Was the Anthony Bennett buyout the right move?

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As we noted here yesterday and was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Wolves have now reportedly finalized a buyout that will make 2013 number-one overall draft pick Anthony Bennett an unrestricted free agent, provided he passes through waivers.

It’s probably the best thing for both sides in the long run, as Bennett was stuck behind a multitude of forwards on the Wolves roster. He and his agents knew it, and were looking for an opportunity elsewhere.

We’ve seen a change of scenery work well for high draft picks that struggled in their first or even second NBA city, three teams in three years is nigh unprecedented for such a high lottery pick.

There’s a number of folks panning the Wolves for giving up on Bennett after one up-and-down season, but was this the right thing to do in the short-term for the Wolves?

In a vacuum, yes. Bennett is owed $5.8 million this season — that number would have made him the fifth-highest paid player on the Wolves roster. Absurd for a player who would languish on the bench near the end of the rotation. He’s only 22 years old, of course, meaning that the only way he’s going to improve (and there is room for growth, certainly) is by playing heavy minutes.

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The Wolves think more of the likes of Adreian Payne and 2015 number-one overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns, and considering that fellow 2013 first-round pick Shabazz Muhammad has made his best impact as a small-ball power forward, Bennett simply wouldn’t be receiving the requisite minutes to continue what has been an arduous development to this point.

The question of how the Wolves got to this point, however, is absolutely a legitimate one to debate.

Would you rather have Anthony Bennett and a first-round draft pick or Adreian Payne? If you prefer the former, than you have February’s trade with the Atlanta Hawks to thank. The Wolves’ clear preference for Payne is the primary reason for the Bennett buyout.

It’s confusing, as Payne is actually two years older than Bennett despite having a year less NBA experience. And if you watched much Timberwolves basketball last year you know that Payne didn’t look any less lost than Bennett on a nightly basis.

Ultimately, they’re both projects, albeit Bennett at $5.8 million (and $7.3 million if next year’s option had been exercised) and Payne at just $1.9 million, but is that savings worth the draft pick that was given up to land Payne?

It’s just another example of the Wolves misusing assets and improperly allocating resources. Wolves fans are used to it, of course, but that doesn’t make it permissible.

Here’s hoping that Flip Saunders and Milt Newton will begin to turn it around from an asset management perspective, as the Wolves’ young core will need to be supplemented with non-35+ year-old role players at some point in the next couple of years.

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