Just before the break Portland picked up center Enes Kanter after he was waived by the Knicks on February 7. The Trail Blazers previously tried to pick up Kanter in 2015, offering a 4-year $70 million contract that was ultimately refused by the Oklahoma City Thunder. After a couple of up-and-down seasons in New York, Kanter is returning to the Northwest Division.
Although he has yet to suit up for the Blazers, Kanter seems to be a solid fit for Portland. He has a similar playing style to starting Portland center Jusuf Nurkić. The two are both incredible rebounders, with Kanter ranking fifth and Nurkić sixth in put-back points this season.
While Nurkić will remain the starting big man, Kanter’s presence should not be understated. Coach Terry Stotts has already said Kanter will be the definitive back-up. Kanter started in multiple seasons at Oklahoma City and New York, averaging a career high of 18.7 points and 11.0 rebounds a game in his 2014-2015 season with Oklahoma.
The final signing for Portland’s 2018-2019 season gives them even more depth in a group of reserves who have performed well thus far. While 21-year-old center Zach Collins will undoubtedly see less playing time than he’s used to, minutes should not be shifted too heavily.
Also new to the team is small forward Rodney Hood. Hood signed with Portland on February 3, prior to the trade deadline. Hood had been one of the most sought out free agents as the deadline neared, with Portland trading him for guards Wade Baldwin IV and Nik Stauskas, along with two second round picks.
The move seemed to be a positive for both parties. After three and a half fairly successful seasons with the Utah Jazz, Hood was one of several players acquired by the Cavaliers in part of desperate attempt to bring Cleveland back into championship contention during last year’s trade deadline. While the Cavs ended up reaching the 2018 finals, Hood’s position as a backup to LeBron James halted his growth as a player and never allowed him to gain his footing in Cleveland.
In his first four games with Portland, Hood has averaged 9.8 points with a 66.7 field goal percentage. While Hood’s full potential with Portland is yet to be determined, he has immediately provided them with another reliable scorer on a team with some of the sharpest shooters in the league.
Both of Portland’s recent signings have the potential to form into integral parts of the franchise moving forward. Both have starting experience and at 26, the two are young enough to continue to grow and improve in coming years.
Portland returns from the All-Star break with a road game against the Brooklyn Nets on February 21. Their next ten games provide a mix of competition, playing against seven teams currently positioned to qualify for playoffs and three who have all but been eliminated from playoff contention (Cleveland, Memphis, Phoenix).
While it has yet to be determined if Kanter will play against the Nets Thursday night, Portland should have him in the rotation quickly. With playoffs just two months away, Portland currently sits in fourth with a 34-23 record.