INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The No. 1 overall pick is still looking for basket No. 1.
Anthony Bennett, the former UNLV standout who was the first player taken in this year’s NBA Draft, hasn’t scored a field goal for the Cavaliers.
Through four games, Cleveland’s burly forward has missed each of his 15 shots from the field, including eight 3-pointers. He appears lost with the ball in his hands, causing some to wonder if the Cavs made a mistake with their choice.
According to STATS, Bennett is just the fifth rookie, playing a minimum of five minutes, to begin his career without making a field goal in the first four games. None of the other four, however, was selected ahead of every player in the draft.
Cavs coach Mike Brown said there are several reasons for Bennett’s drought.
“He’s probably pressing to a certain degree,” Brown said after practice Tuesday. “There’s probably some of where his opponents are looking at him and saying that they’re going to come at him. They may not care that he’s the No. 1 pick.”
For comparison’s sake, Philadelphia 76ers rookie Michael Carter-Williams has 26 field goals, and eight other rookies who have attempted at least 15 shots have put one shot through the rim.
Bennett’s alarming field-goal deficiency extended to four games Monday when he went 0-for-3 in 10 minutes in a 93-92 win over Minnesota.
He was not available to speak to reporters after practice as he quickly dressed and went home to take care of personal business before the Cavs flew to Milwaukee.
The 20-year-old showed flashes of offensive firepower during the exhibition season, but the regular season has been different. He is 2-for-4 at the free-throw line, with each attempt coming in his NBA debut against Brooklyn.
The Cavs insist it’s too early for them to be overly concerned about Bennett’s scoring woes. Brown dismissed any thought of sitting the first-year player to clear his head.
However, Bennett’s inability to score could show that he’s going to need some extra time before he can be counted on as a major contributor. He’s averaging 12.8 minutes per game.
“He’s a guy that can grow slowly into his role with us, and that’s the exciting part,” Brown said. “I just want him to keep going out there and playing, and if you can take advantage of your opponent on either end of the floor, go ahead and do it.”
And while Bennett hasn’t delivered on the offensive end, the 6-foot-8-inch, 240-pounder has provided some solid defense and rebounding. At Indiana on Saturday, when he tried to flip in a layup and had it roll around the rim and out, Bennett ended the night with six boards.
“Defensively, he’s been better than what I thought,” Brown said. “I actually thought he was going to struggle defensively — bad. But he’s picked up on the concepts, and he’s been tougher and stronger than what I expected.
“At the end of the day, and I’ve seen it with my own eyes, he can score. He can score from all three levels, and once he figures out how hard he has to play offensively in order for it to happen on a possession-by-possession occurrence, he’ll be good.”
Until then, Bennett is getting support from his teammates. They’re urging him to keep his chin up, and the shots will eventually go down.
“We just keep encouraging him,” point guard Jarrett Jack said. “Once we’re in January or February and he’s being his old self, I’ll go over to him and say, ‘You did all that worrying for nothing.’ ”
First, though, Bennett needs to make a shot.