Celtics big man Enes Kanter picked up his $5 million player option ahead of Thursday's 5 p.m. deadline.
BSJ Analysis: It was tough to see Kanter doing better on the open market than $5 million, but the question was whether Kanter would be looking for a bigger role than he saw in Boston, especially during the postseason. However, given a crowded free agent big man market, finding a playoff team that wants to give Kanter bigger minutes was a long shot, given his defensive limitations that we outlined last month. The bigger question now is whether he will be dealt by Boston ahead of the start of free agency to free up some money and a roster spot.
In other Celtics news trickling out, the team did not extend a qualifying offer to Brad Wanamaker. That does not preclude the team from bringing back the point guard, but ensures that they aren't obligated to, since Wanamaker could have locked into a guaranteed contract if the qualifying offer was extended. Now, he'll be an unrestricted free agent, free to sign with Boston or any other team. The drafting of Payton Pritchard at No. 26 overall in the 2020 Draft does not bode well for his chances of being brought back, since there probably isn't going to be room for him, Tremont Waters and Carsen Edwards on the roster.
Here's more in-depth analysis from last month on why Kanter likely chose to opt in:
The Celtics signed the 28-year-old center last summer to a two-year deal with a modest raise in year two of the deal with their room-level exception. The pact was essentially the same deal that Aron Baynes got from the team in the summer of 2017 to help fill the team’s void in the middle.
When healthy, Kanter had a successful year in Boston, at least during the regular season. He nearly shot a career high 57 percent from the field and posted some of his best rebound rates ever despite a sharp decline in playing time from past seasons. From a production standpoint, Kanter may feel like he did enough to earn a raise on the open market as he enters another year of his prime. Testing that market instead of falling deeper into the Celtics depth chart at the center position behind Daniel Theis and Rob Williams next season may hold some appeal and has led to rumors circulating that Kanter is leaning towards opting out next season.
However, if money is a priority for Kanter, it’s hard to see him turning down his $5 million option for the 2020-21 season. Let’s take a closer look at the center free agent market to see why.
Supply and demand
The value of true centers across the NBA has been reduced in recent years especially as supporting pieces on a roster. While true center superstars have their day in the sun (Anthony Davis, Nikola Jokic, Bam Adebayo) the league has been moving away from a true rebounding big like Kanter who lacks both 3-point range and defensive versatility. A strong big is still a useful weapon to have on the bench for specific matchup (vs. Joel Embiid) but it’s a spot where the supply outweighs the demand, especially as we head into this offseason.
The problem for Kanter as he explores potential opportunities beyond Boston this offseason while weighing his options is that there are limited openings on NBA rosters for meaningful center roles around the league. There’s certainly a place for Kanter in this league but probably not one for above the veteran’s minimum, especially with such limited cap space available this offseason.
To better illustrate this, I examined the center depth charts across the league. Among all 30 NBA teams, there were less than 10