Enes Kanter Agrees to Contract with Trail Blazers After Knicks Buyout

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Enes Kanter Agrees to Contract with Trail Blazers After Knicks Buyout
New York Knicks center Enes Kanter warms up before the start of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Portland Trail Blazers added playoff-tested depth to their frontcourt for the stretch run by signing Enes Kanter on Wednesday. 

The New York Knicks waived Kanter after they were unable to trade him by the Feb. 7 deadline.

Per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, “a crowded field” including the Los Angeles Lakers pursued Kanter on the buyout market, but he’ll play “good share of minutes” with the Blazers. Portland gave Kanter a four-year, $70 million offer sheet when he was a restricted free agent in 2015, but the Thunder matched it. 

Prior to his buyout, the big man was mired in a season of frustration in the Big Apple. According to a report from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News in January, Kanter didn’t buy into the Knicks’ rebuilding plan when it meant less playing time for him.

Later in January, Kanter said he was told he was going to start during a game against the Houston Rockets, according to Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic, but he instead didn’t play at all.

“What they’re doing to me is pretty messed up,” Kanter said after that game. “I deserve better.”

Kanter again expressed his displeasure in February when the Knicks elected to play 30-year-old DeAndre Jordan after acquiring him via trade.

“I’m giving up my minutes just because the young guys can get better,” Kanter said, per Vorkunov. “I’m 26. I think the guys that came are older than me, right? So I don’t know what that means. I don’t know, man. I think it’s disrespectful.”

At one point, Kanter kissed the logo at Madison Square Garden when he did enter a game.

Despite that tumult, he thanked the Knicks organization and the fans in a lengthy message after he was waived:

He now gets to turn his attention toward helping the Blazers prepare for a playoff run.

Before being waived, Kanter averaged 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per night for the Knicks this season after posting 14.1 points and 11.0 rebounds per game in 2017-18. He battles on the boards, scores on the blocks and can work in pick-and-rolls with his soft touch around the rim.

Defense is a different story.

Opponents are shooting 3.2 percentage points better from the field than their normal averages when he guards them this season, per NBA.com. The Knicks’ defensive rating improved from 113.4 when he was on the court to 109.5 when he was off before they waived him, per NBA.com.

Despite Kanter’s defensive worries, he’ll give Portland someone who can impact games on offense and on the glass. He is also playoff-tested with 27 postseason games on his resume from his time with the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, and he’ll look to add to that total in a Blazers uniform.

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