The Golden State Warriors are way too good when they go small; fielding a lineup which peaks at 6 feet and 8 inches in a land where giants maraud without an eye batting. However, as crazy as this sound on paper, this thing-going small- works in real life and winning 73 out of 82 games pretty much says it all. Winning a championship says it much better and louder. Steam rolling their way into the history books with jet speed propelled by a Point Guard quite like no other, the Warriors have set a benchmark which the league has been all too grateful to copy from. Playing small prioritizes speed and long distance shooting than any other system in the book but it sure does have flaws.
Chief among them, sacrificing points close to the rim where taller can score over the top of shorter defenders but that threat becomes serious only if that team does not have Draymond Green on its roster. Standing 6 foot 7 inches tall, the former Michigan State product has made his way into America’s Olympic Basketball Team via his unique ability to battle and win contests against guys five inches taller than him on most nights. Golden State missed out on repeating as champions some days ago partly due to Green’s absence in a crucial Game 5 which would have sealed the series with the Warriors leading 3-1 in the best of seven.
His suspension due to an arm swing to LeBron James’ groin and his team’s inability to replicate his tenacious and versatile play on both ends of the court, rendered Warriors without the critical piece in their spellbinding jigsaw. Fast forward a week and James’ Cleveland Cavaliers hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy inside Golden State’s Oracle Arena.
Now what the exciting Finals did, was show Steve Kerr’s side need a backup for Draymond Green. Had the Warriors been a franchise in the capitalist run world of football, getting the right guy would have been a financial problem but in a socialist run environment like the NBA (where all 30 teams in the league’s interest are considered first before anything else), General Manager Bob Myers can get help on the cheap. The NBA Draft has over the years been the major route to the world’s best basketball league. Its 60 slots are fiercely competed for by thousands of highly skilled players all over the world.
The annual event has been spiced up by an increasing number of international prospects from all continents, including Africa which has the likes of Salah Mejri, Serge Ibaka and Bismarck Biyombo playing and thriving in the league. Golden State owns pick Number 30 in this year’s draft which it should use to fill blank spaces left behind in Green’s absence in Game 5 by drafting a late bloomer from the other side of the Atlantic.
Standing an inch taller than Draymond, Ghanaian Forward Benjamin Bentil has the requisite set of skills body type and athleticism to be at par or better than Green in the future. Having spent 15 years in Sekondi in Ghana, Bentil moved to the States before gaining a scholarship to Providence College from St. Andrew’s High School. His two year stay was successful but he really gained prominence in his second season where he averaged 21 points and seven rebounds per game including dropping 42 points on Dwayne Wade’s alma mater, Marquette University. Being named Most Improved Player for the Year and leading all players in scoring in the Big East Conference, Bentil showcased his wide array of skills for Coach Ed Cooley.
On offense he could play in the paint by using his 230 pound frame to bully opponents below the rim or step outside the paint to score a jumper whilst backing down an opponent or facing him. Or he could step back further beyond the arc to attempt a three point shot due to his improving shooting touch; he converted 52 out of 158 three point attempts in his second season before going pro.
Whilst at Michigan State University, Draymond Green couldn’t shoot beyond the arc and was inconsistent doing it away from the rim which makes Bentil’s average shooting percentage from three point lane a good foundation to work with. On the less glamorous end of the court, Ed Cooley’s free flowing system where players are required to man several positions on the fly makes Bentil accustomed to playing against bigger guys.
In the past season, Providence had no player stand above 6 foot 8 inches on the roster pushing the Ghanaian Forward to play Center as the main defensive anchor in the setup. Coupled with his quick step and body mass Bentil could guard any player from the shortest to the tallest on the court and this should translate well into the NBA.
Per NBA.com, Bentil is projected to be picked by the Chicago Bulls at Number 48 in the draft which would be an ideal location for the Forward to thrive, as Bulls Coach Fred Hoiberg is in need of a player of Bentil’s qualities. However, having missed out on a historic season in agonizing circumstances, Steph Curry and the Warriors can make history and then some yet again by fielding the first Ghanaian in the NBA at the Oracle.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah