It’s Yung Poutine: Comeback Season.
The Brooklyn Nets have inked Anthony Bennett to a two-year deal, according to Shams Charania of The Vertical. The deal will pay Bennett the league minimum (a total of $2.1 million) in each season, and in a nice piece of business for the Canadian, this year’s salary is fully guaranteed.
This…is not news from a Toronto Raptors perspective. I write this post only because I’ve been asked an inordinate amount of times whether the Raptors might kick the tires on a Bennett redux at the end of their roster this year. The answer to that was probably always a firm no, considering the reclamation experiment failed last season, but those curious can at least put it to rest now.
Drafted first overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013, Bennett suffered through a shoulder injury and sleep apnea that hurt his conditioning, and that issue has plagued him even as he’s gotten in better shape. He was a part of the Andrew Wiggins-Kevin Love trade as salary flotsam, and after a disappointing sophomore season, the Minnesota Timberwolves made the rare move to buy out the third year on his rookie-scale contract, rendering him a free agent.
The Raptors plucked the hometown kid on a minimum deal, hoping to develop him with a longer-term focus rather than thrusting him into playing time he wasn’t ready for. To his credit, he worked tirelessly while waiting for a chance, often working out intensely before games and even reportedly requesting a D-League assignment (whether that was a convenient PR spin is open to questioning). Unfortunately, he didn’t play well in the D-League, exhibiting poor shot selection in a small sample. After playing 84 minutes over 19 appearances with the Raptors, the team decided a playoff push with five players they couldn’t lean on for depth was too tall a task, and they cut him to make room for Jason Thompson.
In the time since, Bennett’s done minicamps with the Nets and New York Knicks and participated in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament with Canada. His decision to represent Canada instead of fighting for a job through Summer League is appreciated, and Bennett shot 55.6 percent for the qualifier, averaging 6.8 points and five rebounds in 19 minutes.
Landing with the Nets should be a great opportunity for Bennett, and he’ll see a familiar face in Luis Scola. Crazy though it may seem for the Nets to sign Bennett over any number of unproven pieces, he’s still just 23 and, again, is a former No. 1 pick. He looked to be in terrific shape with the national team, the Nets had roster spots to fill, and he’ll get a chance to compete for playing time in Brooklyn, something few teams were likely offering. I still don’t think Bennett is worth giving up on completely, so long as expectations are managed properly. On a minimum deal, my only criticism for the Nets would be that they didn’t inflate the non-guaranteed second year to make Bennett a potential offseason trade asset if things don’t work out.
Over 128 career games, Bennett is averaging 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds and shooting 38.8 percent overall and 25.6 percent on threes. Yung Poutine, baby.