Friday, July 10, 2015

The Routine Insanity of the Enes Kanter Contract

Getting Paid
Item: Portland to sign free agent center Enes Kanter to a 4-year, $70 million offer sheet.

Item: Oklahoma City set to match it.

Here is Kanter's lifetime per game stats, for all of you who are probably wondering who the hell Enes Kanter is... 10.1 points a game, 6.4 boards, 0.6 assists, 0.4 blocks, on 21.4 minutes. He's 23.

Sound like a max contract level guy to you?

And yet, it's not a wildly indefensible move by either team, for the following points.

1) 4 and 70 is $17.5mm per for a starting center, which is to say, a contract that's going to be perfectly fine once the NBA salary cap level rises. Especially for a guy who now has a clear path to minutes, no FT shooting or fouling issues to keep him off the court, who projects to 15 and 10 next year in the OKC pinball machine. He also might be able to get them halfcourt points in a slowdown playoff series, or fight the Marc Gasols, LaMarcus Aldridges and Dwight Howards of the world to an acceptable loss.

2) NBA teams utterly hate losing FAs on money. It's like an auction draft in a fantasy league where half of the owners are new to auctions. Getting out of this period of the free agent season with your sanity intact is much easier said than done.

3) Kanter looked fine for OKC after the trade from Utah, with soft hands and an ability to finish. It's not inconceivable that this is a case of a bad franchise squandering talent for what it can't do, not what it can, a la the world before Memphis for Gasol and Randolph, or pre-Miami Hassan Whiteside. If he can get 10 to 20% better, not impossible for a 23-year-old, he could easily be worth the money.

It's also, well, insane, for the following reasons.

1) He's Enes Freaking Kanter, a 7-footer that wants to shoot threes, and can't block my shot. If you squint real hard, you can see the Spencer Hawesness oozing out of him, and the list of great 7-footers who want to shoot threes pretty much begins and ends with Dirk Nowitzki. And Dirk's got a fantastic mid-range game.

2) Kanter might be the third best center on his team. Steven Adams is much more of a hard case for opponents, especially on the defensive end. For a roster with only Serge Ibaka as a big with stopping power, Kanter really might not be the best guy to get minutes. And if you are going small, you just put Ibaka at the five and run. For a roster that should have Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, running healthy and in an offense that finally makes sense, running and going small should happen. A lot.

3) Utah swift-boated him for a reason, and that reason is Rudy Gobert, a French defensive hammer with seemingly no ability to score. How good can Kanter be, either as a player or a teammate, when he's the guy they run out of town for a French rook, rather than try to figure out an offense/defense platoon, a la Golden State?

4) I get that the club is still scarred by many years of insane coaching decisions around Kendrick Perkins, but Kanter really isn't going to hit the switch and turn into a top 15 center option, or a guy that should ever get more than 25 to 30 minutes a game of time. He's useful in the right situations, but many of those are not going to exist in OKC, and maybe even entire series.

 Finally, there's this. Unless Portland signed Kanter to an offer sheet just to bleed OKC dry of cap space, the fact that they seem to be trying to double-back on tanking after losing three of their four best players in free agency speaks to an organization that's teetering into Knick Level of Obliviousness.

If you are going to tank, tank. If you start to tank, then try to pull out of it by buying Week Two's Best Available Free Agent, all you are doing is sabotaging your tankery. Bringing in guys like Kanter just drag you up from dregs, but not to anything useful... and I'm sorry, Portland Fan, but this can't exactly fill you with confidence going into the future. If there is a plan at place here, it's one written in sand.

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