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Enes Kanter is likely to make NBA History

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Taking a look at the actual prospect of having Kanter do something that's never been done before

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a Utah Jazz fan you probably have a bunch of answers for this, but here goes nothing. "Why can't Enes Kanter be offensively paired with Derrick Favors or Rudy Gobert?" Well, some will look at his court vision, or lack of assists and suggest that is a stumbling block. Others will suggest that his back to the basket game is better suited on a slow down team, like the one Trey Burke seems to be capable of running. However, most will suggest that it's his area of operations on offense, and that he's not as stretch-y a big as some others in the NBA right now. And I get that, offensively he doesn't have the same stroke as Ryan Anderson. But by the same token, very few bigs today even have the bevy of post moves that Kanter has.

Kanter's camp have pointed to opportunity and development as reasons to be unhappy. I believe them. But even though Kanter appears behind the curve, he may still end up making NBA History. How? He's going to end up being the first bigman (6'10 and up) who becomes a legit three point threat / floor spacer, despite shooting fewer than five total three point attempts in his first three years in the league.

And I mean it. What Kanter is being asked to do by Quin Snyder is 100% unprecedented. There have been 52 different NBA players in league history who are 6'10 and above bigmen who have played between 3,000 to 5,000 minutes in their first three seasons combined -- and ZERO of them have gone on to become serious deep threats.

Just looking at the names on this list hardly ANY of them stand out as three point shooters. In fact only 6 of the 52 players here have even MADE a three in their first three seasons in the league (Nimphius, Acres, Potapenko, Doleac, Curry, and Kanter). The rest have all tried and failed (save for Pekovic, Plumlee, Boone, Rasmussen, Bowie, S.Johnson, and Donaldson). This is not a three point shooting stock -- save for Kanter who was touted predraft as having the ability to face up and make jumpers.

It's interesting, but none of my business, that over his first three years in the league he attempted only 3 threes. So in addition to just numerically being behind and being forced to "catch up" in his fourth season, he's asked to take a new subject in school he's never had before.

"Oh, hey, I know you missed a lot of class in your first three years of high school, and you're a senior now, so let's also make sure that you can take, and pass, this AP level class in something you've never taken before! Cool? Good. If you fail, the fans will turn their backs on you. Oh, and sign my year book?"

- VP of player development and school cheer, probably.

It really is unprecedented what Kanter is being asked, and tasked, to do.

GROUP A:

Four players in this group actually begin to hit threes. Corzine tops off at 18.87%, Sam Bowie ends up hitting 30.19%, Rasmussen is at 25.71%, and Koncak at 22.62% when all is said and done. Bowie looks legit, as he had to change his game, as injuries caught up to him. Only two players had 3PTA / FGA ratios of over 2%, Bowie (2.25% of his FGA were threes), and Koncak (2.73%). These are not big values at all though, and at the end of the day only Bowie averaged anything in attempts per game, and it's only 0.21 threes attempted per game. No one else did much..

GROUP B:

Group B is also a group where only four players are worth talking about from deep: Manute Bol (20.98 3PT%), Joe Kleine (27.08%), John Salley (21.43%), and Mark Acres (53.85%). None of them shoot a lot of threes, or have a large percentage of their shots be from deep save for Bol. Bol had a 3PTA / FGA ratio of 12.54% (HOW?); furthermore, he attempted 0.33 threes a game. I triple checked these numbers. Then I shut my computer down, restarted it, reloaded the page, and got the same result. I left the house, took a drive, ran some errands, and then felt comfortable enough to put that down here in this blog post.

Acres did go 7/13 over his career, but his career was more than 30 games, it was nearly 400, so this may be a talent, but under expressed to be notable.

GROUP C:

Only two players come close to averaging 20.0 3PT%, that's Potapenko (1/6 over his career, for 16.67%), and Allen (3/16, or 18.75%). None of these guys are big three point shooters, so there's no need to look over this group anymore.

GROUP D:

None of these players come close to averaging 20.0 3PT%, but Johan Petro (2/13, 15.38%) comes close. Eddy Curry did go 2/2, but over 13,109 regular season minutes, two threes doesn't a threat make. Two heart attacks though? Yeah, get that checked out Eddy. Petro isn't taking a lot of threes either, he averages 0.03 threes per game, and 0.61% of his FGA are from deep. Group D, like C, is a dud.

GROUP E:

There are two players here who have made a three in their NBA careers, total. So in this regard it's the worst overall group. But the two guys have 3PT% averages of 20.00% (JaVale McGee, 1/5), and 31.82% (Enes Kanter, 14/44). You kind of have to eliminate JaVale here because it's only 5 shots, ever.

Leaving the Group Phase:

I only grouped the players like that (based on chronological rookie year) for ease of data collection. There's no benefit to keep the group format where only one or two players from each group are worthy of deeper investigation.

Only one of these cats made a three in their cumulative first three years in the league -- Kanter (1/3); he rest went 0/11.

Player G Min MPG 3PTM 3PTA 3PT% FGA 3PTA/FGA 3PTA/G 3PTA/ 30 MIN
1 Enes Kanter 265 5,416 20.44 14 44 31.82% 2050 2.15% 0.17 0.24
2 Sam Bowie 511 14,098 27.59 32 106 30.19% 4702 2.25% 0.21 0.23
3 Joe Kleine 965 14,712 15.25 13 48 27.08% 4201 1.14% 0.05 0.10
4 Blair Rasmussen 532 11,409 21.45 9 35 25.71% 4767 0.73% 0.07 0.09
5 Jon Koncak 784 16,409 20.93 19 84 22.62% 3073 2.73% 0.11 0.15
6 Manute Bol 624 11,698 18.75 43 205 20.98% 1635 12.54% 0.33 0.53
7 Dave Corzine 891 20,772 23.31 10 53 18.87% 6401 0.83% 0.06 0.08

And out of this group, Kanter looks the best -- even if Manute took a lot more proportion of his shots as threes. And Kanter is only going to get better. These are his numbers with 1/4th (in some cases) the careers as these guys. With Quin Snyder he's playing for a coach who wants and encourages him taking this shot. And with his own idea of playing offensively with the ball with his back or front to the basket, it's clear that expanding his range is something he has on his mind.

Kanter is going to be a more dangerous weapon because he is assimilating the three point shot into his arsenal. It's a little bit late, he's playing catch-up, but when his career is over he will have made NBA history as the ONLY guy to go from not shooting more than 5 threes as a bigman to being a guy who can spread the floor.

Will this make Kanter someone who you can pair up with Favors or Gobert? Perhaps. Kanter's main benefit to any team is an an offensive finisher (hence, less passing, more shooting). He's the designated hitter in baseball. Some of them make a lot of money. If Enes can hit the long ball with any regularity he will get paid. And I predict that he'll do just that.

Guys like Bol were an anomaly, and perhaps Bowie was the template of a big man who can bang, get rebounds, and learn to hit the three. Guys like Bill Laimbeer, Mehmet Okur and other "legit" stretch bigs started their careers taking this shot. Enes was "coached" not to by Tyrone Corbin. But not even Corbin can prevent the inevitable -- and that's Kanter making NBA history.