Prior to re-signing Rodney Hood and reaching an agreement with Derrick Jones Jr., the Trail Blazers made a small splash on the trade market when they received Enes Kanter from the Celtics. The exchange involved the Grizzlies as a third team and featured Portland’s use of a trade exception that was generated by a pre-deadline deal in the 2019-20 season.
While trades involving reserve big men rarely capture national headlines, the move did garner a strong review from ESPN’s Kevin Pelton. In his review of the trade, Pelton awarded the Blazers with a steady B grade.
I’ve been touting Kanter’s return to the Blazers as a sensible outcome for some time now. Given both Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins are coming off injuries, and Portland seems to prefer Collins playing power forward, there was an opening for a reliable backup center. I viewed a Kanter trade as a vehicle to add one of the three Celtics’ first-round picks, but getting him for free is still useful.
Pelton went on to explain that Kanter has a proven, pre-made role to slip into once he lands in Portland.
We already know how well Kanter works in the Blazers’ system from his key role in the team’s run to the 2019 Western Conference finals. Signed to back up Nurkic after being waived by the New York Knicks after the trade deadline, Kanter ended up moving into the starting lineup a month later when Nurkic suffered a horrific compound lower left leg fracture. Kanter started 14 of 16 games for Portland in the playoffs, averaging 11.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.
Kanter blossomed into a fan favorite in Portland after he played through a significant shoulder injury while working as a replacement for Jusuf Nurkic. In the first round, it was Kanter, with a little help from Damian Lillard, that got the last laugh against the Thunder—one of Kanter’s former teams.
Last season, Kanter averaged 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game in 58 regular season games with the Celtics.
You can read Pelton’s full post-trade analysis at ESPN+ (subscription required).