The Knicks’ enthusiastic Turkish center will stay in New York, choosing to remain with the Knicks and make over $18 million this coming season.
New York Knicks center Enes Kanter will opt in to the final year of his contract with the team, per Yahoo Sports’ Shams Charania.
Kanter, who New York acquired along with Doug McDermott and a second-round pick in the Carmelo Anthony trade with Oklahoma City, will earn $18.6 million with the Knicks in 2018–19 (via Spotrac). The Knicks will have limited cap space to spend on free agents this summer as a result of Kanter’s decision.
Enes averaged 14.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in 71 games last season with the Knicks while shooting 59.2 percent from the field and 84.8 percent from the free-throw line. Kanter finished the season with the fifth-best field-goal percentage, the 15th-best Player Efficiency Rating (24.0), and ninth-best effective field-goal percentage (59.2) in the league and tallied 39 double doubles on the season (per Basketball-Reference).
In the Big Apple, Kanter became the focal point for team building and enthusiasm in the locker room, at least from the outside. The unofficial social-media troll of the team, Kanter often found himself in online spats with other players like LeBron James (although disputes were usually one-sided). Considering the Turk’s strong, vocal excitement for the city, his teammates, and against Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his decision to stay in new York shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Kanter’s decision plays in stark contrast to that of fellow Knickerbocker center/power forward Kyle O’Quinn, who decided to decline his player option a few days ago. O’Quinn was to make $4.3 million in 2018–19 with the Knicks but opted out seeking to earn more possibly elsewhere.
Kanter’s return does not come without questions about his long-term viability. While Kanter profited off of second-chance opportunities and exquisite post play on offense, poor mobility on defense limited the Knicks’ ceiling on that end for most of the 2017–18 season. Now, with new head coach David Fizdale, Enes’ potential role with the team may not be optimal depending on the franchise’s direction. Under Fizdale, New York will be looking to go younger and position-less with a rotation that places less emphasis on the traditional center role and rather versatile athletes that can switch on defense and share the ball, in addition to shooting the three-pointer willingly on the offensive end.
Whether or not Kanter is in the long term plans for this Knicks team is currently unclear. He is a fiercely loyal player, preaching his desire to be in New York for the rest of his career. For the Knicks, playing the Kanter situation by ear is the only option left for them. The center will eat up minutes, play in the post, and provide Fizdale with hard work on the offensive end and spotty work on the other end of the floor.
Should he become the apple of another franchise’s eye, the Knicks could look to move Kanter for any asset that could be on the table when the trade deadline rolls around. Some may be upset about having Kanter on the roster for another season, be it because of playing style or his painfully corny Twitter account, but his minutes will be valuable this season. Luke Kornet, Mitchell Robinson, and other young bigs are not ready to play serious minutes night in and night out. Kanter will fill that void.
Whether you enjoy Kanter’s game or wish he was currently being courted by other teams, there’s no denying that having him back in New York has its benefits.
UPDATE: 10:28 a.m. EST.
Kanter quote-tweeted the Shams report, with the center saying he didn’t make a decision yet:
God Damn shams ? I haven’t made any decisions yet https://t.co/8D2IoMLsbf
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) June 29, 2018
UPDATE: 2:17 p.m. EST.
After a bizarre photoshop tweet from Enes, Ian Begley reports that Kanter’s agent, Hank Fetic, confirms news of Kanter’s opt-in decision.