Choose Your Own Adventure: The Enes Kanter Edition

February 12th, 2015 | by Dan Clayton
Might this have been Kanter's last game with the Jazz? Choose your own adventure and see! (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Might this have been Kanter’s last game with the Jazz? Choose your own adventure and see! (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Enes Kanter is ready to flip ahead to the page where he’s in another city, another jersey, and another coach’s rotation.

According to a late-night update from Aaron Falk1 that was then corroborated by Jody Genessy, Kanter wants this point in his career to function like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel. And why not?! Those things are fun.

“To go through the swinging door and face the dragon, turn to page 96.”

“To climb up the rope ladder into the helicopter, turn to page 42.”

“To continue your pro career in a different NBA city, find a beat reporter and speak your mind.”

The only problem is: it doesn’t work like that. The Jazz’s hand isn’t forced here just because Kanter isn’t happy, and this can still end in a number of different ways. Sure, as my plugged-in SCH boss Andy Larsen points out, Utah may not want the distraction of having a player in the locker room who doesn’t want to be there. But they’ve been at the brink with others in the past2 and have smoothed things over. Bottom line: they have some options but, just like in a CYOA book, each option has its consequences.

In the spirit of “Choose Your Own Adventure,” let’s look at the scenarios open to the Jazz and Kanter.

Option 1: Trade Kanter

Many assume this is a foregone conclusion at this point, but there are plenty examples in recent NBA — and even Jazz — history of a team essentially saying to a player, “We’re sorry you feel that way, but you’re under contract. See you at practice.”

Andy’s right: there’s a cultural risk to doing that. But some of that can be mitigated by a proverbial come-to-Jesus meeting where everybody looks each other in the eye and says the right things. Happens all the time.

And it could happen in this case, too. Kanter isn’t easy to trade right now, for reasons that others have spelled out, but mostly because he’s a pending restricted free agent. The only teams that would give up an asset to obtain eight weeks of his services are the one who have interest in leveraging those RFA rights in July, so that limits the field. And, given that Kanter is unhappy on a team that has given him 27 minutes per contest, teams are going to be nervous about trading for him if they don’t have a major role carved out. That further limits the pool of prospective trade partners. Then they have to have something that the Jazz are interested in, so keep whittling.

Noise about Kanter’s, um, strong belief in himself and concerns about what kind of reinforcement he gets from his entourage might give some teams pause, but let’s not overblow this: Kanter still has some value. He’s having a career year by many measures and can confidently score even against first-tier defenses. As I pointed out two weeks ago, the starting lineup change has even done nice things for Kanter’s defensive outcomes3.

But these declarations and demands don’t do anything to raise his value. I’m sure most teams that have called since the FalkBomb have been hoping for fire-sale conditions, and it’s reasonable to expect that the Jazz are not going to get an upgrade in return unless they append picks to the deal or take back salary.

Andy’s analysis includes some thoughts on what the Jazz might want in return, and you can also check out the trade deadline Q&A for more on Utah’s asset position and objectives.

Bottom line: the Jazz might have to settle for $.60 on the dollar if they trade Kanter right now. Is that better than getting nothing if he walks later, or having him around sewing seeds of discontent? Maybe. But that’s only door number one.

Option 2: Mend fences, try to keep Kanter along for the long haul

Let’s just jump all the way to the other extreme, and then we’ll backtrack and hit the middle-ground approaches.

As the Jazz and many other teams have done, one option is to sit down, level set expectations, hug it out and get back to work. This seems unlikely — and even some of the most ardent Kanter-supporting fans seem to be ambivalent at this point — but the Jazz have invested time, development and minute on the 22-year-old, so it needs to be mentioned.

Maybe Quin Snyder and Dennis Lindsey can convince Kanter to embrace the reality: namely, that he’s one of four rotation-quality bigs and that his minutes aren’t set in stone, but that he’s an important piece of the puzzle. There’s still a chance that the Jazz could retain Kanter this summer for something that will feel like a discount when the new TV money hits.

But this option feels less likely right now, so let’s turn the page to the next iteration of our Kanter adventure.

Option 3: Mend fences temporarily, keep Kanter until the summer, then offer him the QO and see what happens

In terms of pure asset management, this one still makes the most sense. It keeps the Jazz’s options open. He might wind up leaving without providing Utah any compensation, but at least Utah would get to be in control.

The major risk here isn’t that he leaves, though. The biggest risk, if he’s really serious about wanting a pathway out of Utah, is that he accepts the QO and looks to unrestricted free agency in 2016. Now, the Jazz would have someone eating their cap space and sitting grumpily in the locker room for 12 more months. Snyder would be under no obligation to guarantee his role or minutes at that point, but it could still be problematic in terms of chemistry.

Not to mention — and this gets overlooked a lot! — it would effectively be the end of any trade value Kanter might have. A player on a one-year tender offer can’t be traded without his consent, and even if he is traded, his Bird Rights don’t move with him. The receiving team would basically be getting a rental that they had no right to keep past the one season without using an exception. That makes Kanter virtually untradeable on a QO contract, which is why it’s not as peachy an option as a lot of people make it sound.

Option 4: Keep Kanter until the summer, don’t extend the QO, and watch with a wistful tear as he inevitably walks away

Let’s call this the “screw you” option. If the Jazz just want to, on principle, send the message that they don’t let players dictate to them when they must settle for an unfavorable trade.

And don’t fully buy the logic that Utah would be “letting him go for nothing” in this scenario. The Jazz’s 2015-16 cap situation is such that paying or not paying Kanter makes the difference between being able to go after a coveted free agent with a near-max salary slot vs. having to operate as a capped-out team with only exceptions. Whether he’s an UFA or a RFA, Kanter’s cap hold will be almost $11.4 million until he is signed or rescinded, so the easiest way for the Jazz to ensure they can make a run at one the 2015 free agents is to not offer a QO and to rescind his player rights early. The Jazz may actually prefer that flexibility — and the possibility of a Draymond Green or Paul Millsap — to the prospect of getting unequal value on a February trade.

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So there we are. Kanter wants to turn the page. We’ll see if the Jazz want to as well, or if they’re happy staying in the current adventure. In less than seven days, we’ll know a little bit more about Lindsay and Snyder’s inclination, as the deadline for in-season trades is 3:00 p.m. EST next Thursday.

Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

9 Comments

  1. Andrew says:

    This whole situation emphasizes the biggest issue most fans had with the Ty Corbin era: We got a ton of young assets during that time, and they’re far underdeveloped for the amount of time they’ve been here. Kanter and Favors in particular have not gotten near the run they should have over the previous 2 seasons. I think telling the press he wants out was a jerk move, and isn’t going to do him any favors, but at the same time, I can completely understand his lack of trust in the organization. I never really thought we’d be able to hang onto him, based on the price tag even mediocre veteran bigs are getting these days, but it would be nice to have him leave on a good note.

  2. Jazz Fan says:

    Would a sign – and – trade be an option here?

    • SFUte says:

      No, you aren’t allowed to sign-and-trade a restricted free agent. If Kanter signed an offer letter with another team that the Jazz matched they wouldn’t be able to trade him for 3 months or December 15th. Whichever is later.

  3. Clint Wilber says:

    Kanter’s offense has come a long way, but his defense is questionable at best. Plus, based on what I see from him in the floor and the way his team reacts to him, I think he’s a total dunce. I think he’s probably got a low basketball IQ, which doesn’t fit into a Dennis Lindsay system and while he’s allowed to be immature at 22, he appears totally starstruck and while his play doesn’t support it, it appears he wants to be the center of attention. His ego will get in the way of growth on this team. Let him go.

  4. Brian says:

    Eat a Snickers Kanter you get a little hostile when you’re hungry.

  5. Paul Johnson says:

    Kanter has enough history of injuries, and not enough history of positive production, thus far in his career that I think it would be much too risky for him to accept a qualifying offer to become a free agent–because of the tremendous threat that might pose to his overall long-term career income.

    In addition, it’s always hard to acquire good big men, and I really don’t think there are many players out there of similar talent, skill, age and experience the Jazz could sign in free agency to replace Kanter. Greg Monroe is about the only option, but there is no reason to believe he would be inclined to sign with the Jazz. Plus any offer Kanter may get as a RFA is likely to be considerably less than the offers Monroe will get as an UFA.

    Therefore, I think the Jazz would be wise to keep Kanter, keep trying to integrate him as a valued member of the team, make the qualifying offer to him, and match whatever offer he gets in restricted free agency.

    Even if Kanter gets a RFA offer in the $12 mil.-13 mil. per year range, in the long-term that will not be an unreasonable contract when the new TV contract kicks in. I think Kanter will have a role on most teams (including the Jazz) similar to the one Tiago Splitter has with San Antonio, or that David Lee previously had with the GS Warriors–a 25-30 minute per game player, who is the #3 big with a major role on the team, and who has the ability to be a competent starter, if necessary. Look at the salaries those players have commanded under the old TV contract, and I don’t think it would be too risky for the Jazz to match Kanter up to $12-13 mil. per year, even if they only wanted to keep Kanter as a valuable trade piece.

  6. Agustín says:

    I would let him go. He is not a good match for this team’s first-pass-then-do-anything-else style. He definetely has some value on-court, but not for the jazz. Not for this jazz. And the fact that he made these comments shows he is not comfortable in the team, and probably would not ever be under Snyder. Bad chemistry doesn’t help either.

    • Paul Johnson says:

      The Jazz are learning Snyder’s offense for the first time this season. I’m sure that once they get the basic offense down, there will be room to adjust the offense more to the individual skills of particular Jazz players. The skills of Alec Burks also don’t appear to fit Snyder’s offense, but that doesn’t mean the Jazz should trade him. It would be much better to adjust Snyder’s offense than to get rid of two players who can create their own shot (a premium skill in the NBA)–Burks and Kanter.

  7. Brady says:

    Use him and someone else for a trade to get dragic, or bledsoe. Some sort of hep scoring with Hayward

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