Free Agency Preview: The Thunder Salary Dump.
First off, this is really a trade preview, but it's free agency now so whatever.
So whats this?
The Thunder are allegedly going to make a strong run at Al Horford. In order to sign Horford though, they would have to dump Enes Kanter + another player, and the other player is (almost) certain to be Kyle Singler. Obviously the Pistons also have their eyes on Horford, but this is a trade that has SVG's Pistons written all over it. And I was about to write a summer league preview but I took a shower and kept thinking about this so screw it, I'm so jet lagged I went to bed last night at 1 (got back in GR a little after 11) and woke up at 5 this morning wide awake, so I'm going to do what is occupying my mind lol.
So this post will primarily be regarding Enes Kanter since he would be the main attraction as it were, and then I'll touch on the other stuff with it after covering Kanter.
Why Would The Pistons Do This?
Enes Kanter and this sort of trade falls literally right into all of the things SVG has out right said he wants to do. I don't generally like when people say "Well this team has done this sort of move before so they should do it again right?" but with the Pistons, they have literally said that there is a method behind it. Here are the boxes SVG and the Pistons have literally said that they are looking for that Kanter can check.
- Already under contract for an extended period of time. (Of note, the last year is a player option)
- Young. (He's only 22!!!)
- Can be had for cheap.
This is literally the exact situation that netted the Pistons Reggie Jackson, Marcus Morris, Reggie Bullock, and Tobias Harris. The Pistons see this sort of move as a way to dodge the free agency circus and still get good players. Kanter checks every box the Pistons are looking for, the question is how much of a basketball fit he would be, which is mostly what this Post is for.
Enes Kanter is a hugely valuable offensive player. He is a monster in the paint, featuring a excellent mixture of strength and quickness to straight clown fools in the post, and he has wonderful touch to finish his looks as well. He is also a good athlete who runs hard to the hoop in the pick and roll, he may not be a particularly explosive leaper, but he has good hands and can catch and finish in traffic very effectively, and to be clear, it's not like he's totally ground bound. Lastly, he is actually a good shooter, he is rock solid on most spot up looks in the midrange, and can even stretch himself out to the corner 3 occasionally. He does not take a ton of contested jumpers but he can do it, he mostly avoids them because he is so good at getting to the hoop that he just doesn't really need to shoot jumpers with guys on him. And even though there is some noise around this (I'll talk about this more later) his TS% last season was .626, and I don't care what the noise around that number is, that is insane.
The other great thing with Kanter, and perhaps even better than his scoring, is his rebounding. He is one of the best rebounders in basketball, and is the only player (who played major minutes) who can say he was a better offensive rebounder than Andre Drummond last season. Dude is an absolute monster on the glass.
In addition to this, he runs the floor well, and he runs it hard. He is very good at getting out into transition quickly, and when he does he goes straight to the hoop every time often finding himself open layups or with excellent post position against overmatched defenders.
Essentially, Kanter is a world class mooch on offense. Sucking up offensive rebounds and an expert at finishing plays others create. And by world class mooch, I mean that he doesn't need to have great looks created, because he is so good at finishing them. And to be clear, he can create for himself, but a lot of his numbers (especially with the Thunder) are largely a result of mooching.
As mentioned earlier, he is under contract for at least 2 more seasons, and has a player option for a 3rd. Just based on current trends, I would guess he would opt out, but his contract is not such an outrageous bargain to make it a for sure opt out.
Defense. Kanter's defensive limitations have been pretty well covered by lots of other people so I won't spend a ton of time on it, but there is no way around it, he's pretty miserable on that end.
He has a bad combination of not having great tools for defense, and not very disciplined/smart to make up for the lack of tools. The good news for the Pistons is that he does have a reasonable excuse for having poor defensive basketball IQ, he has played for 4 coaches in his 5 seasons, and has flipped between playing center and PF quite a bit as well. So he in theory would improve after coming to a very stable organization like the Pistons. (As an aside, how nice is it to be able to truthfully say that? The Pistons are a super stable organization. That feels so nice.) And it would also be fair to say that SVG would be the best coach he's ever had, and probably by a fair margin. (Although Both Donovan and Snyder both might be pretty solid, he spent half a season with Snyder and just one year with Donovan.)
HOWEVA, don't get yourself too twisted on this lol, he's a bad defender, and he would top out as mediocre. He isn't totally ground bound but is not a fearsome leaper to be a good rim protector, and he does not have good lateral quickness to defend effectively on the perimeter. The one thing he has going for him on defense is that he is big and strong, making him at least somewhat capable guarding opponents in the post and also is at least a bit of a road block at the rim, but in both cases his bad form/approach largely sabotages his size advantage.
Once again, people have picked apart his defense too a large extent already so just know, he is bad. Think Greg Monroe in Greg's first few years where he was just largely hopeless.
What would his role be with the Pistons?
Largely similar to his role with the Thunder (I would think at least.) He would be the first guy off the bench, would play PF alongside Andre Drummond for periods, and then remain on at center when Andre leaves the floor and switch to center where he would obliterate opposing backups and lead the bench mob. There would be some matchups where he would play less and some that he would play more due to some teams being able to attack his poor defense than others. I would guess it would be pretty similar to the way the Pistons used Greg Monroe in his last season with Detroit except instead of being the first starter to the bench he would be the first backup off the bench.
He would essentially be a fusion of the bigger PF that SVG wants for the roster, and also take the backup center role.
How would he fit?
Overall I think he would be a pretty clean fit. Playing alongside Andre would lessen his defensive liabilities, and he has already proven in OKC that when he is playing with and against opposing bench mobs he is such a force on offense that he is just fine.
His shooting is a bit of a question because he has generally shot pretty well, but he has never shot a particularly high volume of jumpers. And playing alongside the Drummond/Jackson PnR would likely require him to take a few more jumpers, although the reality is that he played alongside the Westbrook/Adams PnR plenty so it wouldn't be a huge change.
The thing that would probably be most fun would be watching opposing teams try and rebound with Andre and Kanter on the floor. Andre is the best rebounder in basketball (by a fair margin) and by some measures, Kanter might be 2nd. The Pistons would have a very real chance to set several records with regards to rebounding if Kanter was added to the team. And the reason that I am really intrigued by this, is that the Pistons would (probably) have something that they would dominate at an all time level. And I think that is a good way to win in the NBA. For instance, the Warriors were the best team in basketball the past 2 years (even though they didn't win this year) not because they shoot tons of 3s, but because they have the best and (probably) the second best shooters on the planet on the team. With Kanter, the Pistons would have the best and (possibly) the second best rebounders on the planet on their team. When you are able to dominate any phase of the game to the level the Pistons likely would in this situation, it can start to change things in a big way. The biggest worry with that is that rebounding prowess does not evenly stack on top of itself, but it can come pretty close. Think about it like this, Andre's rebounding numbers steadily declined last season after a huge start largely because opposing teams started taking one (or often even 2) players and giving them the sole job of boxing out Andre every time. Generally whoever was their strongest rebounder, if Kanter is on the floor at the same time, this means that one of Kanter or Drummond is getting boxed out by a PF or even a wing player. It would screw with teams to a huge extent.
Defensively he's kind of a mess obviously, but he made some improvements with OKC, and I would think he could get moved more towards just kind of bad instead of awful under SVG, and the Pistons have a good enough team that they should be able to survive his defense I think.
How about his contract?
It would probably be just fine. Think of it like this, provided the Pistons would play their cards right and use him right as a player. They trade Baynes without taking salary back (which would probably be fairly doable considering they got a 2nd rounder for Meeks.) because Kanter is the backup C. Kanter makes ~18 million (it increases slightly each year) so for instance, you could say the Pistons made an upgrade at the backup center spot (which Kanter would be a big upgrade over Baynes) so they now pay their backup center 8 million a year, and then spent 10 million on that bigger PF presence that SVG keeps talking about. (Or you could make it simpler and say they are still paying the backup center 6.5 and then spent about 11.5 on the other PF.) It would not be a great contract, but it'd be fine, especially seeing some of the numbers being thrown out for guys right now.
So, Um, Kyle Singler?
He is likely the guy the Pistons would have to take on in addition to Kanter. Obviously Pistons fans should be fairly familiar with him since he played in Detroit. He is coming off an absolutely miserable season for OKC, where his redeeming quality of shooting abandoned him and he shot 31% from deep. He never really got consistent minutes and never found a real role on the team. That said, guys don't usually lose 8 percentage points when they are 28, so there is good reason to assume that Singler will bounce back to at least fairly capable shooting next season (he also had a pretty small sample size this past season to top it off) and the reality is that a guy who's6-8 and can shoot in the upper 30s from 3 is always kind of useful. The problem is that the Pistons don't really need that guy. Between Bullock, Hilliard, Morris, and probably even Harris and Gbinije, they have plenty of upper 6 foot guys who can shoot in the mid to upper 30s from 3. But in the end, Singler would at least give a little more depth and versatility. And even though paying him 5 million a year for the 3 seasons is not ideal, given the numbers guys are about to be making, it's probably not going to be a big deal to pay a guy 5 million to be on the end of your rotation.
Could the Pistons poach someone else?
Maybe. And this would probably be important for the Pistons to make this trade a real positive one. The Pistons would have a little bit of cap space left over after Kanter and Singler but not a lot. (assuming Baynes is the only guy they would dump) So there is potential for the Pistons to end up having a decent hole in their roster if they just get Singler and Kanter. HOWEVA, if they could manage to get Cameron Payne, and make him the backup PG, that would make this deal way more appealing for the Pistons. Even possibly getting McGary or Huestis to fill in as the last big the Pistons are planning to add would make it better for them. I have no idea how likely the Thunder would be to throw in one of those guys. And this is the main obstical the Pistons would have to making this deal I think.
The issue is that (as stated before) Singler is a player that the Pistons literally don't need. At best he is a useful but fairly redundant piece on the current roster, and at worst he is a redundant player who is not even useful. So to really make it worth the Pistons while they would probably have to get either one of the bigs or Payne. The problem is that I think there are teams that would be willing to eat just Singler in exchange for getting Kanter for nothing. Because even if he isn't all that good and is overpaid, there are plenty of teams who could at least use Singler a little. Just off the top of my head, the Lakers for instance, could actually use a big wing player who can shoot a little.
So how about those other players?
Cameron Payne didn't play a ton last season as a rookie, and fell victim to Billy Donovan's essentially 7 man playoff rotation. But by mid season Payne had won the backup PG spot from Augustine, and Augustine was getting DNPs. He is a decent shooter but is especially solid as a defender and playmaker. Kid can play and would be cheap, he'd be the best case scenario get in this deal. (Probably)
Mitch McGary will be known to Michigan people at least. He has generally looked pretty good when he plays, he has lots of hustle and is strong and fairly skilled, but has fallen victim to a very crowded OKC frontcourt. The question is whether he is actually a solid bench big who was kept out of the rotation by the Thunder's great depth up front, or if he is actually not that good and the guys in front of him just happened to be good. I would lean towards him actually being pretty good, but no one really knows for sure.
If the Pistons could get Payne, or possibly a first round pick along with Kanter and Singler, I would love this deal. If they had to take McGary or just Kanter and Singler I would still like it, but less. I would imagine that the Thunder will have the advantage to sign Horford at this point, especially since it currently sounds like Durant is leaning towards returning to OKC. This would be a great way to jump the gun on free agency and avoid the insane spending that so many teams are about to be a part of. The main worry would be the backup PG spot, even if they got Payne, who I like a lot, he's still very young. But overall I really like the potential of Kanter on this team.
What do you think? Would you do this deal? How crazy is free agency right now?
Rest of free agency coverage?
Hopefully some real stuff starts to happen so I can stop picking random speculation that interests me and talk about some actual stuff. I'll also be covering quite a bit of the summer league so there will be that too.
Essentially the only reason I would do another theoretical preview like this is if nothing concrete happens over the next few days. Hopefully there are some real moves to talk about.