New York Knicks center Enes Kanter is one of the most recognizable, established and talented players on a young roster that isn’t expected to go anywhere during the 2018-19 season. Yet he has not been getting starts under new head coach David Fizdale.
The 26-year-old, who is fresh off a massive 23-point, 24-rebound performance on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, has come off the bench in each of the Knicks’ last six games as Fizdale has a new plan for the big man.
Fizdale is eyeing a Sixth Man of the Year award for Kanter rather than giving him regular starts. He started 71 games during his first season with the Knicks last year and 154 over the prior two seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
The move obviously has not been favorably viewed by Kanter, who was benched in favor of the 20-year-old and obviously inexperienced Mitchell Robinson.
“I don’t worry about [individual] trophies,” Kanter said (h/t Stefan Bondy, Daily News). “My thing is we promised this city the playoffs.”
In all fairness, that promise most likely is not going to be met this season as the Knicks are poised for yet another season of mediocrity in a weak Eastern Conference whether he was starting or not.
Coming off the bench hasn’t necessarily hurt Kanter’s numbers, he is averaging 27 minutes per game (up from 25.8 last year) and posting 15.3 points and 11.7 rebounds through 11 tilts. Should he maintain those numbers throughout the year, it would be one of his finest seasons as a pro.
However, being considered a role player now on a non-contender would bruise the ego of any player that was once regularly a starter while entering the prime of his career. Not only that, but it will likely call into question Kanter’s standing with the team after this season.
The Knicks are on the cusp of major changes with two max-salary roster slots leaving the door open for big-time stars to take their talents to Madison Square Garden. As they will be added to a roster that is going to be built around Kristaps Porzingis and Kevin Knox, it wouldn’t be unfathomable if Kanter saw some kind of proverbial writing on the wall and asked for a way out.
Would Enes Kanter ask for a trade?
In all likelihood, it would be far-fetched to assume that Kanter would want to push his way out of New York. He is often vocal of his love for the city and has made countless promises to Knicks fans that he will help turn things around.
Then it boils down to whether the Knicks want to keep him in their future plans. His contract expires at the end of this season and should the Knicks believe a prospective contract will throw a wrench in their plans of pursuing big stars, not only might they not retain him, but they could look to deal him.
Kanter’s name surfaced in trade talks last year around the league’s Feb. 8 trade deadline as there was some interest from teams around the league.