In the span of about 48 hours earlier this week, the Phoenix Suns brought in just about every imaginable candidate (Alex Len, Ben McLemore, C.J. McCollum, Cody Zeller, Rudy Gobert, Shabazz Muhammad, Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo) for the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft.
The only two realistic options not to make their way through U.S. Airways Center this week were Georgetown’s Otto Porter and UNLV’s Anthony Bennett.
Unlike other lottery-bound prospects, though, Bennett, who averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 assists per game during his only season at UNLV, can’t do much to improve his draft stock at this point.
On May 8, the 6-foot-8 forward underwent rotator cuff surgery on his left shoulder and will miss up to four months of action, including the NBA Combine and individual team workouts.
Still, though reduced to street clothes, the former Running Rebels star came to Phoenix Saturday to meet face-to-face with Suns general manager Ryan McDonough and head coach Jeff Hornacek — his first visit with any NBA team.
While top 10 teams like the Suns will have to rely primarily on game tape and scouting reports when it comes to Bennett, the Toronto native said that meeting with executives and coaches in-person is still an important part of the process to him.
“Since I missed the NBA Combine it’s a great way to show my face, to show the coaches and the general managers how I am, my personality and to meet the team,” Bennett said.
Who he is on the court is fairly well-known at this point. As a freshman, Bennett had no problem showing off his athleticism, ability to finish at or above the rim and touch from the perimeter (37.5 percent from three-point range). However, heading into the draft on June 27, who he’ll be after surgery might be a bigger concern.
Although his health might present a red flag for some organizations interested in his services, Bennett said he doesn’t see it becoming an issue moving forward and remains confident he’ll be ready for training camp.
“[The doctors] said it’s going along pretty well,” said Bennett of his rehabilitation. “I’ll be back sooner than expected. I’m just enjoying the experience, traveling and meeting the teams.”
Count Ryan McDonough among those as optimistic as Bennett is about his recovery.
“No, not really,” McDonough said when asked about whether he’s concerned about Bennett’s health. “From what I heard it was a shoulder injury, but it was a left shoulder, a non-shooting shoulder. So our medical people didn’t seem too concerned about it. They see it as a thing that is short-term and fixable.
“From what I’ve heard and seen so far, they expect him to make a full recovery.”
Injury issues aside, Bennett was also asked to discuss his fit with the Suns, and the former McDonald’s All-American noted that his versatility could be a big asset.
“I can play the three,” said Bennett. “I was working on that before the surgery actually, a little bit of ball-handling, moved out to the wing.
“I feel like I’m getting more comfortable out there, since I didn’t play there so much in college. Just getting a feel for it, I think I can play the three or four.”
For the most part, McDonough seemed to agree with Bennett’s assessment.
“I think he’s primarily a four but can step out and play the three,” said the Suns general manager. “Anthony is very skilled, he’s strong, he has huge shoulders and long arms.
“I think he shot 37 percent from three in college. He’s versatile, that’s one of the strengths of his game.”
Because Bennett was unable to suit up Saturday, the team was allowed to bring in six other players (Archie Goodwin, Erick Green, Jackie Carmichael, Jake Cohen, Nate Wolters and Romero Osby) for workouts.