MINNEAPOLIS - The deck seemed stacked against Anthony Bennett almost from the moment he entered the NBA.
A surprise No. 1 overall pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers in a woeful 2013 draft class thrust expectations on a player still recovering from a major shoulder injury that essentially rendered his rookie season moot. He was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves last summer, a throw-in to help the Cavs land All-Star forward Kevin Love.
Now, before he has even started his third season in the league, Bennett is on the move again.
The Timberwolves placed Bennett on waivers Wednesday. If he clears as expected, the team has agreed to a US$3.65 million buyout of his contract, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team does not publicly discuss contract figures.
If Bennett, from Brampton, Ont., is claimed by either Portland or Philadelphia — two teams with cap room to bring him in — he will make all of the $5.8 million his contract called for this season and would not get the buyout from the Timberwolves.
If he clears waivers, he may have to sign a minimum salary contract worth $947,000, thereby forfeiting about $1 million from his original salary.
After a promising summer spent playing well for Team Canada in the FIBA Americas tournament, Bennett pushed hard for his release from Minnesota. The Timberwolves have a load of power forwards on the roster, including Kevin Garnett, 2015 No. 1 overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, Euroleague MVP Nemanja Bjelica and Adreian Payne in addition to Shabazz Muhammad, a small forward who could slide to the post in small-ball lineups.
All of those players figured to make finding consistent playing time a challenge for Bennett, so he sought his release to join a team where he might be able to fill a defined role.
"When you look at our team, our deepest position is probably power forward," Wolves GM Milt Newton said in a statement issued by the team. "This move balances out our roster while also allowing Anthony another opportunity in the NBA. He has a lot of talent and his play this summer internationally made this a difficult decision for us."
After signing Bjelica, point guard Andre Miller and small forward Tayshaun Prince this summer, the Timberwolves had 16 guaranteed contracts on the roster, one over the maximum. They had other options to free up a spot, including newly acquired 3-point shooter Damjan Rudez and veteran point guard Lorenzo Brown. But Bennett's desire for a change of scenery made their decision for them.
It's been a startling fall for Bennett, the first Canadian chosen No. 1 overall.
He laboured through a shoulder injury and breathing problems as a rookie that caused him to miss training camp and made it difficult for him to get into shape. The result was a first season in which he averaged just 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds in 52 games.
The move to Minnesota was promising at first, when he accompanied fellow Canadian Andrew Wiggins in the trade that sent Love to Cleveland. Bennett showed up to camp in great shape after a stint with trainer Frank Matrisciano and opened eyes with his athleticism. But nagging injuries zapped his confidence quickly, and he spent most of the intermittent time he did get on the floor shooting long 2-pointers.
The Timberwolves encouraged him to become more of a dirty-work player — attacking the offensive glass, hustling after loose balls and getting to the free throw line. But Bennett only managed to show flashes of the physical tools that prompted the Cavaliers to grab him with the top pick, and he only played four of the final 28 games because of injuries and coach Flip Saunders' desire to play other players.
He finished the season averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 57 games.