The Oklahoma City Thunder Matching Enes Kanter’s Contract Offer Is A Gamble

Looks like Enes Kanter is coming back to the Thunder. (photo courtesy of www.basketballinsiders.com)

Looks like Enes Kanter is coming back to the Thunder. (photo courtesy of www.basketballinsiders.com)

The Oklahoma City Thunder made a trade at the deadline last season that made them a better team. They got rid of guard Reggie Jackson, who wanted to be a starter, and veteran center Kendrick Perkins, who was vastly overpaid for what he did. And in return, the Thunder ended up with backup point guard DJ Augustin, wing player Kyle Singler and center Enes Kanter. Augustin was a natural fit as a backup for them and Singler was solid as a fill-in for Durant in terms of shooting. But the guy who made the biggest impact for them in this trade was Kanter. He was solid offensively, giving the Thunder what they have never had: solid post scoring. And with Durant missing, Kanter helped ease some of the burden off Westbrook, averaging almost a double-double last season in Oklahoma City. Going into the offseason, Kanter was a restricted free agent and many expected him to come back to the Thunder. The main thing that many wondered was at what price he would make it back to them. Well, that price has been named courtesy of the Portland Trailblazers. The young international big man signed an offer sheet with the Portland Trailblazers on Thursday to the tune of four years and $70 million. Oklahoma City said they would match anything he may be offered this offseason to bring him back, but no one imagined he would be offered that amount of money. Yet the feeling is the Thunder will match the offer from Portland for Kanter to retain his services go on a quest to make the playoffs.

Kanter is a solid offensive player and that cannot be understated. But before he showed up in Oklahoma City, remember the time he was in Utah? Kanter and big man Derrick Favors were looked at as the frontcourt of the future for the Jazz. And because of that, the Jazz let go of forward Paul Milsap so both could start side by side. But the results of both playing beside each other was not the best thing. It seemed like both were in the same spots and they just did not mesh well together. The result was an upset Kanter and a player in Favors that still is learning on the job. Kanter was averaging a career-high 13.8 points at the time of the trade to Oklahoma City, but he was not playing as much as he wanted to due to his defensive liabilities. As a result of the liabilities he brought with him on the court, he gave up as many points as he scored in a lot of instances. Even with Favors back there, he could not protect the big man out of Kentucky on the defensive end of the floor. The Jazz eventually started going more with Rudy Gobert more because of his defense and when that happened, the writing was on the wall: Enes was getting ready to be traded to his next team. His unhappiness with Utah resulted in the trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder and it seemed like he was reborn there. He averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds and was a revelation for them. He and Westbrook fit each other perfectly. But he was also just as terrible defensively there as he was in Utah. And as a result, he did not help the Oklahoma City Thunder make the playoffs.

Going forward, Kanter will more than likely be the center for the Oklahoma City Thunder next season. And when he is, he and Ibaka will be the opposites of each other. Ibaka is very strong defensively but is not as strong as Kanter offensively. Kanter has been very nice offensively since he has been in Oklahoma City, but he has been awful defensively. This means that Ibaka will have to be his bodyguard this upcoming season. And fortunate for Kanter, Ibaka is better than Favors that he had in Utah. Ibaka may be able to cover up for him defensively, but he cannot make enough basketballs to go around for Kanter, Durant and Westbrook on the offensive end. When Durant was out, Kanter was the second option on the court. But now that we hopefully get back a healthy Kevin Durant, there may be less and less touches for Kanter there in Oklahoma City. And as we saw in Utah, there was an issue that came about when he felt he was not getting the touches and time he needed. Kanter better hope that new head coach Billy Donovan brings his motion offense to the NBA or he will not get as many touches as he would like. The outlook is good for the Thunder offensively with a true post player that can score now present. But on the defensive end, it will be hard for the Thunder to disguise a defensive liability like Kanter. The result of Kanter staying will mean they will make the playoffs this season, but they will have to camouflage him more as each round goes on.

The Thunder now put themselves in an interesting position this season. They are heading into the last year of Kevin Durant’s deal and they most likely will want to show him that they mean business when it comes to winning. And paying Enes Kanter will help ease them on into the luxury tax more than likely and that will be something that Oklahoma City does not want, but will have to do. Funny things is they had the opportunity to keep James Harden in Oklahoma City when he was coming upon an extension and they balked at the numbers given. But in 2015, it seems like the Thunder will make it happen and match Portland’s offer. You often wonder if they had done the same when Harden was up for a new deal where this team would be at this point. Some say with that type of talent, they would be running the West. But unfortunately, that is not the case and Harden got traded to the Houston Rockets. Maybe they have learned their lesson with this signing. And with the roll of the dice, the Thunder are attempting to right a wrong they had in Oklahoma City. Kanter is being bet on by Thunder management and he better come through for them. If he doesn’t, then then the Thunder wasted their time and money. And more importantly, this decision to sign Kanter could cost them Kevin Durant. He wants to win and he will do whatever it takes. If the Thunder and this move works out and satisfies him, then he will stay. But if not, it could interesting real quick in Oklahoma City.

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1 Response

  1. Lee Love

    I’m anxious to see how new coach Donovan works with the pieces he has and Kanter could be an integral part of the offense…needs work on his defense though

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