Timberwolves’ dilemma with Adreian Payne and Anthony Bennett


Between Kevin Garnett signing a two-year contract extension and the signing of Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica the Timberwolves are suddenly stacked in the power forward position.

The first-overall selection in the 2013 NBA draft, Anthony Bennett, and mid-season pickup Adriean Payne find themselves in a battle for playing time and individual roles within the team’s pecking order. It’s time to pit them head-to-head to find out who deserves to be ahead of the other.

Adriean Payne comes into this match-up at an obvious disadvantage. He never was able to find a spot on the soaring Atlanta Hawks (only playing in three games), but despite his initial shortcomings in his rookie season, Payne has shown flashes of being a solid player for the Timberwolves in the long run. His best performance thus far in a Timberwolves uniform was an explosive, dunk-filled 16-point, 15-rebound outing in a loss to the Clippers.

The thing with Payne, however, is his plaguing inconsistency. It was frustrating to watch some Summer League games due to his inability to simply catch a pass and execute a finish. That being said, I’ve got to give credit to the enormous hustle the guy brings to the team. With Kevin Garnett mentoring the bigs, Payne could evolve into a solid glue guy for the franchise.

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However, there are concerns regarding his health going back to his college days as he suffers from a lung ailment that affects his endurance. Alongside this issue, Payne is already 24 years-old and there are some questions as to his ability to progress and develop a versatile offensive repertoire.

Having said that, I believe he’s a great locker presence and seems to have the work ethic needed to succeed. I’ll be happy if he manages to occupy a Draymond Green-type of role within the offense (obviously I’m not talking about his defense) and if he manages to produce a reasonable stat line along the lines of 12/6/1, he’ll have my full confidence as a backup.

I have a hard time objectively evaluating Anthony Bennett because it’s hard not to factor his status as being the #1-overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. Also, before I say anything about Bennett it’s important to consider that there are reports stating that the organization has tried to shop him repeatedly. If he’s truly on the trade block it’s clear that the Twolves would much rather have Payne onboard.

Furthermore, it’s also a power play in that without Bennett, the Timberwolves wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of  fan abuse should he end up as a bust. But I’m going to disregard all of that to provide some fair reasoning between him and Payne.

Jul 24, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Canada forward Anthony Bennett (10) dunks the ball against the United States in the men

He’s played more games than Payne, albeit at hardly any minutes, (15.7 per game) and if we scale that up to Payne’s playing time, Bennett’s production surpasses Payne’s. I’d also mention Bennett’s incredible performances with Canada in the 2015 Pan American Games, but it’s been found that generally international performances are a terrible indicator of how a player is going to do in the upcoming season (*cough**cough* Kenneth Faried).

Bennett is also just as explosive as Payne, if not even more (just YouTube his dunk highlights), but doesn’t quite own the flexible offensive arsenal compared to Payne. He’s also just as bad on defense and is susceptible to being error-prone.  

Given that floor-spacing is becoming a magnified attribute for a team to have in order to enjoy success in the modern NBA, Payne looks to edge Bennett out in this regard. However, Payne doesn’t offer an incredibly upside or ceiling, and is probably destined to be relegated to being a role player his entire career.

Taking everything said above into account, I’d say that Payne barely edges Bennett in this battle. With the Wolves having 16 players currently on the roster, Bennett should probably be on the trading block.

Right now, he doesn’t have a incredibly significant impact on this team, and it’s probably the best for both Bennett and the organization that they ship him off and possibly acquire a draft pick for him.

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