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Forsberg's Focus: Kanter has uncertain offseason ahead

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* Each weekday for the rest of October, our Chris Forsberg will put a member of the 2019-20 Celtics under the microscope, assessing their season and what the future holds for that player. 

+16.9

That was Enes Kanter’s net rating during the postseason. It was easily the best on the team, albeit in only 102 minutes of total floor time (Marcus Smart was best among the team's regulars, with a plus-6.6 net rating in 648 minutes of court time).

Celtics coach Brad Stevens deployed Kanter as a backup big man in situations where he could thrive, first helping Daniel Theis joust with Joel Embiid in Round 1 against the Sixers, then giving Boston a jolt in small bursts during the conference finals against Miami. Kanter might have kept Boston’s season alive in Game 5 against the Heat.

Forsberg's Focus: Walker | R. Williams | Theis | Brown

Alas, his defensive deficiencies limited the total amount of time the Celtics could lean on him.

What went right for Kanter in 2020

Kanter tag-teamed with fellow 2019 offseason signee Kemba Walker to change the mood around this Celtics team coming off the frustration-filled 2018-19 season.

An opening-night injury shuffled Kanter to a reserve role but he gave the team energetic, rebound-filled minutes whenever he was in the game. His plus-9.9 net rating over 58 regular-season appearances was second best on the squad behind only Jayson Tatum (plus-10.6). Even in limited minutes (16.9 per game), Kanter averaged 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds. He grabbed a staggering 18 percent of all available offensive rebounds when on the court (even if some of them were his own misses) and easily led the team in defensive rebound rate (well, if you exclude Tacko Fall’s few cameos).

 

Kanter’s social media exploits — like wrestling Smart or celebrating not being dealt at the trade deadline — kept things light. He also hosted the greatest podcast in the history of recorded audio, “The Enes Kanter Show.”

What went wrong for Kanter in 2020

Kanter suffered a knee bruise on opening night — an injury that was more painful than he let on at the time — and missed about three weeks. He suffered another gnarly hip bruise later in the year while chasing a loose ball and that left him hobbled for a bit.

But, when healthy, he was exactly as advertised. His struggles defending in the pick-and-roll, especially against small-ball favoring teams, limited his floor time during the final two rounds of the postseason. Through it all, Kanter never complained and was always supportive of his teammates.

Early outlook for Kanter for 2021

Kanter holds a $5 million player option for the 2021 season but has a tough decision in front of him. Even if he’d like to be back in Boston, the Celtics might desire to give more big-man minutes to youngsters Robert Williams and Grant Williams, which, combined with their bloating salary commitment, might make Kanter a trade possibility.

Kanter could opt out of that final year, but might not get quite as much on the open market, though he’d be able to pick his next stop instead of being at the mercy of whatever deals Boston might find.