It’s not a blockbuster package for the face of the franchise, but Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott can certainly be productive Knicks.
The much-needed divorce between Carmelo Anthony and the Knicks has finally happened.
In return for one of the greatest Knicks–certainly since Patrick Ewing–the team received Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott and a 2018 second-round pick(via Chicago). Before you say “LOL Knicks” or the much more clever “Kazoos” take into account the situation Scott Perry was put in.
Phil Jackson decimated any leverage the team had in negotiations. First, by giving ‘Melo a no-trade clause plus a trade kicker (essentially a bonus if traded). Second, by running a smear campaign all last season, diminishing any potential value the Knicks could get in a deal, Jackson was so adamant about removing Anthony that the former Knicks prez reportedly wanted to outright cut him. Thankfully, James Dolan smartened up for once and said no, which led to the Knicks getting something for such the former face of the franchise.
Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott aren’t sexy names. A second round pick does not sound all that appetizing either, although that pick could be right outside the first round if the Bulls are as bad as they look at the moment. But considering the initial plan was to receive next to nothing, à la the J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert trade, Perry and company got a decent return. These pieces allow the team to put all their eggs in the proper rebuild basket. If that is not something to be at the bare minimum hopeful about then I don’t know what to tell you.
Let’s tackle Kanter first. His arrival is good for two reasons–he can opt out for next season and his presence can push Joakim Noah out the door. The bigs rotation is clogged like Midtown during United Nations week. You have Kristaps Porzingis and Willy Hernangómez, Kyle O’Quinn, and Kanter serving as the backups and Noah in no man’s land. He could technically stay on as the third-string center but why not just cut your losses?
As our cap expert here at TKW, Jeffrey Bellone, explained in much deeper length, stretching Noah be a money saver for the Knicks. The deadline to stretch a player has passed for this season. That means they are on the hook for $17.7 million no matter what. They could still trade him, but even Stevie Wonder can see that’s not happening without a gun being pointed at someone’s head.
Instead, they can stretch him next year turning his two years and $37.8 million remaining into five years with an annual cap hit of $7.6 million per Bellone. On Kanter’s side he is signed for two more years but can opt-out next summer. If he chooses to stay in NYC and exercise his $18.6 million option you can bet Noah will be shown the door shortly after.
But let’s stay with this season. The good news is Kanter is used to coming off the bench. For OKC he was a more than serviceable sixth man, being the yin to Steven Adams’ yang. That will not be the case in New York, though. In Willy he will be looking into a funhouse mirror. Willy is the future and shares similar strengths to Kanter, though their styles may differ.
Offensively Kanter sets up shop down low and is effective. During his tenure in OKC he averaged 14.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, and shot 55.6 percent in the paint (per Basketball-Reference). He’s also not shy about banging down low. Last season against the Knicks, he and Steven Adams devoured the bigs which ended up being the deciding factor in that contest. If Willy kills you with finesse down low like a knife, Kanter is more blunt, like a mallet.
He helped shift a series against the Spurs by bullying LaMarcus Aldridge down low and being able to score playing alongside Adams. In New York, he doesn’t figure to play with Willy a ton, but they could coexist in theory. The good news is he can fit alongside Porzingis very well. Last season we saw Willy and Porzingis do some great things, including pick-and-roll. Kanter has the capability fill a similar role.
The second player the Knicks received is a personal favorite of mine. Has Doug McDermott’s NBA career been good? Certainly not. But he is only 25 years old and has a shooter’s touch. At Creighton he was known as Dougie McBuckets, and he’s soon to be immortalized in statue form. McDermott wished to extend “Dougie McBuckets” into his professional career, but his NBA play has yet to warrant the nickname.
In three seasons, McDermott has had trouble finding his place. He walked into the GarPax toxic factory in Chicago and was not in OKC long enough to carve out a role. His second season with the Bulls is what Knicks fans should look at as an optimal output. That season he shot 42.5 percent from three and sported an effective field goal percentage of 53.7, still his career high, per Basketball-Reference.
Similar to Kanter, McDermott will not be asked to be a starter. He doesn’t have to be Dougie McBuckets. Instead he will backup fellow bucket-getter Michael Beasley and stretch the floor with his shooting. Defensively there will be a liability, with his best defensive season coming his rookie year when he sported a defensive rating of 108. The good thing is McDermott is a grinder.
If you are a fan of Ron Baker then you should like McDermott. Regardless of how his stat sheet looks, McDermott goes balls to the wall when he’s out there. I had the opportunity to see him play in the Big East title game his senior season–at MSG coincidentally enough–and he was all over the place, in a good way. There are no effort trophies in these rackets, but someone moving with a purpose will stumble upon a role at some point.
Contract wise McDermott is a plus. He’s on the books for $3.3 million this year with a qualifying offer of $4.5 million next season. If he finds his lane on the bench the team can extend that offer or possibly longer deal. And if he’s not what they had in mind they can rid themselves of him at season’s end and open up some more cap room.
The overarching message you should take away from this trade is the Knicks did the best they could to satisfy both parties. ‘Melo leaves NYC on somewhat good terms, a pleasure Ewing did not have back when he was dealt. Anthony outlasted Jackson and gets to go to a team that has a legitimate chance at winning a title.
For the Knicks, they get something in return. Kanter and McDermott are both 25 years old which fits into the youth movement. Neither Kanter nor McDermott get in the way of the team’s key building blocks Porzingis, Willy, or Frank Ntilikina. They can also both be shown the door at no additional cost in the near future if things don’t work out. That Bulls second rounder could also turn into a productive player at the top of the second round.
With Carmelo now gone the new era is officially here. Porzingis is the new face with Willy and Frank by his side. The front office is taking baby steps towards being competent which is a welcome sight. Next season might be rough, but for the first time in my life the Knicks appear to have a plan and are sticking to that plan. Let the new era cautiously commence.
— Mike Cortez, staff writer