The NBA Trade Deadline is only weeks away and it appears that the New York Knicks will enter February as obvious sellers. Veteran big man Enes Kanter is the most likely candidate to be traded by the Knicks as the deadline approaches. Playing in the final year of his contract, Kanter is a potential low-risk option for a contending team looking to add depth in the post. Kanter, a veteran of seven NBA seasons, has been relegated to a minimal role off Head Coach David Fizdale’s bench.
With the deadline looming, Kanter’s displeasure with the Knicks reached a new level after a 114-110 loss to the Houston Rockets. In a video captured by The Athletic’s Mike Vorkunov, Kanter explained that New York’s coaching staff misled him prior to Wednesday’s contest.
It is clear that Kanter’s presence in the locker room could become an unwanted distraction for the struggling team. On Thursday, The New York Times’ Marc Stein revealed that Kanter was one of three veteran players that the Knicks have made available. Along with the Turkish big man, guards Courtney Lee and Tim Hardaway Jr. are also on the trading block. All three players have moderate trade value, but Kanter’s low-commitment contract makes him the most attractive target for opposing teams.
Here is a look at two trades that would send Kanter to teams vying for a playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference.
*All trades are verified using ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine
Rockets Receive Reinforcements
Thus far, the Houston Rockets have endured a season full of injuries. James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela have all been sidelined with injuries at some point this year. With Capela out for the next several weeks, here is a look at a deal that would provide Head Coach Mike D’Antoni with some much-needed depth inside.
Rockets receive: Enes Kanter (center)
Knicks receive: Brandon Knight (PG), Marquese Chriss (PF), 2020 first-round pick, 2021 second-round pick
Kanter has the potential to be a force inside for the Rockets. Harden excels at creating favorable looks for his teammates in the paint and Kanter has made a career out of finishing near the rim. Along with his scoring, the 26-year-old center is averaging double-digit rebounds this season. Houston is currently the sixth-worst team in the NBA when it comes to total rebounds. Inserting Kanter would provide an instant boost to the Rockets’ sluggish rebounding numbers.
For the Knicks, adding Knight’s albatross contract is far from ideal. Knight is set to make $15.6 million next year. Adding that type of money to the books could throw a wrench into New York’s free agency plans this summer. Aside from Knight’s contract, the Knicks would get a chance to evaluate Chriss’ upside in an expanded role before he hits the market this summer.
The Clippers Go Big
The Los Angeles Clippers are currently clinging to the final postseason spot in the Western Conference. Outside of minutes from Montrezl Harrell at center, Head Coach Doc Rivers’ pivot spot is in need of an upgrade.
Clippers receive: Enes Kanter
Knicks receive: Marcin Gortat (C), Mike Scott (PF), 2019 second-round pick, 2023 second-round pick
This trade involves three players on expiring contracts. Gortat is in the twilight of his career and has played a minimal role in the Clippers’ success this season. Like Gortat, Scott has often found himself out of Rivers’ rotation. Pairing Kanter with Harrell would give the Clippers an adequate one-two punch for the final months of the 2018-19 season.
Removing Kanter and adding modest draft considerations while avoiding long-term salary might be enough to get the Knicks to bite. Upon arrival, Gortat and Scott would become buy-out candidates.