Anthony Bennett at UNLV. (Photo: Jeremy Rincon)

Anthony Bennett hasn’t been mentioned much as an option for the Sacramento Kings in this year’s draft.  So far, most pundits and experts have placed Bennett out of the Kings’ range with the No. 7 pick.  But, that changed yesterday when both Sheridan Hoops and Sports Illustrated projected the 20-year-old forward out of UNLV to the Kings in their latest mock drafts.

From SI:

Western Conference general manager said. “There’s a superstar in him.” The rebooting Kings can afford to snap up the best player on the board, and that’s Bennett. He is an explosive athlete, has a credible back-to-the-basket and face-up game and legitimate three-point range (38.3 percent last season). He’s something of a tweener, but Sacramento may not want to risk letting this type of talent slip away.

From Sheridan Hoops:

The Kings moved fast with their coaching search, making a wise hire in Golden State assistant Mike Malone. Whoever gets the GM job, one thing seems to be clear already from new owner Vivek Ranadive: DeMarcus Cousins isn’t being traded. There have been reports of his availability, but it looks like the Kings want to rebuild with Cousins instead of without him.

The Kings have gone through several power forwards (Patrick Patterson, Chuck Hayes, Jason Thompson, Thomas Robinson) in trying to find one to pair with Cousins. In selecting Bennett, that trend would likely stop. Cousins and Bennett would form one of the better young offensive duos in the league. Bennett is a talented offensive prospect with the ability to score inside or out and is a quality rebounder as well.

With that in mind, Sacramento still need a lot of pieces. The Kings are in an easy position here where they can sit back and take one of the top seven prospects. There is a drop-off in talent after that.

With that in mind, Cowbell Kingdom’s James Ham and Jonathan Santiago debate the upside and potential of the UNLV forward.

JS: Tell me if you think Anthony Bennett can play small forward at the next level. Some mock drafts had the Kings getting Bennett, in particular Chris Mannix at SI and Joe Kotoch at Sheridan Hoops.

JH: I don’t think he can. He has a small forward’s game though – no post moves, aggressive to the hoop and has 3-point range. But I think he is an undersized four. Joe likes the idea of DeMarcus Cousins and him. He compared them to Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.

JS: Personally, I don’t think he plays anything like Zach Randolph. And I don’t really understand that comparison. His game reminds me of Draymond Green except with more upside.

JH: I agree. He reminds me of….Patrick Patterson.

JS: Eh, more Draymond to me. Patterson isn’t someone who make plays off the dribble. Patterson is also a spot-up shooter and he has better size at power forward than Bennett.

JH: Yeah, but Patterson has range and lack of post game. But I just don’t think Bennett is an upgrade over him.

JS: If we’re assuming Noel, Oladipo, Porter, McLemore, Len and Burke are off the board, Bennett to me would be the best player available.

JH: I think the Kings take C.J. McCollum with that pick instead. He’s not a reach there especially if Burke is gone.

JS: I still think Bennett can play small forward. That’s just me. I could be wrong though. Maybe he doesn’t have the foot speed or quickness to handle the elite wings on defense. Again, I think he’s Draymond Green with more upside.

JH: Yeah, but Green isn’t a starter and won’t be a starter. He is a guy you get in the second round.

JS: But my point is they have the same skill-set. However, Bennett has more potential to add onto that.

JH: But can he add enough? People like him a lot. He has been hurt by the injury. Yet Len is also injured and flying up the boards.

JS: Len is rising is because he has size. Physically, he’s pretty developed and has a good foundation at 19 years old.
But back to Bennett, I honestly think the reason why he might be sliding are for two reasons.  No. 1, paired with his upside, people like Alex Len’s physical attributes. And No. 2, Trey Burke is rising.

If Bennett weren’t hurt, he’d be top three guaranteed.

JH: Really? He is undersized.

JS: He’s got a 7’1 wingspan and he’s very athletic.

JH: You know what? His game reminds me a little of Bonzi Wells.

JS: There you go…Bonzi Wells. That’s another guy who was a small forward!

JH: Yeah, but one of Bennett’s weaknesses is defense.

JS: He’s just 20 though. Very few 20 year olds are developed defensively. That’s something that can be fixed if he wants it enough.

JH: He will be a weapon, but in the Carl Landry kind of way. He will score and offensive rebound, but his game is going to face some challenges at the next level.

JS: He’s more athletic than those guys though. I really like the Bonzi Wells comparison. If he becomes Bonzi Wells, that’s not a bad player to get at seven in this year’s draft. I don’t think he’ll have trouble finishing inside like Thomas Robinson.

JH: If you have plenty of defense alongside him, but the Kings don’t.

JS: Even though he’s undersized, he’s got long arms to make up for that. And there’s enough film that shows he can finish strong around the rim. This is a hypothetical, but if all the players I mentioned earlier are gone and Bennett and McCollum are still on the board, again I’d take Bennett just because I believe he’d be the best player available.

JH: Maybe he is a player, but the sample size is so small. His year of data suggests that he is undersized for his position. I’m just not sure how it translates and I’m also not sure that Bennett is the best available.

JS: I like McCollum, but Bennett has a lot of talent now and more upside. He’s just about a year and a half younger.

Look, the main point of contention surrounding Bennett is what we think he is at the next level. Can he play small forward or is he strictly a power forward?

JH: Bennett has talent, but he has to show me that he is the right guy. I want to interview that guy and get a good feel.

WATCH: Draft Express’ new video scouting report on Anthony Bennett