SAN JOSE, Calif. – Anthony Bennett made history by becoming the first Canadian to be named the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Now a little more than just two years later, and on his third team, the newToronto Raptors forward is back home with hopes of removing a far less flattering title from his résumé: bust.
"Lots of ups and downs," Bennett told Yahoo Sports prior to the Raptors preseason game against the Golden State Warriors. "There a couple [things] you got to avoid. There are also a lot of people you have to have in your circle, like family and friends, who tell you to keep your head up. That's pretty much what I've been going through."
When asked what he is trying to avoid, Bennett said: "Just the media stuff. I try not to look too much into that stuff."
The 2013 NBA draft led by Bennett could go down in history as one of the worst ever.
Of the top 10 picks, only one has averaged more than 13 points per game over his first two seasons: Orlando Magicguard Victor Oladipo. The Rookie of the Year from that class was then-Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams, the 11th pick who was traded last season to theMilwaukee Bucks. The Bucks appear to have landed the jewel of that draft in forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, the 15th pick and perhaps the lone All-Star hopeful now.
Bennett did average 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a true freshman at UNLV, but his top selection was a surprise because he had shoulder surgery the month before the draft and was considered an undersized power forward.
"It was surprising," Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri told Yahoo Sports. "We didn't know if there was a clear-cut guy. It was a random draft a little bit."
Bennett averaged 4.2 points and three rebounds in 52 games his rookie season with Cleveland. On Aug. 23, 2014, he was a throw-in player sent to the Minnesota Timberwolves in a three-team trade that included most notably then-All-Star Kevin Love to Cleveland and last year's top draft pickAndrew Wiggins to Minnesota.
Bennett averaged 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 15.7 minutes per contest in 57 games last season with Minnesota last season. His career 4.7 points per game and 39.3 field-goal percentage – albeit over just two seasons – are the worst of top picks since 1966. Even former No.1 busts LaRue Martin, Kent Bensen, Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown fared better.
"I was wondering if he was ever going to catch that break," said new Raptors guard Cory Joseph, who also is from Toronto.
Does Bennett wish he wasn't selected No. 1?
"I'm cool with it," he said. "Going No. 1 made history for Canada. For myself, it was a big accomplishment, but it's a lot of work."
The Timberwolves considered Bennett expendable because of their depth at power forward and waived him on Sept. 23 after agreeing to a $3.65 million mutual buyout. He was slated to make $5.8 million this season.