Garden Training Facility in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowl
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Meanwhile, the Sixers are even further down the rebuilding path after having tanked their way to a 19-63 record last season. Philadelphia ensured it will remain near the bottom of the standings on account of limited involvement in the free-agent market and two draft picks who won't yield immediate dividends (Nemanja Dangubic and Vasilije Micic).

Third overall pick Joel Embiid could miss this season as he recovers from a broken foot. Dario Saric (who was acquired on draft night from the Orlando Magic) will likely spend the next two seasons playing overseas in Turkey.

With neither the Timberwolves nor the 76ers contending for a championship anytime soon, Bennett will have time to develop. And with both teams' rotations still in flux, there will be ample playing time as well.

Bennett was destined for burial at the bottom of Cleveland's roster, watching as more veteran counterparts took on the challenge of immediately contending for a title. It would have been yet another setback.

Wins may be few and far between for Bennett during the next stage of his career, but that's the price he'll have to pay for an actual chance to play.