Enes Kanter? Really? That’s the solution the Kings have been waiting for?
It’s confusing times in Sacramento. Fans woke up to a random tweet from the great Adrian Wojnarowski, stating that the Kings and Knicks were discussing a potential swap that includes veteran Zach Randolph moving back to New York in exchange for the talented, yet controversial Kanter.
New York and Sacramento discussing an Enes Kanter-Zach Randolph trade of expiring contracts, but nothing close yet, league sources tell ESPN. Kings would want to send out more expirings in a deal. A third team could be helpful.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 9, 2019
On paper, the deal works. Sacramento has upwards of $11 million in cap space to absorb any extra money coming in, although they would be wise to stick the Knicks with another outgoing contract to make the money closer.
Kanter is in the final season of a four-year, $70 million deal he signed in July of 2015. He’s owed a robust $18.6 million this season.
Randolph is also in the final year of his deal, which pays him $11.6 million this season. A straight up swap would save the Knicks roughly $7 million this season. Adding a player like Ben McLemore and his $5.5 million contract would balance the scales out, but would might also cost the Kings an asset, like a future second round selection.
At 26-years-old, the 6-foot-11 center has plenty of miles left in the tank. Kanter’s averaging 14.4 points and 11 rebounds in 26.5 minutes per game, making him one of the better rebounders per minute in the NBA.
Twice in his career, Kanter has led the league in offensive rebounding percentage and his per 36 minute numbers on the glass are stunning. For a team like Sacramento that struggles to compete on the boards night in and night out, adding a player that averages 9.4 defensive rebounds and 5.5 offensive rebounds per 36 minutes makes a lot sense.
Kanter can also score at a high clip. He’s an instant offense player that boasts a career field goal percentage of 54 percent. The eight-year NBA vet is averaging a career-best 2.0 assists per game this season, but his primary focus has always been putting the ball in the bucket.
He prefers to play close to the rim, which might hurt the running lanes for De’Aaron Fox. But he would give the Kings a reliable scorer in the post for those times when the team struggles to score.
Of his 444 field goal attempts this season, 274 of those have come at the rim, where he shoots 67.9 percent. Another 107 of his field goal attempts come within 3-10 feet, leaving just 63 attempts outside of 10 feet.
More than a decade younger than Z-Bo, Kanter can get up and down the court and would likely split time with Willie Cauley-Stein at the center position.
On the downside, Kanter would further clutter an already packed front court, but with the deadline a little over four weeks away, the Kings still have time to rebalance their roster.
His presence would clearly affect the minutes of big man Kosta Koufos, but with the team transitioning away from two conventional bigs, it would likely impact the power forward position as well. Coach Dave Joerger is balancing minutes between Nemanja Bjelica and rookies Marvin Bagley III and Harry Giles III. He is also using Justin Jackson at the four in small ball lineups.
It’s a low risk deal for Sacramento. If Kanter doesn’t work on the court, they could easily move away from him during the second half of the season. Randolph hasn’t played a minute this season for the Kings and there is no plan to change that fact.
If it’s a straight up swap, the Kings would eat into their valuable free cap space for this season. If they are able to add a second player, like McLemore or even Koufos in the deal, it would keep the flexibility the team has worked hard for and open the possibility for additional deals between now and the Feb. 7 deadline.
Kanter isn't a perfect fit for the Kings, but he might a talent upgrade. He can rebound and he can score on the blocks. He would complicate things for Joerger and his staff, but as a short term rental and at a low cost, he might be worth the gamble.