Would Enes Kanter Be A Good Fit In Portland?


The Portland Trail Blazers have had a tumultuous off-season up to this point. The core of a division winning team has been disassembled in a matter of weeks, with a massive turnover in free agency. However, general manager Neil Olshey isn’t ready to throw in the towel and call it good. Damian Lillard has been re-signed to a $120 million extension, and Olshey also reached an agreement with Enes Kanter on a four year, $70 million offer sheet.

We all know that Dame is worth the money, but how about Kanter? Is the restricted free agent worth a maximum contract? Is Olshey playing chess with Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti?

There are a number of intriguing factors that would make Kanter a great pickup for the Trail Blazers. He is only 23 years old and has improved every year since he entered the league in 2011. Kanter is a consistent double-double threat and he is one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA.

The Turkish big man played the first three and half seasons of his career in relative anonymity. He was drafted with the third overall pick by the Utah Jazz in 2011, but he never received much attention while playing in Salt Lake City.

Kanter ended up requesting a trade before this year’s trade deadline, and his wish was granted on February 20th. The trade turned out to be the best scenario for his bottom line. He joined an Oklahoma City Thunder team that was in the middle of a playoff chase. His numbers instantly jumped up across the board, and he finished the season on a high note. In 26 games with OKC, he averaged 18.7 points and 11.0 rebounds per-game, while shooting 56.6 percent from the field.

The Thunder will have the option to match the $70 million contract offer that Portland has given to Kanter, if they choose to do so. His restricted status leaves his fate in the hands of Presti, and it sounds like they will try to bring him back. He will have to make his final decision before Sunday afternoon.

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However, Oklahoma City is a small market similar to Portland. They notoriously traded James Harden in 2012 to avoid the NBA’s luxury tax. If the Thunder decide to match Portland’s offer, they will be forced to pay the luxury tax for the 2015-16 campaign. It is hard to picture Presti forking out that kind of money for Kanter, but it may be a last ditch offer to make the team a title contender before Kevin Durant hits free agency next summer.

If the Trail Blazers manage to bring Kanter into the fold, he will lead a nice rotation of big men. He would presumably be the starting center, with a combination of Mason Plumlee, Chris Kaman, Ed Davis, Noah Vonleh and Meyers Leonard playing around him.

Apr 5, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (34) warms up prior to the game against the Houston Rockets at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

He would instantly boost Portland’s rebounding numbers across the board. The Trail Blazers were a mediocre offensive rebounding team in 2014-15. They averaged 10.68 offensive rebounds per-game, which ranked 16th in the NBA. Kanter averaged 3.7 offensive rebounds per-game himself (3.0 in Utah, 5.0 in OKC), and finished fourth in the league individually.

There are only a couple of red flags that come to my mind when I dissect this move for Kanter. While it is likely that he found a good fit in Oklahoma City, I can’t help but wonder if his late season success was contract related. You always have to be careful paying a guy who throws up big numbers in the last couple months of a contract year. I hope his motor will still be running if he comes to Portland.

I am also worried about his lack of defense. He is a below average defender, and he has trouble defending pick and rolls due to sub-par mobility. However, his offensive prowess marginally overshadows any defensive inefficiencies he may have. Plumlee and Davis will help cover him on that end of the floor.

All in all, this should be a great move for Portland as long as Kanter stays motivated to succeed. He would give Portland a nice big man to build around. This may just be a smoke screen to make a division rival (OKC) pay the luxury tax, but if not, then the Trail Blazers will have nice inside-outside combination moving forward.

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