The Oklahoma City Thunder will bring back Enes Kanter after matching the offer sheet for the young centre by the Portland Trail Blazers.
Kanter signed a four-year, $70 million maximum contract with the Blazers on Thursday, giving the Thunder three days to match on the restricted free agent.
Oklahoma City used all three days to make the decision, but were expected to match any offer on the 23-year-old Turkish big man all along.
“We traded for Enes last season with the intention of keeping him as a member of the Thunder for several years to come, and we are excited that he will continue with us,” Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti said in a statement.
“He adds valuable depth to our roster, diversity to our frontcourt and the dimension that he brings offensively will positively impact our team.”
Kanter’s contract, which includes a player option on the fourth year and a 15 per cent kicker bonus if he should get traded, pushes the Thunder over the luxury tax threshold for the coming season.
Even with the league’s luxury tax figure increasing 10.3 per cent to $84.7m, Oklahoma City are at the moment facing a hefty tax payment due at the end of the season.
Bringing back Kanter on his maximum deal means the Thunder have veered from their cost-conscious course of avoiding the luxury tax.
Three years ago, Oklahoma City were unwilling to give then-sixth man James Harden a maximum contract which would have likely made them a repeat tax offender for seasons to come.
Kanter became a vital interior player for the Thunder after being acquired from the Utah Jazz, where he battled for minutes in a crowded frontline, at the trade deadline in February.
— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) July 13, 2015
He scored 20 points or more in 12 of his 26 appearances and averaged 18.7 points, 11.0 rebounds and 56.6 per cent shooting, showing strong chemistry in the pick-and-roll with point guard and MVP candidate Russell Westbrook.
The 6-foot-11 Kanter, however, played only 10 games alongside Serge Ibaka and none with Kevin Durant due to injuries to the Oklahoma City forwards as the team missed the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
Retaining Kanter gives Oklahoma City a better opportunity to contend in the coming campaign before superstar Kevin Durant hits free agency.
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