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By now you’ve heard the news, with the #3 and #12 picks the Utah Jazz drafted highly coveted bigman Enes Kanter from Kentucky née Turkey and dynamic scoring wing Alec Burks from the University of Colorado. Due to the vagrancies of the fickle and capricious Twitter God (like Lady Luck, but in 140 characters or less, or maybe the Tetris God is more apt) I was imprisoned in twitter jail twice last night. As a result I was not capable of registering my
disapproval concerns immediately. There are a number of good things that I have to say about these cats too, and do, below.
#3 Pick in the 2011 Draft: Enes Kanter (6’11.25 tall, 259 lb, 7’1.5 wingspan, 9’1.5 standing reach)
I’m not high on Kanter. I’ve seen all the same footage everyone else has. I’ve read the same blogs. I’ve seen the same measurements. He’s not Moses Malone. He's not Bob Lanier. Nor does he make us ‘bigger’. (After all, he’s not bigger than Francisco Elson or Kyrylo Fesenko, both of whom he’ll be replacing – but I’m sure he’s way better than both at the same time). He is a very skilled player who has a lot to prove. I always thought of him as a Luis Scola type of player. Alas, the biggest problem with Kanter has nothing to do with his qualities or faults as a basketball player. The biggest problem with Kanter is something the state sponsored media is attempting to sweep under the rug: if we stand pat we just may not be able to give him the time on the floor he needs because we have too many bigs. Of course, more on this later.
He is a physical player, but isn’t that athletic. He’s also under 7’ tall and will have to be (by the virtue of the conference we play in) able to check guys from Dirk Nowitzki to Andrew Bynum. Both guys are taller, one stronger, the other quicker off the bounce. It’s not easy being a bigman in the West. But if you add it up a heavy, shorter guy who doesn’t have much in the standing reach department (Dwight Howard is an inch shorter but has a standing reach of two inches taller) means he’s going to be called for a lot of fouls. Sure, he’ll have the reputation of being the #3 pick in the draft – so he’s not going to immediately be called for those Fesenko fouls (we hope) – but he’ll still be called for a ton of fouls. If one of the stated desires was to draft defenders who weren’t foul magnets (which isn’t something I care for, obviously) then drafting Kanter is a mistake.
This guy can do a bunch of good on the basketball court though, if he ever gets there. He really hasn’t been playing much recently, if you didn’t notice. He’s a solid big that the guys on NBA TV (Rick Kamla, Steve Smith, David Aldridge, and via satellite Kevin McHale) likened to Jeff Ruland. He was a solid double double guy (career averages of 17.4 ppg and 10.2 rpg over 332 games), who did not have much finesse to his game but was quite adept at passing to cutters as a back to the basket big (from his second to fifth seasons he averaged 3.0, 3.9, 4.4, and 5.3 apg). If Kanter can be a Jeff Ruland type (without the injuries) that would be great. If he could be a Luis Scola type that would be great as well. Scola has career averages of 14.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg (277 games). Getting there is another problem.
Kanter is also reported to have a distinct and capable face-up game. During the Chicago Combine he managed to shoot 43/80 (53.8%), which 9th best out of the bigman group (total of 16 players). The other drafted bigs who shot better than him were Justin Harper, Trey Thompkins, JaJuan Johnson, Keith Benson, Jon Leuer, and Nikola Vucevic. Of course, a better place to read about all of this would be here. Back to business, Enes made only 5 for 12 (41.7%) of his timed 15 to 18 foot shots off the dribble. However, during the untimed portion he drilled 14 of 18 (77.8%). From the High School three point line (spot up jumpers) he made 10/25, and from the NCAA three point line (again, spot up jumpers) he made 14/25. Enes looks (from these numbers at least) to not quite be ready to drill the long bomb with any authority or regularity – but that’s completely fine. He’s not Andrea Bargnani. And we do not want him to be. If all you do is bang and hit the baseline midrange jumper like Udonis Haslem you can play in this league.
Clearly, Enes Kanter has some range. He’s not Mehmet Okur – but I’m sure if we keep Memo (and it will increasingly look like we will now that we drafted a Turkish big for him to mentor for at least a season) he will be forced to shoot more. Hopefully he can also learn Memo’s snowplow style three point upfake dribble move that results in the most gangly looking floater in the history of basketball. But I’m not going to hold my breath on that one.
Out of all the bad things and so-so things I think what we need to focus on just a little bit here is understanding just that this guy does well. As a heavier dude it behooves him to be physical on the court. At the draft combine he weighed the same as former North Carolina product Sean May. Dude is built solid, but he’s not excessively thick – like DeJuan Blair who was measured at 6’6.5 but weighs 18 pounds more than Kanter. Despite his density (you know … ) he was surprisingly quick on his feet. The only guys within the last little while to a) play in the NBA at his size, b) be a physical post player, and c)be faster in the lane agility drill were: Dwight Howard (by 0.09 seconds), Kevin Love (0.13 seconds), Blake Griffin (by 0.35 seconds), and Nene Hilario (by 0.37 seconds). At the very least this gives me hope that Kanter will actually know how to block out.
Why is this important? Well, last season (2010-2011) the Jazz were 8th worst in the league when it came to protecting the defensive glass (ranked 22 out of 30 teams). The Jazz gave up nearly 1000 offensive rebounds this last season. The season before last (2009-2010), opponents barely got over 800 offensive rebounds against us (and we were 7th best in the league). A big part of that is due to (essentially) losing Boozer and Memo (who combined for 14.1 defensive boards a game in 2009-2010). If you include Millsap into that equation the number swelled to 18.6 defensive rebounds per game by our top three bigs. As a point of comparison this last season (2010-2011) the top three rebounders on the Jazz (by rpg average: Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, and Derrick Favors) managed only 15.5 defensive rebounds a game. That’s a difference of +3.1 offensive rebounds a game that the other team got on our top bigs.
Sure, protecting the glass isn’t just the job of three people, it’s a team thing. But as a team, the Jazz players who got the most burn did not box out. There were some guys on the team who do routinely box out – but they weren’t major risks for playing time due to injuries, depth chart number crunches, and gypsy curses. IF Kanter gets playing time he can be a positive force out there who boxes out. Sure, he’s not super big where boxing out is more an unintended consequence of gravitational force (like my main man Kyrylo) . . . but for a guy Kanter’s size (which I’ll give him a 8 out of 10 on) and speed (a 9 out of 10 when it comes to lane agility), boxing out is something he has worked on, learned, and developed into a part of his game. And the effects will be noticeable on the court.
The flip side of knowing how to use your body and position to box out is that this dude probably knows how to actually post up / seal his man so he can get the ball. Sometimes last season it looked like no one on the team knew how to do this except Al Jefferson. Heck, even the legendary Ante Tomic doesn’t look like he knows how to do this, and he’s way more seasoned than Kanter. Kanter will know how to seal his man and post up. He appears to be a bit more adept at this than Derrick Favors right now; and perhaps he would more readily benefit from Karl Malone’s advice (Karl was a physical player who couldn’t jump just like Kanter is – Favors’ no step vertical jump is 5.5" greater and has a max reach over the 12’ threshold).
If Kanter can be developed (because you know we have a great track record with the bigs we draft . . . Goran Suton, Kosta Koufos, Kyrylo Fesenko (draft day trade), Robert Whaley, Curtis Borchardt (draft day trade), Jarron Collins, Greg Ostertag, Luther Wright, Isaac Austin, Eric Leckner . . . ) then, and only then, can any talk of his upside be turned into a real positive. With a) no dedicated Bigman coach, b) no real desire to play rookie bigs, c) no D-League team (even when we had one, we didn’t use it), and d) no playing time for him I worry about the actual returns we can get from a ‘high upside’ guy. But hey, I’m just being a hater, I guess. Maybe this time it’ll be different, right?
Well, with the #3 pick in the draft it better be. This is why that Goliath Key tweet from last night hurts so much. He said the playing time crunch only hurts if Kanter thrives. Did we plan on drafting a guy who wouldn’t thrive? What’s the development cycle look like – get a reasonable rotation player in the 2nd season of his first non-rookie contract? (Like C.J. Miles development schedule?)
Oh, by the way, the previous two paragraphs can and should be kept in mind in any discussion of Derrick Favors as well. The Jazz only seem to ‘get something’ out of a big guy they draft who is self-motivated and has a chip on his shoulder. Karl Malone wanted to be great because of his insecurities, and did so. Paul Millsap was a 2nd round pick who worked hard every day to get where he is. I have zero faith in our development staff when it comes to bigmen (the only other bigs we had that were All-Stars were free agent signings) – so I need to put my faith in that two #3 picks drafted in the entitlement era of NBA ball will have the personal, intrinsic, motivation to be great. (Andrei Kirilenko is a wingplayer, so he’s not in the discussion here)
The Big Question for Kanter
The big question, obviously, has to be about his development cycle. Even if he’s not going to be an All-Star we’re going to have to play him minutes in order to find that out. Right now there is a minutes crunch. He (and Favors) will both cannibalize each other’s potential playing time (and development hours with a non-existent Bigman coach) unless a move is made that frees up time and space. Truly, if the Jazz stand pat, they’ll have to break into the 4th and 5th dimensions to get anywhere close to the full value of the young guys they have.
The Big Question for The Jazz
We now have five guys under the age of 26 who play PF and C on the team (Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, free agent Kyrylo Fesenko, Derrick Favors, and Enes Kanter). None of these guys are finished products. Some of them have a little potential left to get over flaws. The majority of them are FILLED with untapped potential. Bigman coach. Nao. Seriously, I get Karl Malone that wants one more year to spend time with his son before he goes off to college – but is Mark Eaton’s restaurant really that big of a deal? He’s not the cook, right? Get him two track suits, stitch them together, and get him in the Zions Bank Center teaching these kids how to play defense without fouling.
#12 Pick in the 2011 Draft: Alec Burks (6’6.0 tall, 193 lb, 6’10.0 wingspan, 36.0" max vert)
I don’t know much about this guy besides the numbers. I did not look at his game film, and most of what I know comes from Denver Nuggets fans who were high on the kid. To be fair to both him and me this section is going to be shorter than the one for Enes Kanter (whom I spent hours upon hours researching). At the #12 pick there were a few names being bandied about – Jimmer Fredette, Chris Singleton, Klay Thompson, etc. We ended up with Alec Burks whom I honestly thought could have gone higher. Numerically, Burks is athletic, but not overly so.
He’s within one standard deviation below a group of 80 peers in: height, weight, wingspan, and bench press. He’s within one standard deviation above a group of 80 peers in: max vertical jump and max reach. He’s within two standard deviations above a group of 80 peers in ¾ court sprint, and lane agility.
So he’s smaller and faster than a number of wings out there. In his last season in college he played a little more than 30 minutes a game and got a 21/7/3/1 line. That’s really good. He projects to be a guy who can create his own shot, play a little point guard, and score at the NBA level. *Cough* Career NCAA GO Rating of 97.6 *Cough* However he’s not a very good ball handler, his perimeter defense is suspect, and I’m better than him at threes. And I’m an out of shape, taller Aziz Ansari, who blogs about sports more than he plays them.
Of course, I haven’t watched him play so take his qualities and any criticism of him with a grain of salt. He also seems kinda dumb, after all he didn’t know who Tyrone Corbin was despite having met him, and spending the entire day with him.
Statistically there is a lot to like. You love it when guards can make their free throws, and he shot 83% last year. He also got to the line 8 times a game. So those two factors together are a force multiplier. You really gotta love that. His game seems to be better fit for the SF spot in our offense though (the slashing wing, as opposed to the SG, or shooting wing). Previous (and current) slashing wings were David Benoit, Blue Edwards, Shandon Anderson, Andrei Kirlenko, DeShawn Stevenson and Ronnie Brewer. Previous Shooting Wings were Jeff Hornacek, Bryon Russell, and, uh, Kyle Korver. Funny how we seem to play better in years where we have both types – and we don’t have both types every year. C.J. Miles and Gordon Hayward appear to vacillate between the two roles (both being adept at making the long bomb and cutting to the basket for a dunk).
If Burks can turn his defense into a primary focus he can get playing time on any team – as he is athletic as all get out. His shooting from deep is kind of a concern though (especially as a shooting guard in a league where every team appears to have 5 guys who can kill us from deep). He shot 29% last season, and a hair over 30% for his college career. I’m less concerned with his ability to improve his shot (which is something you can do on your own in the gym, and don’t necessarily need a special shooting coach for – but we have one in Jeff Hornacek anyway) for a variety of reasons. The first is that there is ample evidence of guys who came into the league without a shot who HAVE developed it over time to the point where it is reliable. World Champion Jason Kidd and World Champion DeShawn Stevenson both come to mind. If he works at it he’ll get better at it. The second reason is that in his last year in college Gordon Hayward shot 29% from three point range as well. He finished his rookie season in the NBA with a 47% mark.
Better focus, better shot selection, the proximity to Jeff Hornacek, and time in the gym will get his shot to an NBA level – if he works for it. I think he will, he apparently has a chip on his shoulder (like 90% of this draft class). (Jimmer doesn’t need a chip on his shoulder because he used to play jail league ball in upper New York State prison systems.) His three may not be a weapon for him during his first NBA contract though, so that’s food for thought.
I think Alec can be a good player, and seems fit for our system to a certain point. I will say that it’s going to take a while for him to be NBA level on offense as a ‘shooting’ guard. If he was 2 inches taller he’d be a great pick, and a Top 5 one at that. He was one of the few lotto pick guards to show up to the combine and not participate in the shooting drills. So he (or his agent) is less confident in his shot than E’Twaun Moore’s people – and E’ only made 10 of his 25 three point attempts from NBA range. (Marcus Morris made 8, and he’s a SF/PF)
He has the potential to get way better and some of the physical tools that give me confidence in him. If I watched more of his stuff I’m sure I’d be able to confirm his scoring ability, and ability to develop something when a play breaks down. Hearing that he’s not a solid defender (from Jay Bilas) worries me. Dribble Penetration Defense is a huge deal. We suck at it. I wrote a few thousand words on the subject. If he’s not going to be able to prevent guards from getting into the lane then he shouldn’t be playing for us. And this goes for the rest of our wings as well.
The Big Question of Burks
The big question for me isn’t outside shooting – we should be okay with that next season with Gordon Hayward (47.3%, 0.5 threes made a game), Andrei Kirilenko (37.7%, 0.6 threes made a game), C.J. Miles (32.2%, 1.4 threes made a game), Raja Bell (35.2%, 1.0 threes made a game), Devin Harris (35.7%, 0.9 threes made a game), and Mehmet Okur (The Money Man) spreading the floor. As a result, the immediate need for Burks to take and make threes is relatively low (until we play the Lakers and go 4 on 5 on offense, right Ronnie B?). What I’m more interested in happens to be translating his athletic ability into strong defense. If we could just somehow use Raja Bell as a mentor for him to teach him the benefits of footwork, quick hands, and being an asshole – and how that makes you a good wing defender in the NBA – then I’d be on cloud nine. Andrei Kirilenko (if he returns) can be a mentor as well, as no one else on our team (not even Astronaut Jeremy Evans) knows how to time a jump better on the perimeter to disrupt a shot. Burks question is less of a question than Kanter’s, so there’s that – we may even have playing time for Burks without having to gut our team! Score!
The Big Question for The Jazz
Again, like the Kanter Question, this is less to do with him and more to do with the front office. Burks is talented and has some upside. He’s an athlete and should be able to score on the NBA level. He was a projected lotto pick and deservedly so. But why didn’t we trade down to get MarShon Brooks? Brooks was drafted late in the draft and traded for by the Nets (led by an aggressive owner) for the price of one 1st round pick and one 2nd round pick. His ‘market value’ was higher than a late lotto pick, so on market value alone he’s the better player. He’s also physically superior to Burks as well. Despite being 0.75" shorter, he weighed 2 pounds more, and has a 7’1 wingspan (+3" than Burks) (think about closing out on shots, blocking shots, deflections, passing lanes and steals), and was much faster on both ¾ court sprint and lane agility (both placing him within 3 standard deviations above average, Burks was only in the +2 STDEV range). Brooks also out jumps him by 2.5". But that’s only the physicals . . .
Remember when I pointed out that Burks had a 21/7/3/1/0 line in his last year of college? Brooks played 5 more mins a game but brought a 25/7/3/2/1 line. Yes, he also blocks a heck of a lot of shots for a shooting guard, not unlike Dwyane Wade. (Remember that huge Wade block in one of those East finals games against Derrick Rose to close out the series? Yeah. Brooks can do that.) So not only is Brooks better physically, he’s also better statistically. He’s also a four year college player. He may have less upside, but he’s ready to play now. (Unlike Burks who needs to work on both his shot and his defense) Brooks also shot 35% and 34% from deep his last two seasons in college from three. And he made over 2 a game in his last season. Burks only had 0.7 threes made a game.
Brooks also killed it in the Chicago Combine Shooting drills (again, Burks didn’t shoot because he didn’t want to draw attention to his questionable shooting ability). Brooks went 17/25 from NBA three range (1 less than Jimmer), and he also killed it on the untimed 15 to 18 feet off the dribble shot (making 16/18). That’s the place we saw Raja and Andrei miss from all season long. It’s also getting him the ball in the Harpring curl range. (Remember that play?) Over all Brooks was 7th best out of all the wings (31 players) in shooting. MarShon finished the day going 68.8%, for a point of reference, Jimmer finished the day going 69.9%. He doesn’t have Jimmer range, but he did put up 52 points in a big game last season; scoring at will against guys put out there to specifically stop him. Jimmer can’t defend like Brooks can though, or finish above the rim.
I’m obviously biased here, but Brooks seems (to me, a non-professional scout) the better player. (Don’t even get me starting on the difference in their relative Defensive gambling or Pure hustle values…) Maybe Burks will be the better player years from now when he learns how to defend and hit the three, but Brooks played more years (more seasoned), got better stats, has better range, is a better defender, and is more athletic. And we could have traded down for him, or traded into the draft for him. Instead, he’s going to be playing with Deron Williams and making the Nets a really interesting team to watch.
And if you’re not a MarShon Brooks fan – there were other guys undrafted that the Jazz could have taken over Burks as well. It’s not like this is a zero-sum game between the wing I liked and the wing we got. Guys still on the board when we picked were the Morris twins, Kawhi Leonard, Chris Singleton and so forth. You may have also liked those guys better than Burks, I don’t know. I don’t really have an opinion on any of them save for Singleton. It could be said that the Jazz didn't go BPA here.
Enes Kanter and Alec Burks are Jazz players
They were picked by the Jazz, the team I root for. They were scouted for years, evaluated, and were worked out in person. They had personal interviews. At the end of the day, the guys I have to put my faith in are putting their faith in these two young men. It’s more than loyalty that will make me root for them to succeed, but it’s also trust. You can always play Monday morning quarterback with the NBA draft, we all probably do. I remember being underwhelmed with the Gordan Hayward pick (not because he was bad, but because "the Precious" had to be good for all the years we protected it, and kept rejecting trades that requested it in return). Right now I think Hayward can be a starter in this league and has a lot going for him. I’m not upset about having Hayward on the team. In time, and if they work hard, I’m not going to be upset about Kanter or Burks either.
President Obama was elected president, despite not having a near 80% consensus from the voters (which would have been amazing if it happened). I don’t think Burks or Kanter had anywhere close to even 50% consensus with the people who visit the site. But like Obama said during his first huge speech as the president (elect) I will clearly state this:
"…and to those Jazz players for whom my support has not yet been earned, you may not have won my praise before the draft, but I will see you in a Jazz uniform, and I will see you help my team win games. And I will be your crazy, stats driven blogger who writes convincing pieces in your favor, too." - Me, right now.
I welcome Enes Kanter and Alec Burks to the Utah Jazz. May you both have very successful careers, and help our team win games. You both now have a place in my heart, and will cheer for you unconditionally. Welcome to the Jazz Ensemble. (Sounds better than saying "Jazz nation", which is pretty unoriginal.)