While the Knicks search for a trade destination for Enes Kanter, his tendencies are a detriment to the growth of the young core.
Enes Kanter is hurting the Knicks on both ends of the floor, and it’s time to explore options to part ways. Kanter says he loves being in New York, which is genuine, but he knows he’s not part of the Knicks’ long-term future—and it’s affecting his play.
The problem for the Knicks is about how Kanter’s play impacts the team’s young guys’ development. His utility was in his veteran presence, and how he played with heart, supposedly motivating the neophytes. But he is hurting their development on both ends of the floor, while sulking about his playing time.
Kanter barely offers any resistance at the point of attack on defense, forcing our guards into bad habits—like overplaying to account for the nonexistent help coming.
Kanter overplaying pic.twitter.com/wz1Ukcx477
— TKW Clips (@TKWClips) January 9, 2019
A simple step to the right in the play above could have slowed Malcolm Brogdon enough that Damyean Dotson could force a hard shot. It’s shameless how obvious Kanter makes chasing that rebound instead of offering help. Kanter is stat-padding to look attractive to suitors this offseason when he’ll be a free agent, but teams should be able to see through his big numbers at this point.
His block and steal percentages this season sit at 0.7 percent, in the 16th and 13th percentile, respectively, among bigs, per Cleaning the Glass. But again, this is not the main concern. It would be one thing if Kanter was just physically limited (he is), but he isn’t showing effort on the defensive end—and that is an attitude which needs to be jettisoned from the team to create the positive basketball culture the front office and David Fizdale have promised.
On offense, Kanter blocks driving lanes often by plopping himself in the way and demanding post touches. He slips screens super early, or barely makes any contact, so he can get in to post position quicker.
Kanter clogging lane pic.twitter.com/buC75Nhbrh
— TKW Clips (@TKWClips) January 9, 2019
Kevin Knox had a nice driving lane, which was cut off by Kanter for a post-up that clearly wasn’t called for him. If Kanter has a mismatch, it makes sense to get that positioning and call for the ball, but he’s matched up with the man who was assigned to him. Thon Maker even pushes him off the low block, further into Knox’s space.
Kanter demands zero gravity as a roll man, so defenders are able to squeeze ball handlers. The more space afforded to our young guys to work with, the more they can develop new tricks. Forcing them to deal with more defenders because of Kanter’s lack of gravity is an unnecessary trial by fire.
Zach DiLuzio recently wrote a great piece for Posting & Toasting about how all these practices are hurting the Knicks’ development. With this in mind, there should be a real urgency from the front office to remove him from the team.
The two most likely options for ridding the team of Kanter are a trade and a buyout. There’s also the distinct possibility that the front office decides to let Kanter play out the rest of the season. Hey, he’s not great (Zion, please), but he keeps us in the news, and is good insurance since Mitchell Robinson is easily injured and Kornet—who has been a real boon for our spacing—can’t play 48 minutes a night.
Noah Vonleh is more than capable of playing the 5 too, but the Knicks’ front office is historically inept, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Kanter in Knicks orange and blue in Game 82.
The Knicks have received phone calls from teams interested in acquiring the maligned Turkish big man. The Knicks have listened to offers, but no deal is imminent, per The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov.
This is the last year on Kanter’s contract, and he’s locked in for $18.6 million. This means that any trade partner would have to send back the same amount of money this season to get him. Expiring contracts can be valuable to a team looking to offload a longer term contract, but the Knicks—in pursuit of a star this offseason—are unlikely to take back any long-term money.
Finding potential teams to make a trade work would be tough. The Bulls’ Jabari Parker is on a two-year, $40 million contract with a team option for next year, so the Knicks could theoretically trade the two and decline Parker’s option, but Parker was famously quoted saying “you don’t get paid to play defense,” which is exactly the mentality that Fizdale is trying to snuff out among his young team.
The Kings have a good amount of cap space, so they could absorb much of Kanter’s contract and offer some of their expiring contracts back. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Kings and Knicks were in talks for a Zack Randolph/Kanter swap. It would be a miracle for the Knicks if they could pull that off.
It would be even more miraculous if the Knicks could convince the Kings that Tim Hardaway Jr. is the guy to push them over the top, and offload the rest of his contract for more expirings. The Kings expiring contracts include Z-Bo, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, and Ben McLemore. The Kings want to give away more than one, but the Knicks are capped out at 15 guys on their roster, so they would either need a third team in the deal to make it happen, or have the Kings take back another Knick.
If the deals with the Kings and Bulls don’t work out, other teams would probably reach out to see if they can swipe a second-round pick from the Knicks to take Enes off their hands. At that point, there’s no reason to go that route as opposed to buying him out, which the front office has publicly claimed it’s not trying to do. If they don’t trade him by February 7th, that’s the option they’re left with.
The front office should be actively angling to buy Kanter out in case the trade negotiations don’t pan out. He talks a big game about wanting to win, so here’s his chance. Take some money, leave the Knicks youth alone, go play backup for a contender, and try to cash out next offseason.
The situation has gone on way too long. It seems that everyone—including Fizdale, who has reduced his role—understands how Kanter hurts the Knicks. The best solution is to get rid of him. It’s entirely possible a trade unfolds, but if not, Knicks management would be wise to buy him out to let the youth flourish.