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Competence in Cleveland?
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 may have been the most exciting day of the season for Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Chris Grant.

True, the Cavaliers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans to drop to 16-29, but we saw something that is more important than a win-loss record.

Anthony Bennett looked competent.

Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, scored 15 points on 5- of-10 shooting with eight rebounds, two threes and a block. It was the first time all season he scored at least 10 points.

Bennett took 33 games to score at least 10 points; three of the last four No. 1 picks scored in double figures in their first NBA game, and 2011 first pick Kyrie Irving did it in his second.

You have to be pretty awful to bump aside Kwame Brown in the conversation of worst No. 1 pick ever, and Bennett has been just that with a shooting percentage of .279 and a PER that's so low that teammate Alonzo Gee (6.01 PER) looks like Kevin Durant by comparison.

At least Brown lasted 607 games and collected paychecks for seven franchises in his career, as terrible as he was. Prior to Tuesday's game, Bennett looked like he would be out of the league within a year.

The Cavaliers had been talking about sending Bennett to the D-League but for some reason kept him with the big club despite playing him a total of 15 minutes the previous nine games.

Center Anderson Varejao suffered a hyperextended knee Sunday against the Phoenix Suns, which may have influenced Cleveland's decision to keep Bennett up.

Tyler Zeller started at center Tuesday but played just 21 minutes. Tristan Thompson was able to slide over to center, allowing Bennett to actually see some playing time at his natural position of power forward.

With Thompson, Varejao and Andrew Bynum on the roster, there were scant power forward minutes for Bennett to play earlier this season, but Bynum is gone and the injury-prone Varejao may now be the only thing standing in the way of a fantasy-relevant Bennett.

Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis, the No. 1 pick one year before Bennett, outclassed the Cavaliers with 30 points and eight blocks Tuesday, but Bennett got the better of him on two occasions.

With 5:37 remaining in the fourth quarter, Davis put some post moves on Bennett before attempting a leaner around the Cavs forward, but Bennett held his ground and rejected the shot out of bounds.

Later in the quarter, Davis was guarding Bennett in the paint and Bennett gained separation by cutting up to the 3-point line. Davis overpursued and Bennett took him off the dribble for a layup.

Those are plays a No. 1 overall pick should be routinely making by his 33rd career game, but for Bennett they currently stand as the top plays on an extremely short highlight tape.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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