In something of a surprise move, the Wolves are reportedly working on a buyout of Anthony Bennett's contract for the 2015-16 season, which is worth $5.8M. Yahoo Sports is reporting that Bennett's reps are eager for a buyout in order to find Bennett a situation with more possible playing time after the Wolves failed to find a trade partner for the former number one overall pick who came to the Wolves in the Kevin Love trade with Cleveland last summer.
While it had become clear that the Wolves had soured on Bennett after his one season in Minnesota, I expected their inability to find a trade for him meant that he would once again be on the roster, competing for playing time with 2nd year player Adreian Payne and rookie Nemanja Bjelica, but with the roster beyond the limit for guaranteed contracts, apparently the Wolves have decided that Bennett is a sunk cost and it's better to cut him loose rather than let him take up a roster spot for another season.
Bennett's career has been a major disappointment since he was the surprise first pick in the 2013 draft by the Cleveland Cavaliers. Poor conditioning and health was blamed for his historically poor rookie season, and while his 2nd year with the Wolves was not quite as catastrophic (it would have been hard to match the first one), he failed to show any consistency in his game, and was in and out of the lineup regularly. He finally was lost for the last couple of months of the season to injury just after the Wolves traded for Payne to create some competition at the power forward spot, though of course Payne also struggled mightily once he arrived in Minnesota.
One wonders if Nemanja Bjelica's relatively strong play at the recently concluded Eurobasket tournament for Serbia has had any influence on the decision to buy out Bennett. Without AB, the Wolves are looking at Kevin Garnett, who can't be counted on for heavy minutes, Payne, whose rookie exploits were not encouraging, and Bjelica as natural power forwards on the roster.
Of course there are other options, such as playing big with Karl-Anthony Towns or Gorgui Dieng occupying the four spot, or playing smaller with Shabazz Muhammad there, but it's looking more and more like the Wolves are going to have to count on Bjelica for significant minutes this season.
By waiving Bennett, the Wolves are down to 15 guaranteed contracts plus Lorenzo Brown's partial guarantee for the upcoming season. It still seems unlikely that Damjan Rudez, who was acquired from the Pacers for Chase Budinger will wind up on the final roster, meaning they have some flexibility with this move, to either keep Brown as a 3rd/4th point guard or go out and find someone else they like for the end of the roster.
While I'm of the opinion that cutting bait sooner rather than later is a good thing, especially in a situation where the Wolves would have had to make a decision on Bennett's 4th year option prior to this season, and declining it would have meant lame duck status for him for the season, I'm a bit surprised that he is completely without value at his salary. Being forced to cut him loose and pay him some amount of the $5.8M he's owed without getting anything in return is a bit disappointing, even though he's been a clear disappointment for his first two seasons.
Bennett's fans will point out that he's still only 22 years old, that he gained valuable experience playing with the Canadian National Team this summer, and that he's shown flashes of the quickness and agility in his huge frame that made him an intriguing prospect, and that it's too early to give up on him, especially since he was already under contract for this season.
But it appears that the Wolves have seen enough, and don't see a future for him in Minnesota, so much so that they would rather pay him not to play for them,while clearing a roster spot than keep him around for another year to see if anything develops.
I expect some team will take a flyer on him at the minimum to see if they can strike gold, but Bennett's career now hangs in the balance.