Boston Celtics earn high grade with new Enes Kanter deal

Enes Kanter #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
Enes Kanter #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

After sitting out the first few days of free agency, the Boston Celtics finally dipped their toe into the market with a small, yet significant deal. Just one season after being traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in what amounted to a salary dump, Enes Kanter re-signed a one year deal with the Celtics this afternoon for about $2.7 million.

It was widely known that Boston was going to be quiet in the free agent market. They have relatively limited cap space available, and appear to be trying do whatever they can to create cap space for next offseason. Despite this, it did seem a bit confusing that Boston was so quiet to start free agency.

They were linked to just a couple of players, only to watch them go join a surefire championship contender rather than the Celtics. Boston obviously doesn’t have a ton of money, but playing alongside Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown surely isn’t so bad. Yet when they brought in their first signing, fans were mixed on the reaction to bringing back Kanter.

The whole situation with Kanter is a bit messy, and doesn’t really look too good for the Celtics. They basically gave up a first round pick to the Memphis Grizzlies last offseason to help facilitate a three team trade that ended up sending him back to Portland. And now just one season later, he’s back again, leaving Celtics fans wondering why he was brought back.

While the situation is confusing, it wasn’t new general manager Brad Stevens idea to trade Kanter last offseason; it was Danny Ainge‘s. Ainge believed Kanter was too expensive, and then proceeded to shell out nearly $20 million for Tristan Thompson, who is now in the process of getting moved as well.

Why the Boston Celtics deal for Enes Kanter is a good one

Stevens finally broke that trend by re-signing Kanter for the veterans minimum, in this case $2.7 million. Stevens knew it wasn’t worth it to shell out huge amounts of money on veteran players early on free agency. He had a front row seat at watching how it didn’t work with Kanter and Thompson.

Stevens elected to be patient this time around, and it has paid off. Kanter is admittedly not the flashiest signing, but when you consider the price that was paid for him, and the fact that he already has experience in the Boston Celtics system as well as relationships with most of the players, there’s not a ton to dislike about the deal.

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After being dealt to Portland last offseason, Kanter had a nice bounce back season after struggling in Boston. With his minutes per game seeing an almost eight minute spike, he averaged a double-double in points and rebounds for the second time in his career. He already had experience with Portland having finished off the 2018-19 season with them, and he was a great partner for Damian Lillard in pick-and-roll situations.

Now Kanter will look to bring that back to Boston in his second stint with the team. He largely fell out of the rotation during his first stint, eventually ceding a chunk of his minutes to Daniel Theis. While that was mainly due to his defensive deficiencies, that’s not what Kanter is being brought in for this time around.

Kanter’s role is most likely going to be as a change of pace center who can help the offense get some easy buckets. He’s not going to get starting minutes; those will go to Rob Williams and Al Horford. But he can provide the C’s with some veteran scoring off the bench that was missing for most of last season.

Stevens has openly said his goal is to make things easier for Tatum and Brown, and they certainly enjoyed their time on the court with Kanter during the 2019-20 season. When all three were on the court during their time in Boston, they had a plus/minus rating of +9.9 on the season. Kanter’s pick-and-roll skillset should help create space for Tatum and Brown on offense, which they certainly struggled to find for most of last season.

Final Grade: A-

Realistically, Kanter returning to Boston isn’t going to move the needle. Boston still has a myriad of issues to address, and not a lot resources to address them. But rather than paying Tristan Thompson $9 million this season to fill a backup center role, they are paying Kanter just $2.7 million to fill it now.

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Kanter’s familiarity with the system and the players on the team make him well worth the small price tag it took to bring him back. He’s only on a one year deal, so even if things don’t work out, there’s no commitment to him past this season. It’s not the flashiest move, but the Boston Celtics brought back a familiar face at a cheap price, and he could end up having a bigger impact for this team than expected.