Former No. 1 Pick Anthony Bennett Is Taking His Talents to Turkey

It's safe to say Bennett is the biggest No. 1 overall bust of at least the last 40 years.
January 13, 2017, 6:44pm
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on VICE Sports Canada.

Though his NBA days appear finished, Anthony Bennett's basketball career is not.

After being released by the New Jersey Nets last Monday—the fourth team to discard him in as many seasons—the former No. 1 overall pick is headed to Turkish club Fenerbahce, according to ESPN, which the team appeared to confirm Friday. Fenerbahce, which rosters former NBAers Jan Vesely, Pero Antic and Ekpe Udoh, is a EuroLeague team that plays out of Turkey's largest city Istanbul.

Through 23 games this season on a last-place Brooklyn team, Bennett averaged 11.5 minutes and 5.0 points while adding 3.4 rebounds per game, among the best numbers of his career. Through 151 NBA games with the Cavaliers, Timberwolves, Raptors, and Nets, the Toronto native averaged 12.6 minutes, 4.4 points and 3.1 rebounds, while shooting 39.2 percent from the field. He didn't suit up for more than 57 games in any of his four NBA campaigns, and has only hit the floor in 42 games total over the past two seasons, while splitting time in the D-League.

Bennett, who was famously packaged with Andrew Wiggins as part of the Cavaliers' trade for Kevin Love, became the first Canadian to be drafted first overall to the NBA in 2013 after one standout season at UNLV. We quickly found out, though, that his calling to the podium by Cleveland on that June day would be the pinnacle of his NBA career. It's not his fault Cleveland reached for him in a weak draft, but rather than carving himself the expected career of a first rounder, Bennett has solidified himself as (most likely) the biggest draft bust in NBA history.

He's not the only recent disappointment to be selected No. 1 overall, but for how brief his (at least first) stint in the NBA was coupled with his level of production, Bennett is in a class of his own.

Recent No. 1 flops like Greg Oden and Andrea Bargnani at least offered some level of production. Oden had two solid injury-plagued seasons before injuries cost him three straight years and effectively ended his career. While taking Oden over Kevin Durant in hindsight was a disaster, the big man posted a 23.1 PER in his second season with the Trailblazers, while limited to 21 games.

Bargnani, on the other hand, lasted 10 seasons, and averaged 14.3 points for his career, including a career-high 21.4 during the 2010-11 campaign.

Bennett's time with his hometown Raptors was brief and didn't go according to plan. Photo by John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Even Michael Olowokandi, taken first in a 1998 draft that saw Vince Carter, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki all go in the top 10, lasted nine seasons, and offered more on the court than Bennett.

Everyone's former favourite punching bag Kwame Brown, meanwhile, played for 12 seasons, and while he left a lot to be desired, he certainly grades better than Bennett when it comes to all-time No. 1 overall busts.

If you go through the history of the No. 1 pick, you'll see that most players turned in productive, if not All-Star and Hall of Fame careers. We can safely say that Bennett, sadly, is the biggest bust of the last 40 years to be taken first overall.

At just 23, perhaps Bennett can carve out a career in the EuroLeague and work his way back to North America down the road. At the very least, he'll make money overseas and should continue getting opportunities with the Canadian national team, where he's been a key contributor in the past, including the 2015 Pan Am Games when he helped lead the team to a silver medal.

Bennett will carry the bust tag with him anywhere he goes, but he should be proud of being a part of a huge movement for Canadian hoops. He was the first Canadian to be taken No. 1 overall, and a year later fellow countrymate Wiggins followed him with the top pick. A few years later, 11 Canadians entered this season on NBA rosters—the most of any country outside of the United States.