Enes Kanter Leaning Toward Declining Option?

3:43pm: Kanter’s new agent Mark Bartelstein walked back his client’s comments a little this afternoon, telling Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv (Twitter link) that it’s too soon to say what will happen with Kanter.

“All the speculation with Enes is premature,” Bartelstein said. “There’s a ton of due diligence that has to be done. The season just ended. We’re not leaning one way or the other right now. We’ll go through that process over the next couple of months.

2:05pm: A year ago, Knicks center Enes Kanter was viewed as a lock to eventually exercise his player option for 2018/19, but a strong season in New York has changed the equation. Asked today about that $18.6MM option, Kanter told reporters that he’s leaning toward turning it down, per ESPN’s Ian Begley (Twitter link).

While Kanter is interested in becoming an unrestricted free agent, that doesn’t mean he wants to leave the Knicks. The big man said today that if he declines his option, his goal would be to sign a long-term deal to remain in New York.

Given the lack of cap room around the NBA this summer, Kanter probably wouldn’t have the necessary leverage to match – or exceed – $18.6MM as the starting salary on a multiyear contract. However, even if he takes a pay cut for the 2018/19 season, gaining long-term security could make it worthwhile. For instance, if Kanter could land a deal worth $50MM over four years, his salary for next season would decrease, but he’d be in line for an additional $30MM+ in overall guaranteed money — he and his agent will have to make an effort to gauge the market prior to July to see what sort of offer they could reasonably expect.

Kanter, the key incoming piece for the Knicks in the trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to the Thunder, averaged a double-double in 2017/18, posting 14.1 PPG and 11.0 RPG in just 25.8 minutes per contest. The former third overall pick stood out in a crowded Knicks frontcourt, beating out Kyle O’Quinn, Joakim Noah, and Willy Hernangomez (before he was traded) to make 71 starts at center.

The Knicks hold Kanter’s Bird rights, so they won’t need to use cap room or its mid-level exception if they want to sign him to a new contract this offseason.

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