Anthony Bennett is going to be on an NBA roster this season — likely back in his native Canada.
But no team wanted to pay him $5.8 million to be on their roster this season. Maybe more importantly, no team wanted to decide by Oct. 31 if they were going to pay him $7.3 million next season. So he has cleared waivers and is now a free agent, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
That makes him a free agent. Portland and Philadelphia have interest in him, but Toronto appears to be the frontrunner to land him.
The Raptors have 14 guaranteed contracts on the books, they can add one more. This will be a league minimum deal (or very close to it).
Bennett becomes the first No. 1 pick ever not to make it to the third year of his rookie contract before being released. The usual reaction is to call him a bust, but the reality is this was the Cavaliers’ mistake on draft night — most teams had Bennett in the 7-12 range on their boards (a few had him much lower), but the Cavaliers rolled the dice and took him with the top pick. That’s on them, not him.
That said, it’s too early to completely give up on him. Bennett is just 22 and entering his third NBA season, and while he’s never going to be a star it is possible he could develop into a solid rotation player. He’s shown flashes of quality play before — he did for team Canada this summer at FIBA Americas — but he hasn’t been able to sustain that into the NBA regular season. He also battled injuries, which impacted his conditioning.
This summer, Canadian national team coach and Blazers assistant Jay Triano gave Bennett excellent advice — simplify the game, find a thing or two you’re good at and focus on just that. Bennett can rebound, he can run the floor, and if Toronto can bring him along this “bust” can help them. If not, no big cost.