The Portland Trail Blazers are running it back by trading for Enes Kanter. They are looking at making a title run this season
The Portland Trail Blazers continued to make moves in an effort to get back to the glory of two seasons ago. While they rely on the backcourt combination of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum a lot, the play of their centers over the last few years has been a huge reason the Blazers were so tough to beat.
After witnessing the return of Jusuf Nurkic in the bubble, they’ve upgraded that position even further. The Blazers sent Mario Hezonjia to the Memphis Grizzlies who sent future draft considerations to the Boston Celtics. In return, the Blazers received Enes Kanter per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This is a great deal for the win-now Blazers.
Kanter is already familiar with the Blazers systems having played those 23 regular-season games and 16 playoff games for them to close out the 2018-19 season. He averaged 13.1 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 0.6 steals in 22.3 minutes per game in the regular season.
Despite his lack of defense Kanter can really help the Portland Trail Blazers
Kanter found himself in the starting center position after Nurkic broke his leg. In a twist of fate, he was playing against his old OKC Thunder team in the first round of the playoffs. Just two seasons before this reunion, Kanter was benched by coach Billy Donovan in the first round of the 2017 playoff against Houston Rockets, where Donovan was famously caught on video saying he “can’t play Kanter.”
Kanter was being exposed in pick and roll defense and no one on the Thunder was able to provide enough quality help defense. Two seasons later, Kanter was taking on Steven Adams and more than held his own in helping Portland to the series victory.
The Blazers famously won the series on the Damian Lillard logo 3-point shot which was followed by the famous wave goodbye. In a press conference later, Kanter showed his humor by answering a question with “Can play Kanter.”
During his time in Boston, Kanter was used from the bench with defensive center Daniel Theis being preferred in the starting role. Kanter did not appear to have the chemistry with the Celtics guards that he does with Lillard and McCollum.
This trade gives the strongest indication that the Blazers are not going to re-sign Hassan Whiteside. While his defense and rebounding are some of the best in the NBA, bringing back Whiteside with Nurkic and Kanter already on the roster would be a rotational nightmare for the coaching staff.
Kanter also adds some roster flexibility as he can play at the four at times until Zach Collins is able to return from his ankle surgery. This would provide some issues with floor spacing as neither Kanter nor Nurkic is particularly strong from distance.
A key benefit of this trade is that the Trail Blazers were able to add a key rotation piece without spending too much money. The salary difference is only $3.5 million between Herzonjia and Kanter, which allowed the Blazers to re-sign Rodney Hood to a two-year deal worth $21 million.
Make no mistake, the Blazers are loading up for a run at the title, and every piece that they have added has made them better. The Western Conference has opened up again due to the terrible injury to Klay Thompson and the Portland Trail Blazers are looking to take full advantage.