A player we covered in-depth on multiple occasions during his redshirt junior season, Keith Benson
declared and subsequently withdrew from the NBA draft last summer.
An intriguing talent with NBA size, Benson has gotten off to a fine start in his final season with the Golden Grizzlies. Facing an intimidating non-conference schedule, Benson has struggled through some bouts of inconsistency, but has continued to produce at a high level up to this point. An exceptionally gifted center, Benson is a few subtle changes away from becoming a very interesting NBA prospect.
The majority of those changes revolve around the tools he'll need to develop to translate his game to the next level. Benson has developed an impressive skill level considering how raw he was early in his career, and is averaging an impressive double-double. Still, he often leaves you feeling like he could be capable of more.
The biggest challenges the Detroit Country Day product faces in legitimizing his NBA stock and maximizing his potential value is his lack of grit and physical strength. He has exceptional size, great fluidity, good mobility, and a terrific wingspan for a potential NBA big, but lacks the type of lower body strength that would give him the ability to prevent stronger NBA big men from backing him down in the post and the polish to get by on his skill-level alone.
More of a finesse player who makes an impact with great timing and touch, Benson is not quite the banger or high energy hustle player that he will be pitted against and asked to be at the next level. He rebounds the ball at a solid rate thanks to his exceptional length and solid athleticism, but isn't one to aggressively track the ball in traffic or go outside of his area to recover a miss.
Some of that certainly has to do with his lack of strength, and if he can add 15 pounds of solid muscle to his frame he'll be all the better for it, but it would benefit him to become more of a lunch-pail-type presence on the glass and defensive end of the floor. If he can refine his physique and show a better motor, he will have no problem carving out a niche for himself in the NBA.
Benson's ability to add weight and become an interior force is important, as he isn't a strong candidate to be a high usage player due to his inconsistency, lack of a go-to-move, and average decision-making skills. However, he flashes glimpses of some extremely interesting tools offensively, including a hook shot with his off-hand, the ability to use the glass, and a knack for finishing short-range looks. With almost half of his touches coming in the post, Benson has very nice footwork and phenomenal touch, but he'll need to add weight to help himself establish position on the block in the pro-game.
Away from the rim, Benson may have some potential as pick and pop option. He's only made 7 of his 25 jumpers this season according to Synergy Sports Technology and has a less than consistent release point on his shot, but his touch seems to indicate that with time and practice, he could emerge as a threat to score from the midrange. On the whole, Benson's ability to refine a couple of areas of his offensive game will be a big step towards defining the role he's able to play in the NBA.
Defensively, Benson makes a tremendous impact at the college level with his length and shot-blocking instincts, but has some work to do to improve his NBA projections. While he doesn't hold his ground very well when getting backed down, he does an awesome job of staying on his feet and contesting shots when his man makes a move. As we noted last season, Benson is not assertive defensively, some of which can be attributed to his desire to stay out of foul trouble. He'll need to add muscle to his frame (particularly his lower body) and be more willing to initiate contact if he wants to be able to defend the center position on the next level, an important step considering he doesn't have the lateral quickness or fundamentals to step out and defend power forwards on the perimeter effectively.
Unlike the average 22-year old senior, Keith Benson
has quite a bit of upside considering that many of his weaknesses are reparable. He's going to dominate the Summit League and flash some impressive NBA tools along the way, but he'll need to be more consistent, show greater intensity on both ends, add some weight to his frame, and continue refining his game to make himself a more attractive draft prospect. If he can make the necessary adjustments, Benson could be a name worth watching in March and heading into workout season.