Ghana-the West African country noted for its’ football exploits- is just weeks from having a player from the nation feature in the world’s greatest basketball league. Benjamin Bentil recently announced he will remain among prospects likely to be drafted on June 23 into the NBA through his instagram post. His decision to leave Providence University after two years was emboldened by an impressive showing through several tests at the Draft Combine which has catapulted him projected rankings. Prior to the Combine, Bentil’s stock was quite low and it showed in the rankings as several sources pegged him at positions which ranged between 42 and 58 out of 60.
In recent draft projections, Bentil is ranked 33rd by nbadraft.net and 27th by Bleacher Report. Should the projections stay true to form, the 6 foot 8 inch Combo Forward will be drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto Raptors respectively. However, the decisions of teams with higher draft positions will have a snowball effect on what executives of teams with lower positions do. The Denver Nuggets for instance, ultimately decided to offload Ty Lawson following New York Knicks surprise decision to draft mystery 7 footer Kristaps Porzingis fourth leaving Point Guard Emmanuel Mudiay up for the taking at seven.
In recent years, players desired destinations have also been taken into consideration. D’Angelo Russell yearned to play alongside Kobe Bryant in the Mamba’s final season and his wish was granted when Los Angeles Lakers drafted him number two last year. Bentil’s Providence teammate Kris Dunn is expected to be drafted in the top ten but reports have been rife with his representatives preferring Dunn not to be drafted by Boston Celtics and Phoenix Suns. The teams hold the third and fourth picks in respective order and have established Point Guards on their rosters.
The Celtics have Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart alternating positions in the team’s backcourt hierarchy with Terry Rozier, R. J. Hunter and John Holland following up. Phoenix Suns has Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight as starters. Devin Booker, Archie Goodwin, Phil Pressey, Ronnie Price and John Jenkins follow up in that order. Should Bentil be drafted by the Clippers, he will have more chances to play consistently as Blake Griffin, Wesley Johnson and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute are the only Forwards set to compete for places next season. Veteran Paul Pierce is yet to commit to return for next season following a woeful season in his first year in Los Angeles.
With little competition, Bentil’s blend of strong post play and outside shot which keeps on improving makes the Ghanaian a tantalizing prospect for a team which has struggled to find production from the bench. Mbah a Moute is renowned as a defensive perimeter stalwart but offer very little production on offense same for Branden Dawson who managed a meager six games and is very likely to be moved to the D-League. Dawson’s height-stands 6 foot 6 inches- doesn’t help his cause for more playing time compared to Bentil.
A move to Canada is another situation filled with several openings. The presence of Masai Ujiri in Toronto, who has turned fellow African Bismack Biyombo into one of the best bargains in the league, wouldn’t hurt. The Raptors roster is littered with several options in the frontcourt this season but will look thin come next season. As Canada’s team battle Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals, the frontcourt features Patrick Patterson, Demarre Carroll, Luis Scola, James Johnson, Jason Thompson and Bruno Caboclo.
The Raptors will have Patterson, Carroll and Caboclo returning as the remaining names from the aforementioned list will be free agents when Toronto’s season comes to an end. With many open spots in the front court that need filling, Bentil will be a great draft pick who can produce on a nightly basis even in his rookie season. Toronto has had a great history on drafting the right players beginning with Damon Stoudemire through Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Chris Bosh and DeMar DeRozan bar the Andrea Bargnani pick in 2006. The latest coupe Delon Wright and Norman Powell have extended Toronto’s draft winning streak. As such, drafting Ben Bentil will be another pick likely to turn gold a few years down the line.
Ghana’s basketball hopes hinge on Bentil landing in the right team with an immediate need. The first Ghanaian in the NBA shouldn’t be just a mere sideshow like India’s Satnam Singh who was drafted 52nd by Dallas Mavericks in last year’s draft only to be dropped to Mavericks’ Development League outfit, Texas Legends.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah