Is Anthony Bennett the Worst First Overall Pick in the NBA's Draft Lottery Era?

Has any former number one lottery pick ever had a worse first two seasons in the NBA than Bennett?

Yesterday, the Minnesota Timberwolves reached an agreement on a contract buyout with former first overall pick Anthony Bennett.

The third-year forward will have 48 hours from the point he was bought out to clear waivers, if he hopes to become an unrestricted free agent. It's growing likely, however, that he'll be scooped up off waivers before that happens, with the most likely candidates to do so being the Philadelphia 76ers or the Portland Trail Blazers.

Regardless of who picks him up, he'll be far from getting guaranteed minutes or a rotation spot. He had a great summer playing for Team Canada at the FIBA Americas tournament, but his NBA track record has been...not good.

Unfortunately for Bennett, he will always have that "former first overall" monkey on his back.

Of course, it wasn't his fault that the Cleveland Cavaliers selected him with their number one pick in a 2013 draft class that has been decidedly "meh" since coming into the league. If he had been picked lower and were going through this same process of bouncing around and trying to find his place in the NBA, he wouldn't be under nearly as much scrutiny. No one's making a big deal over the fact that Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick from 2012, is on more or less the same career arc as Bennett, for example.

But, like it or lump it, Bennett will always be in the "first overall" conversation. Although his abilities aren't and probably never will be anywhere close to former firsts like Anthony Davis or Andrew Wiggins, he'll always show up between them on all the lists of former number ones, and have his career measured against them and all the rest.

Poor kid.

Not that we want to pile more shade on the guy, but Bennett's story is the main NBA news going on now during that dead end-of-September period before training camps start. We're left with little choice.

Up to and including Bennett in 2013, there had been 29 first overall picks since the draft lottery came into effect in 1985. Seeing as how Bennett's only got two years of playing time under his belt, he's obviously at a disadvantage when it comes to the cumulative stats. Instead of focusing on career stats as a point of comparison, here's how Bennett's first two seasons have stacked up against the first two years of the other 28 first overalls of the lottery era (Wiggins is left out, since he only has one year in):

Category Total Rank Among Former Firsts
Games Started 3 29th
Minutes 1,557 29th
Field Goal Percentage 39.3% 29th
Effective Field Goal Percentage 41.2% 29th
Total Rebounds 371 29th
Total Assists 65 27th
Total Steals 48 28th
Total Blocks 24 29th
Total Points 515 29th

Ouch. Bennett is the last among all lottery-era first overalls in total games started, total minutes played, field goal percentage, Effective Field Goal Percentage, total rebounds, total blocks, and total points over their respective first two years in the NBA. If it weren't for Greg Oden and Michael Olowokandi having fewer assists and Oden having fewer steals over their first two seasons, Bennett would've been dead last in all of them.

The efficiency rankings are gross, but the fact that he played the fewest minutes of the bunch can at least account for why he placed so low in all of the cumulative categories. What if we looked at the numbers of these 29 first overall picks, prorated to their per-36-minute equivalents?

Category Per 36 Average Rank Among Former Firsts
Rebounds per 36 Minutes 8.6 18th
Assists per 36 Minutes 1.5 22nd
Steals per 36 Minutes 1.1 12th
Blocks per 36 Minutes 0.6 23rd
Points per 36 Minutes 11.9 27th

Ok, not so bad. Yes, he still ranks strikingly low in scoring, but he's more in the middle of the pack when it comes to rebounds and steals.

Finally, what about the advanced stat categories? The ones that attempt to measure a player's overall value and impact on his team, based on his efficiency?

Category Total/Average Rank Among Former Firsts
Player Efficiency Rating (PER) 9.5 29th
True Shooting Percentage (TS%) 44.4% 29th
Win Shares (WS) -0.1 28th
Win Shares Per 48 Minutes (WS/48) -.002 28th
Offensive Rating 91 28th
Defensive Rating 109 24th
Net Rating -18 28th

It's hard to argue that Bennett isn't at least one of the worst first overall picks in the lottery era when looking at those advanced numbers. His PER and TS% are the worst of the 29 players over their first two seasons, but at least there's one player who is worse than Bennett in WS, WS/48, Offensive Rating, and Net Rating.

That player is Michael Olowokandi.

Bennett has not been good -- that much is certain -- but calling him the worst first overall pick ever might be giving "The Kandi Man" too much credit. Olowokandi played 13,129 minutes over 500 career games in the NBA and only accumulated 2.5 Win Shares. 2.5! Rasual Butler earned more (2.6) last season alone.

So, no, Anthony Bennett is probably not the worst first overall pick in the draft lottery era -- at least not yet. He should latch on somewhere before this week is over, and with a new uniform will come another new opportunity. After a summer of impressive play for Team Canada, it's obvious that the potential that once made him an obvious lottery pick on most mock draft boards is still there. At only 22 years of age, he's still got plenty of time to prove his worth.

And if he doesn't ultimately manage to establish himself and have a decent NBA career? At least he's not Michael frickin' Olowokandi.