In just four months, Enes Kanter has proved himself a valuable member of the Knicks, both on and off the court. As management continues to evaluate which players fit into the core of the team, Kanter fits the bill.
It may be hard for New York Knicks’ fans to look too far ahead into the future with an important road trip already in process. Slow starts and inconsistent play during most road games have cooled the Knicks fast start to the season.
However, if you’re looking to point the finger, don’t blame Enes Kanter. In his ninth season in the NBA, Kanter is having one of his best years, serving as the perfect complimentary player to franchise star Kristaps Porzingis. Kanter is a hard-working offensive rebounding specialist who contributes to winning on a nightly basis.
A closer look at Kanter’s on-court production reveals why the Knicks would be smart to offer him a long-term contract when the time is right.
To start, Kanter is a remarkably efficient scorer. According to NBA.com, Kanter ranks in the top five among centers playing at least 20 minutes per game in field goal percentage, (60.3 percent) and within the top 10 in player impact estimate (16.1), ahead of players like Karl Anthony Towns, DeAndre Jordan, Al Horford and Porzingis.
As evidenced by the highlights in the video above, Kanter’s offensive prowess was on full display during a difficult Christmas Day loss the Philadelphia 76ers. Kanter had a monster game, scoring 31 points and grabbing 22 rebounds.
The Knicks currently rank fourth in the NBA in second-chance points (14.2), and Kanter is almost single-handedly carrying the team in this category. Kanter currently averages 3.5 offensive rebounds per game, and while that might not seem like much, Kanter’s dirty work keeps possessions alive and keeps the Knicks in the game, even when they’re not shooting well.
In a season where the Knicks are trying to make the playoffs, Kanter is absolutely critical to winning. Per basketballreference.com, Kanter ranks first on the Knicks in win shares (4.4) and top ten in win shares amongst centers around the league.
However, despite his polished post moves and gritty mentality, Kanter’s critics will harp on his reputation as a bad defender, but he has improved with the Knicks.
During the first part of Robby Sabo’s ESNY film room, Kanter is seen perfectly defending the pick roll, as well out of bounds plays, and baseline drives from opposing players.
Although the defensive metrics are not as impressive, Kanter averages 9.9 rebounds per game, and he routinely picks up the slack for Porzingis on the boards so that he does not have work as hard.
Flash forward to this summer, Kanter will have an interesting decision to make. According to spotrac.com, Enes the Menace has a player option worth over $18 million. Kanter, himself, has been koy and prefers not to discuss the subject.
“It’s always on your mind,” Kanter told Stefon Bondy of the New York Daily News back in December. “But the season is going really well right now. It’s just a contract. I think people worry about it too much and it gets into their head.”
Furthermore, former NBA executive Bobby Marks also weighed in Kanter’s contract situation. Marks, speaking with Bondy, believes that Kanter’s best bet is to opt into his player option. Kanter’s options for a more lucrative pay-day significantly increase if he becomes a free-agent in 2019.
“I don’t see any of those teams paying top dollar for a center,” the insider said. “If he waits until 2019, the teams with room double.”
If the Knicks needed anymore evidence that Kanter is a necessary cog in the team’s core, look no further than his early season confrontation with LeBron James.
Kanter, in defense of his teammate, rookie Frank Ntilikina, did not mince words when he went nose to nose with three time world champion. Kanter called James a “Queen” and “Princess”, but it made it clear that he wants to defend his teammates and Madison Square Garden with guile and vigilance.
In summary, the Knicks would be smart to sign Kanter to a long-term extension, preferably after he opts-in to his player option. He has quickly become a fan favorite, and at the age of 25, is proving to be a productive player that can, along with Porzingis, create an elite frontcourt for years to come.