Worth the weight: Anthony Bennett too talented to pass up


One of the trade rumors circling tonight’s NBA Draft goes like this: Minnesota would send third-year forward Derrick Williams and two first-round picks to move up from the No. 9 position and select Indiana guard Victor Oladipo.

The only thing crazier than the Timberwolves offering such a ludicrous deal is that no team above them jumped at it.

This is not a draft projected to be so good that anyone should scoff at a proposition that suggests those making it were drunk.

Teams at the top are looking for potential All-Stars, and what they might ultimately receive are role players at best. Teams in the middle and near the bottom are looking for, well, any potential steals that no one has a prayer of identifying.

It’s that uncertain a draft, that void of any can’t-miss prospects.

Here, though, are three interesting storylines that surround all the questionable talent.

1. Anthony Bennett’s waistline.

The former UNLV forward from Findlay Prep isn’t supposed to be around after the top five selections, but there were whispers in recent days of some potential slippage given Bennett has gained 18 pounds while recovering from shoulder surgery.

I can’t believe a player with his versatility and potential in this weak a draft isn’t a top-five pick, no matter how many extra loops he needs to fasten his belt.

I would be more worried about the shoulder, an injury his agent said was misdiagnosed by UNLV in February and should have required immediate surgery.

Back then, the Rebels training staff said Bennett had suffered no structural damage to the shoulder and was being treated for something called “brachial neuritis,” a condition few around the program seemed to have any clue about.

We were told he might have slept on the shoulder wrong.

Yeah. That sounded weird at the time.

Maybe they were too busy wondering about the asthma Bennett suffered from ... or not ... or did ... or not.

It matters little. In a stronger draft, Bennett’s health and propensity to pack on pounds might hurt him dearly. Not this year. His name is called quickly. It was even reported Wednesday that Cleveland coach Mike Brown is pushing the Cavaliers to take Bennett with the No. 1 pick.

That really would be phat.

2. What happened to Shabazz?

Easy. The more time general managers have had to analyze his game, the more potential flaws they see at the next level. It doesn’t mean the former Bishop Gorman High star will follow some predictions and fall out of the lottery, but Shabazz Muhammad today is a player with far more to prove than not.

Scouts wonder about his passing skill, or lack of it. They wonder about the 10 percent body fat he measured at the draft combine, one of the worst of those attending. They wonder if he can create and finish in the NBA, if he can guard anyone. They wonder if he is as selfish as his college numbers suggest.

But they also covet guys who can score, and Muhammad has been terrific at finding the basket since he first dribbled a ball.

His father lied about Shabazz’s age (he’s 20 ... we think), just another red flag thrown in the path of interested teams. But general managers have this habit of explaining away certain issues if they believe a player is worth drafting.

I have a feeling one will tonight before the lottery portion of the draft has concluded.

3. Jamaal Franklin or Tony Snell?

Once Bennett has been chosen, two other Mountain West players probably will join him in the first round.

Which one projects to be a better pro?

There is not a better playmaker in the draft from the wing position as Franklin, whose 21.6 assist percentage as a junior at San Diego State has pro scouts thinking he can impact the game in a variety of ways.

If he had any sort of consistent jumper, Franklin is a lottery pick.

But he shot just 22 percent on 3-pointers last season, and that enough has scouts projecting him anywhere from the high teens to the mid-20s.

One draft report points Franklin’s NBA ceiling as that of Andre Iguodala and his potential floor as Marquis Daniels.

I think he ultimately offers a career that falls somewhere in the middle.

Snell is different. He could be the most underrated player in the draft.

Did you watch Danny Green emerge for the Spurs during the NBA Finals? Snell eventually can be that sort of player.

He probably will be drafted low enough in the first round that the New Mexico product goes to a playoff team, an ideal place for a 6-foot-7-inch shooting guard whose ability off catch-and-shoots from distance and outstanding quickness as an on-ball defender could carve him a nice supporting role around ample talent.

Oklahoma City has the 29th pick in the first round, and if Snell is still on the board, the Thunder should grab him quicker than Kevin Durant’s shot release.

Happy drafting.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ed Graney can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on “Gridlock,” ESPN 1100 and 98.9 FM. Follow him on Twitter: @edgraney.