Pulse of the NBA

The Sports NetworkNovember 13, 2013 

Not since Kwame Brown was the No. 1 pick in the 2002 NBA Draft have we seen a top overall pick struggle early on like the Cleveland Cavaliers' Anthony Bennett this season.

Here are some of the early lowlights of Bennett's young career:

- it took Bennett five games to get into the scoring column;

- he missed his first 16 field goal attempts;

- he's 1-for-21 from the floor, which equates to a .048 field goal percentage.

- the one field goal is actually a 3-pointer and he's missed all 10 of his two- point field goal attempts

It's no wonder that one local writer has already referred to the forward as Anthony "Brick" Bennett.

But to be fair to the former UNLV standout, he's still rounding into shape after being inactive for several months following shoulder surgery in May, and he isn't the only lottery pick who is struggling, albeit not as badly as he is. And at least he's out on the floor, which we can't say about Nerlens Noel, Otto Porter, and C.J. McCollum.

Anyway, here's a look at some other lottery selections who are playing and have had their struggles:

VICTORO OLADIPO

Oladipo, who was selected immediately after Bennett by the Orlando Magic, has had some good moments, but overall his play has been too shaky. Some of that can be attributed to him playing the point for the first time in his career, and he's done a poor job of taking care of the ball, averaging 3.6 turnovers per game in just 25.6 minutes, while dishing out 3.1 assists.

And his scoring output (12.1 ppg) is somewhat misleading because his two highest-scoring games (19 and 17 points) were padded during blowout losses.

CODY ZELLER

The former Indiana star, who was selected fourth overall by the Charlotte Bobcats, didn't play well enough in the preseason to win the starting power forward's job from Josh McRoberts. whose mainly been a career backup.

Zeller appeared tight and lacking confidence in the preseason and it looks like that's the case in the regular season, too. The stat that bears this out the most is his free throw percentage. Zeller was a 76 percent foul shooter in college, but shot just 17-of-31 from the line in the preseason and is 7-for-12 in the regular season, for a combined 55.8 percent.

And the rest of his numbers aren't very good, either. In 17.1 minutes per game, Zeller is averaging just five points and 3.1 rebounds and shooting only 42 percent from the field.

KELLY OLYNYK

The former All-American from Gonzaga looked like he was ready for the big stage with his outstanding performance in the Orlando Summer League, but that hasn't been the case in the regular season.

Olynyk is averaging nine ppg in 22.6 minutes, but has had a tough time knocking down shots, shooting just 42 percent from the field. He's also coughing up the ball way too much, averaging 2.4 turnovers per game, and he's had his struggles on the defensive end and has been in constant foul trouble. He'll always have to deal with a lack of athleticism and length, so he needs to hit the weight room to be able to battle in the low post on both ends of the floor.

QUICK DRIBBLES

- Kevin Love is showing absolutely no rust after being limited to just 18 games last season. The Minnesota Timberwolves' power forward has arguably been the league's best player over the first two weeks. He's averaging 26.4 points, 15 rebounds and a surprising five assists per game. Love came into the season averaging just 1.9 assists for his career.

- Pending free agent Pau Gasol attributes a respiratory infection and a strained foot for his slow start, but I see a player who looks tentative out on the floor. The four-time All-Star is averaging 12.1 ppg in 27.8 minutes, but is shooting just 38 percent from the floor. Gasol will have to prove he can stay healthy and productive if he hopes to score a nice payday next summer.

- The Phoenix Suns' Eric Bledsoe will be a restricted free agent at season's end, but it looks like he won't have any worries about landing a lucrative contract. Bledsoe, who was acquired from the Los Angeles Clippers in the offseason, is averaging 20.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game with his team shockingly atop the Pacific Division with a 5-2 mark.

- The play of Miles Plumlee and Markieff Morris are two of the biggest surprises this season, and along with Bledsoe, are the big reasons why the Suns have played so well. After barely seeing the floor in his rookie season in Indiana, Plumlee was given the starting centers' job after the Suns dealt Marin Gortat prior to the season, and he's taken full advantage of the opportunity, averaging 11.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and a whole lot of shot altering. And as good as Bledsoe has been, you can make the argument that Morris has been the Suns' best player. The third-year power forward is averaging 17.2 ppg on an out-of-this-world 62.7 percent shooting from the floor, and just as impressive, outplayed rising start Anthony Davis in two wins over the New Orleans Pelicans.

- Despite playing the best basketball of his career, it's far from a sure thing that Evan Turner will be with the Philadelphia 76ers next season. Turner, who will be a restricted free at season's end, is averaging 23 points and 6.3 rebounds and is shooting a very impressive 50.7 percent from the field. The Sixers didn't offer Turner an extension by the Oct. 31 deadline and the prevailing opinion is that he'll be dealt prior to the Feb. 20 trade deadline or the team will not re-sign him.

- Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs didn't have much use for DeJuan Blair, and the Dallas Mavericks have turned out to be the beneficiary of that situation. The Mavs are getting a great bang for their buck, having signed Blair to a one-year contract for a mere $884,293. He's provided a huge spark off the bench, averaging 8.8 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals. In commenting on Blair's hefty steals total despite his limited minutes, coach Rick Carlisle noted the fifth-year forward has "long arms, great hands, great strength and good anticipation." As for Blair, he looks at the past and the present this way: "Another man's trash is another man's treasure," Blair said. "I'm taking the last couple of years with the Spurs, everything the fans are saying and have been saying, it's all fuel to what I'm doing right now."

- Los Angeles Lakers' coach Mike D'Antoni coach finally woke up and made an obvious move with his rotation and it paid off immediately. D'Antoni started Jordan Hill Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans, and all he did was put up 21 point and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes in the Lakers's 113-95 rout.

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