INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — The No. 1 overall pick is still looking for basket No. 1.
Anthony Bennett, 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.
He’s O-for-the-season so far.
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, though, 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. “So it’s probably a little of that and a little bit of being on a big stage now in the regular season with it counting. 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 already, 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 night when he went 0 for 3 in 10 minutes during a 93-92 win over Minnesota.
He was not available to speak to reporters following 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 nothing but a series of missed shots. 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 — he’s averaging 12.8 minutes per game — could show that he’s going to need some extra time before he can be counted on as a major contributor.
“I look at it as he’s a guy that can grow slowly into his role with us and that’s the exciting part of it,” 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, 240-pounder has provided some solid defense and rebounding. At Indiana last Saturday night, when he tried to flip in a layup and had it roll around the rim and out, Bennett grabbed 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. “We want him to understand, ‘You made it this far because you are a special player and don’t ever forget that.’ The one thing you do have to have in this league to be successful is confidence, and once that starts to waver, it’s going to have a snowball effect.
“There was going to be a time this season when he was going to have a tough three-game stretch. It’s just that it started in the first couple of games. There are 78 more to go. 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.