VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Dirk Nowitzki of Germany defends against Enes Kanter of Turkey during the EuroBasket 2011 second round group E match between Germany and Turkey at Siemens Arena on September 9, 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Who Is This Guy?
Well, we don't know. But we get to find out. Thankfully for us, and for Kanter, we get to find out.
Kanter burst on to the scene at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit where he put up 34 & 13. The game is just a couple of levels above the Pro Player Classic from this summer in terms of defense played. That event is organized in large part by Rich Sheubrooks who just so happens to now be the director of pro and global scouting for the Jazz.
His arrival in the NBA has been a long time coming. After playing sparingly professionally and receiving an allowance in Turkey, Kanter turned down two offers from other professional basketball teams so that he could play ball in the states. After he finally committed to Kentucky, he was denied the opportunity to play by the NCAA because of that allowance he had received a couple of years prior.
So by the time he finally takes the court in a Jazz uniform, it will have been nearly two years since he played competitive basketball outside of Eurobasket this past year. When he was drafted by the Jazz, the pick scared me. He had the biggest bust potential to me namely because of the uncertainty surrounding him. The NBA is strewn with the corpses of promising big men that failed that had more experience than Kanter.
He still scares me despite the good reports coming out of training camp and from recent statements by Chad Ford. The biggest reason is that the Jazz traded their franchise player and took a huge risk in regards to the future of the franchise. Derrick Favors and Devin Harris are solid pieces in that trade and perhaps Favors becomes worth it all by himself. Until then, the two draft picks the Jazz received is where this trade will be evaluated. They lucked into winning the lottery when they were able to move up from the #6 spot to #3. If this pick doesn't pan out, the trade becomes a black mark on the franchise.
In Kanter's first year, nobody is expecting much. He'll be given a long leash but needs to be developed better than previous Jazz big men. Granted, most of the big men projects weren't as highly touted. The front office recently told Kanter that this was a journey. That may be the case, but considering what the Jazz gave up to get him, the expectations will be higher.
Finally though, we can see what the team has in Kanter. This season may have more learning opportunities then moments to shine, but at least we'll finally start to get an idea of that we have.
Hopes, Dreams, and Deepest Fears
Imagine a story and that can be the future of Enes Kanter.
His situation last year could make the Jazz the luckiest team ever-what if he really was the best player, he would have killed it in the NCAA, and would have been the obvious number 1 pick ... but nobody knew because he was ruled ineligible? That, of course, is our dream. But it could also have been the opposite. What if he would have been just average, another freshman with hoopla, but nothing special when put against better competition. That, of course, is our worst fear. And then there's the middle: he would have played well, he would be an obvious guy with NBA talent, but more likely a good or very good player than a superstar. That, of course, is the most likely.
But we can't know. Not yet. So we spend our time with ears pricked, desperate for any sign that he's going to be the real thing. Calipari says he'd pick Kanter before Brandon Knight? We cling to such hearsay. A tweet says Kanter was better than DeMarcus Cousins (who would have been the number 1 pick had his head been on straight). We drool.
I suppose we're desperate for the good. Kanter's minutes will probably be limited barring a trade. The most realistic hope is that he plays like Favors last year-showing potential in 10-15 minutes per game. But part of us dreams of something bigger-that he kills it in training camp, that he becomes one of those special players ready to contribute right away.
We'll find out a whole lot more in the next few weeks and months.
How Does He Fit?
I made a case for the Jazz to draft Bismack Biyombo with the 3rd pick under the premise that the Jazz should find a great complement to Derrick Favors for the future. I still believe that Biyombo would have made a nice team with Favors, especially defensively, but I can also see how Kanter might fit really nicely with Favors as well.
Defensively Kanter will be able to guard the better post player of the opposing team and Favors will be allowed to guard the more athletic or perimeter oriented big. Offensively, Kanter will hopefully be able to work down low, as well as stretch out defenses with his 20 foot jumpers, while Favors patrols the paint. The nice thing is that both Favors and Kanter aren't really power forwards, and they aren't centers. They are big men who will go out and play hard. I'm not telling you anything you haven't already figured out for yourself. But the thing that might work out for Kanter and Favors the very best is their personalities.
While I think much has been overblown about Favors' personality, or shy nature, there is something to be said for Kanter and his outgoing attitude. Kanter is going to be able to draw a lot of attention with his smile and enthusiasm for life when this team becomes a playoff team again and the media has a reason to start laying expectations. If Favors does happen to be a shy, Stockton type (please do, Derrick) then Enes will be able to balance that out nicely with a joke or a reference to the WWE. And on top of that, Kanter's basketball personality may complement really well, since he seems like the type of guy who wouldn't mind going out and getting 20 rebounds while only taking 5 shots. He is obviously thrilled to be in the NBA and on the Utah Jazz, one of his favorite teams the last several years, and his positive attitude is going to be helpful both for his teammates and for his own career. Every team and every locker room needs a player like Kanter, who can ease tensions internally when things aren't going well. Fesenko should have been that guy, but I doubt his teammates found him as amusing as we did.
At best, Kanter will become a part of the best frontcourt in the league in 3 years. At worst, he will be a great backup big man who will grab more than his fair share of rebounds, because even if he never learns a bunch of offensive moves, or learns to be a great team defender, he is, even as a rookie, a better than average rebounder in the league. And teams can never have too many elite rebounders.
Why Do We Care?
** We've had pretty good luck with bigs that love wrasslin.
** He is immensely likeable with a great attitude and contagious enthusiasm.
** Can't underscore how big a deal it is to have Memo bring him along. Also, as the only team in the league with two Turkish players, we've cornered the Turkish market. Cha-ching!
** He may be raw and untutored, but he's got some great moves already. His up and under is, seriously, a thing of beauty. And he pulled off a "The Pass" at Eurobasket. http://jazzfanatical.files.
** Those of you that miss the Deron Williams - Chris Paul rivalry now that Deron is gone can now focus your full attention on the Enes Kanter - Jonas Valanciunas rivalry. This argument could go on for years.
** Kanter, is a banger with a big body. In other words, he is an unintentional dirty quote machine magnet. develops
** Yeah, he's a work in progress. Yeah, he's a project. Yeah, he's going to have a longer (is that the right word?) learning curve for not having played in so long. Yeah, even if Ty is willing to give him major minutes, he may be on the bench anyway due to foul trouble. But I'm still super excited to see how he develops.
**Public service reminder: Penis jokes have been banned at SLC Dunk.