The Nets have slashed their roster salaries all the way down to $74.8 million, nearly $20 million below the salary cap for this season. Only Philadelphia will have a lower payroll entering the 2016-17 season.
The penny saving is a complete reversal for the team. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov set a window of five years for his team to win a title after he purchased the club and spared no expense in his pursuit of the Larry O’Brien trophy.
Brooklyn had the highest payroll in the NBA for two consecutive seasons, even paying over $90 million in luxury taxes at one point.
Only a drastic reduction in spending won’t yield a potential franchise player in the NBA draft, as the Boston Celtics hold the right to swap picks with Brooklyn this season and will pick in place of the Nets in 2018 as part of the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce deal struck in 2013.
The Nets completely overhauled their roster after finishing with 21 victories a year ago, the third fewest in the league.
Part of the attempt to rebuild for Brooklyn was to bring in Bennett, signing him to a two-year deal paying him the veteran’s minimum.
The contract carries no risk for the Nets, as the team possesses the option to pick up his contract next year.
Bennett is just hoping to latch onto a roster in an attempt to continue his professional career.
Cleveland selected Bennett first overall, believing he could provide a scoring impact at the post while stepping out and stretch the defense with his long-range shooting.
Bennett averaged 16.1 points and 8.1 rebounds during his lone season, but in 128 professional appearances, he has scored over 16 points just twice and has grabbed more than eight rebounds on seven occasions.
Following just one season with the Cavaliers, he was dealt to Minnesota as part of the Kevin Love trade.
Just 54 games into his tenure with the Timberwolves, he fell out of the rotation, as coach Flip Saunders opted to not play him 27 times during the last 31 games of the year, even though the team totaled just 16 victories all season.
Prior to the start of training camp a year ago, Minnesota waived him, only to be claimed by the Toronto Raptors just four days later.
The 23-year-old forward already has the dubious distinction by becoming the initial first overall pick ever to be sent down to the NBA Developmental League.
Last season alone, the 6-foot-8 forward was shuffled eight times between Toronto and the Raptors 905 of the NBA Developmental League.
In three years, Bennett has averaged 4.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game while converting 38.8 percent of his shot attempts.
Opponents are scoring an average of 18 additional points per 100 possessions when Bennett is on the court.
Bennett has even struggled making promotional videos for his new team.
Brooklyn waived four other players Tuesday night, but still have to cut at least one more player before the start of the regular season.
If the Nets release him prior to the season opener, he could have the shortest career of any first overall pick selected in the past 60 years.
Gene Melchiorre, the first overall pick of the 1951 NBA Draft, was the only player chosen atop of the draft never to appear in an NBA game. The 5-foot-8 guard was banned for life by the league following a guilty plea to point shaving during his time at Bradley University.
Thirty other player from seven different universities were also linked in the scandal.
Since Melchiorre, Portland center LaRue Martin is the only player selected first overall to appear in less than 300 games.
Martin was the first overall pick of the 1972 NBA Draft largely because of a strong performance against Bill Walton in college. Two years later, the team selected Walton with the first overall pick and Martin retried after the 1976 season, averaging 5.3 points and 4.6 rebounds during his career.
For his part, Bennett managed to show up to the Nets in shape, a struggle throughout his brief career and Thursday marks the final time he has an opportunity to secure a roster spot, as the Nets close out their preseason against New York.
Bennett has played four times in five preseason games for Brooklyn, averaging 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, but has converted just 28.6 percent of his attempts from the field.
Brooklyn is desperate to find production from anywhere and hope the player taken first overall in the NBA Draft just three years ago can make an impact, while Bennett is hoping to latch onto the Nets and continue his career.