The Celtics on Friday traded center Enes Kanter to the Portland Trail Blazers as part of a three-team deal that ignited on draft night when Boston agreed to trade the 30th overall pick to the Memphis Grizzlies, a league source confirmed.
Kanter on Thursday opted into his $5 million salary, a figure he was unlikely to command on the open market. Now he rejoins Portland, where he spent one season before signing a two-year deal with the Celtics prior to last season. As part of the deal, the Celtics will receive two future second-round picks from Memphis. More importantly, this opens up a spot on a crowded roster.
Kanter spent just one year with the Celtics, averaging 8.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. He was a dependable rebounder and Boston’s top weapon for putback chances, but he was quite vulnerable at the defensive end, particularly guarding pick-and-rolls.
Kanter’s departure opens more playing time for third-year big man Robert Williams, who was slowed by a hip injury for most of last season but showed promise during the NBA’s restart in Orlando. Also, Boston could look to add another big man during free agency.
Free agency officially opened at 6 p.m. on Friday night, and the first three hours were relatively quiet. Forward Gordon Hayward, who became an unrestricted free agent when he opted out of his deal with the Celtics on Thursday, did not make a quick decision.
One potential landing spot was sealed off when forward Danilo Gallinari agreed to a three-year deal with the Hawks. But the Knicks and Hornets still have the salary cap space needed to sign Hayward, and the Celtics could still orchestrate a sign-and-trade with a team such as the Pacers. Or, Hayward could ultimately just re-sign with the Celtics on a multi-year deal.
Boston is unlikely to make any other significant moves until there is clarity regarding Hayward’s situation.
There were no major moves at the start of free agency among the Celtics’ top competition in the East. The 76ers reportedly agreed to a deal with backup center Dwight Howard, and Heat guard Goran Dragic announced that he was re-signing with Miami.
Whenever Hayward makes his final decision, though, other dominoes could fall quickly for the Celtics.