It was always going to be a risk.
From the moment that Ben Bentil declared for the NBA draft on May 25, questions swirled around his decision. Was he going to sneak into the first round? Were predictions of a selection in the 40s accurate? Might he go undrafted altogether?
There was never a consensus opinion when it came to Ben Bentil. Not like his teammate Kris Dunn. Just about every mock draft had Dunn being picked among the top 5 or 6 selections, with some suggesting that he might go as high as number 3 to the Boston Celtics. In the end, the Celtics passed, but Minnesota grabbed Dunn at number 5 and his NBA future – and the riches that follow - is all but assured.
Meanwhile, Bentil and his family sat in the crowd at Barclay’s Arena, waiting. One mock draft had Bentil going as high as 23, but that pick came and went and it became clear that the sophomore forward was headed for the second round.
Prior to the draft, Bentil had tweeted that he’d be fine with a second round selection, but, like all basketball players, he knew that the guaranteed contracts and guaranteed money comes with a first round pick. Certainly, dreams of a first round pick had to have influenced Bentil’s choice to forego his junior year at Providence and declare for the draft.
And why not? Hadn’t he just had, arguably, the second best sophomore season ever by a Friar big man? He’d set school sophomore season records with 738 points, 246 field goals, 533 field goal attempts, 194 free throws and 248 free throw attempts. His 21.1 scoring average was second best among sophomores at PC. He led the Big East in scoring and was a First Team All-Big East pick, arguably the most improved player in the league. Only Marvin Barnes, who’d averaged 21.6 points and 15.7 rebounds as a sophomore, ever surpassed Bentil’s second year numbers.
Then, he’d performed well in workouts and scrimmages against other NBA draft hopefuls, seemingly elevating his stock. Reports that a few teams near the end of the first round were highly intrigued by his skills were hopeful. While Bentil’s conversations with coach Ed Cooley and NBA scouts probably will never be publically known, there have been some reports that the big man was advised to return to school, but the lure of the NBA was too much to resist in the end.
And so, with the 51st pick of the second round, the Boston Celtics finally selected Bentil. At midnight, far later than he expected his answer to come, Bentil tweeted, “All I needed was the opportunity and I got it. Time to prove myself.”
There is a school of thought that suggests that Bentil’s stock might never have been better and that without Dunn, his numbers might have declined as a junior had he returned to Providence. No doubt there is some truth to that. He may not have matched his sophomore numbers on what should be a more balanced team without Dunn. However, it’s difficult to believe that Bentil’s draft position would be worse than 51.
The new NBA loves big men who can shoot and Bentil showed the ability to step out and hit three pointers last season, which will always make him an intriguing player to many teams. In addition, he can run and is mobile, also a plus for the NBA game. However, while Bentil can nail the three when he gets hot, another season would have allowed him to refine and improve his shooting. He made 33 percent of his threes – respectable, but not NBA elite.
And while he can run, another college season would have enabled him to work on his speed, his defense, his passing, his footwork and his ability to put the ball on the floor and create for himself – all areas where he can improve his game, and his stock. At barely 6’8, Bentil is a tweener and needs to be at his best in multiple areas to succeed at the top level of basketball.
NBA teams know Bentil. They came in droves to see Dunn and caught an eyeful of Ben, as well. They also saw him in pre-draft workouts. He would not have disappeared next season at PC, regardless of the team’s level of success.
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That’s all moot now, though. Bentil is a Celtic and will have to prove himself or he will be seeing minutes in the D-League. It was always going to be a risk and a true roll of the dice.