I don't even know what to write about Enes Kanter right now.
Two weeks ago I thought I had a pretty good idea. He had a successful rookie season - some expected struggles but some real moments of success. Plus a truly elite skill (rebounding) from which he could build. And though he didn't dominate the summer league as some had hoped (including me), I saw very real and very concrete improvements in his offensive game. I felt like he was on the right path.
But my hopes for him this were fairly limited. I know the playing time situation for the post players - there's only 96 minutes available. All I wanted was that he got more playing time this year (because he earned it by playing in his time last year), and to see enough improvement that the front office can be smart about its moves next year.
Even long term, I had somewhat tempered hopes. I imagined Favors to be the bigger scorer of our two young post guys, and Kanter's peak to be around the 15 points & 15 rebounds range. Which are, by the way, All-Star and All-NBA type numbers.
But now ... I don't know what to think. He's progressed faster and more since summer league than I expected. I think he's progressed more than any of the coaches or front office expected. I don't know if this means he'll reach his peak more quickly than I imagined or that his potential is actually higher than I originally envisioned.
I feel completely confident that Favors and Kanter will be a pretty dominant starting front court next year - particularly on the defensive side.
But what of this year?
I don't know.
It's true that he hasn't been playing against Dwight Howard every game this pre-season. It's also true that he's been outplaying his man in a similar way to what was hoped he'd do during the summer league. In the four preseason games this is his line:
12 ppg, 11 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 1.5 TO, 1 foul, 54% FG, 71% FT (3.5 FTA per game) in ... 20 minutes per game.
That's stupid. Regardless of whether you're going up against a D-Leaguer, a bench guy, or a starter, that's serious production.
And of course, it's just preseason so it's impossible to tell what that predicts for the regular season. It's impossible to know even if his 20 minutes per game will continue once the games really count.
And with the way he's slimmed down so much this offseason ... I don't know if he's even a center anymore. Whether a guy is the C or PF for the Jazz is, of course, kind of irrelevant. The positions are designed to be interchangeable. But now with Favors bulking up a bit more and Kanter down to what he's at, maybe he's the PF of the future.
I don't know.
I do know one thing though. My greatest fear will not come to pass.
You see, my greatest fear is that the Jazz would keep limiting his mintues (and Favors too, possibly) to such a degree that they would still be afraid to let go of Al and/or Millsap. That the Jazz would keep Al and Sap, not because they're great and the best options, but because the team had not given Kanter and Favors legitimate opportunity to prove what they can do.*
And make no mistake, this happens in the NBA. It's happened to all-time greats, like Moses Malone. It's happend to All-Stars, like Jermaine O'Neal. It's happened to decent players, like Jeremy Lin.
But at this point, I don't think Kanter will ever be that kind of guy. We've seen what he can do. We've seen the improvement in his game, and we know what kind of trajectory he is on. He won't get 30 minutes per game this year, but every time he's out he's going to remind us, in the time he gets, this guy can seriously play.
* Note this doesn't mean I am desperate for Al and Sap to go. But I don't want one of them kept only because the front office is didn't bother really finding out what Kanter and Favors can do. I want one of them kept because the front office clearly sees what Kanter and Favors can do and that guy just fits well. There's a difference.