Enes Kanter, a 4th year center from Turkey, was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder in a monster three team trade, right before the trade deadline on February 19th. Reports started around 10 am that OKC was pushing hard for Nets center Brook Lopez, whom the Thunder had initially pursued several weeks ago. These reports continued until about 30 minutes before the deadline, when Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Thunder could be interested in the Utah Jazz big man.
Sources: OKC hasn't committed to Lopez deal, and there's still another center that they've had talks about acquiring: Utah's Enes Kanter.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 19, 2015
Oklahoma City has said that they plan to sign the big man, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, to a long term extension, after Utah failed in contract negotiations.
Kanter had been growing increasingly frustrated with Utah, after slowly losing playing time to Rudy Gobert. Kanter demanded a trade from the Jazz on February 11th.
How will he do in OKC?
So far this season, Enes Kanter has averaged 13.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. This is very impressive for a player coming off the bench, especially given the Jazz' other big men, Gobert and Derrick Favors.
Kanter demonstrates fantastic touch around the rim and grabs offensive rebounds like a mad man. Of his 7.8 rebounds per game, 3 of them are on the offensive end. That metric ranks 12th in the league, ahead of the likes of Anthony Davis, Dwight Howard, and Pau Gasol. Kanter can also hit the occasional mid range jumper, and has even made 13 3-pointers this year. Offensively, he can fit in well as a low post scorer as Ibaka stretches the floor, or he can stretch the floor while playing along side the more paint-minded Steven Adams.
On the defensive end, he’s not as bad as people think. Sure, Kanter averages only 0.5 blocks per game and ranks last in blocks per chance. His defensive abilities are very limited,so instead Kanter relies on keeping between his man and the basket. His keep-in-front percentage is on par with defensive specialists Joakim Noah and Rudy Gobert. Kanter’s overall field goal percentage against, is even with Omer Asik and Gorgui Dieng.
Best Case Scenario
Kanter is only 22 years old, so he has theoretically only scratched the surface of his potential. As far as his NBA ceiling, I’d argue that he could be a more athletic Nikola Pekovic. The best case scenario is Kanter fills kind of the same role that Mareese Speights fills in Golden State. He could come in for twenty minutes per game, hit a couple mid range jumpers, and put pressure on the other team's defense. If he can fill this role well, it will open up driving lanes for Dion Waiters, as well as help Anthony Morrow and D.J. Augustin find space to hit threes.
Worst Case Scenario
Worst case scenario is that Kanter comes in to Oklahoma City and doesn't like it. He has had trouble adjusting back to his bench role, and given that Steven Adams is one of the franchise's cornerstones of the future, Kanter may chafe at this continued role. It could hurt the team chemistry, causing the team to fail to reach its playoff potential as a true contender. Kanter could become so disatisfied that he could force his way out through free agency. While this prediction is over-the-top, didn't OKC just get rid of a player who was threatening this very thing and compromise OKC's playoff hopes?
This trade was a great move for OKC. Kanter gives them something they have never had: a low post scorer. It also helped get Reggie Jackson out of town, which was as important as anything accomplished yesterday. If Kanter can fit in well on offensive 2nd unit and not be a train wreck on defense, this move could put the Thunder over the top.