Salt City Hoops » Enes Kanter http://saltcityhoops.com The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Wed, 17 Sep 2014 19:09:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops no The ESPN TrueHoop Utah Jazz Site Salt City Hoops » Enes Kanter http://saltcityhoops.com/wp-content/plugins/powerpress/rss_default.jpg http://saltcityhoops.com/category/players/enes-kanter/ Utah Jazz Frontcourt: Three-Headed Monster? http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-frontcourt-three-headed-monster/ http://saltcityhoops.com/utah-jazz-frontcourt-three-headed-monster/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 18:25:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12848 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Between FIBA and summer league play, August pieces written by local and national media alike, and even gushing podcast segments, it’s been a Gobert love-fest this offseason. Shoot, there hasn’t been this much ado about Rudy since 1993. But with international play all wrapped up and September flying by, the hype factor slowly beings to taper off into reality – the next on-court action we’ll see from the towering Frenchman, along with the rest of his Jazz teammates, will be at training camp and, before you know it, the start of the preseason.

The questions as he once again steps onto an NBA court will be twofold, and one will be dependent on the other:

1. Can Gobert develop his offensive game to a point where lineups featuring him can hold their own on that end, particularly while next to Derrick Favors?

2. If so, what does this mean for the future of Enes Kanter – and/or how might Kanter fit in the picture?

As far as the first question goes, they’ll be hoping for short memories, as Charles would say. With the necessary caveats surrounding small sample size, Gobert’s time on the court saw an already bland offense crater spectacularly. A squad that was already just outside the league’s bottom five in per-possession scoring posted an ugly 95.3 points-per-100, over a full point lower than Philadelphia’s league-worst mark, per NBA.com. These figures were even worse (though on an even smaller sample) when he was paired with either Favors (82.0) or Kanter (88.4).

There’s cause for optimism, however. For one, all this Gobert gushing is happening for a reason – he appears to have improved, perhaps somewhat drastically. Favors and Kanter are both at a point on their developmental curve where they’ll be expected to have done the same to some degree. And my writing it ad nauseam doesn’t make it any less true: the new coaching staff will be expected to leave their own imprint on personnel across the board.

Speaking more generally, precedent exists for a successful frontcourt even if development stalls for one or more of the potential pieces involved, including the spatially-challenged Favors-Gobert unit.

Compare them, for instance, with one of the league’s top offenses in San Antonio. Gobert, like typical Spurs starter Tiago Splitter, is mostly ignored by opposing defenders outside the paint. The two combined attempted just 15 shots from beyond 10 feet all last season – 14 by Splitter, who also played about triple Gobert’s minutes. Meanwhile, Tim Duncan is a better midrange shooter than Favors both in perception and reality, but perhaps the latter gap isn’t quite as large as the former would indicate. The two shot nearly identical percentages between eight and 16 feet from the hoop (37.7 percent for Duncan, 37.6 percent for Favors) last year. Duncan had a big advantage from beyond 16 feet, but team context plays a role here; where Favors drew assists on 66.7 percent of his makes from this distance, Duncan did so 95.5 percent of the time. We see that San Antonio’s vastly superior talent and comfort within their system led to Duncan almost never being forced to create these shots for himself, with Favors far more often required to do so. This jives with SportVU data tabulated by my Nylon Calculus colleagues Darryl Blackport and Krishna Narsu, which shows that Duncan took 37.5 percent of his total shots while “uncontested” (no defender within four feet) while Favors took just 24.5 percent of his under the same circumstances. The spacing and team construct was just so different, and this certainly played some role.

Obviously, the Spurs are on a whole other planet, one this Jazz core may never even get within eyesight of. Numerous advantages in nearly every other aspect of NBA basketball of course play a large part in their ability to keep a Duncan-Splitter frontcourt viable offensively where Utah failed to do so with their own. But like several other aspects of the Jazz franchise moving forward, San Antonio has laid out the blueprint. Common sets like Horns, detailed in the video below on a team-by-team basis by Coach Nick of bballbreakdown.com, and the specific variations used by Gregg Popovich are among the simplest starting points:

If we’re being fair, some of this may end up being a bit thin. Favors and Gobert are likely to struggle offensively as a pairing, perhaps mightily so, unless one or the other undergoes a shooting renaissance that seems highly unlikely. Heck, the Duncan-Splitter duo, while far more effective than Utah’s frontcourt to be sure, was still among the least productive of San Antonio’s high-volume two-man units, and Pop wasn’t shy about mixing things up to inject more spacing when necessary.

This is where Kanter remains an intriguing piece of the puzzle. Should the change of coaching scenery and another offseason of work be enough to propel him from awful to simply below-average defensively, his abilities as a midrange shooter and low post operator could be surprisingly complementary while Favors or Gobert run more pick-and-roll action.

In truth, a Favors-Kanter-Gobert three-headed monster frontcourt may be nothing more than a pipe dream. Any major tangible improvement from Kanter before his expected RFA summer could easily push his perceived value around the league even further beyond what the Jazz would be comfortable paying him, and Gobert comes in at a far cheaper tag and in a situation they control for longer (he’s also just as large of an offensive question mark as Kanter is a defensive one, if not more so). And don’t forget, Utah is widely expected to score another solid lottery pick in the 2015 Draft – one that, at least for now, appears to contain at least three or four highly-touted prospects at the big positions. For all of Dan’s talk (and my repetition) of consolidating assets, the opportunity to pick a name like Jahlil Okafor or Karl Towns might be too good to pass up, particularly if one of the three incumbents isn’t pulling their weight.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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How Ready is Rudy Gobert? http://saltcityhoops.com/how-ready-is-rudy-gobert/ http://saltcityhoops.com/how-ready-is-rudy-gobert/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:52:24 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12468 Author information
Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Could Rudy Gobert really be about to lap Enes Kanter, as SCH's founder predicted? (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

Could Rudy Gobert really be about to lap Enes Kanter, as SCH’s founder predicted? (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

If you like bold predictions, then the recent throwback installment of the Salt City Hoops podcast is right up your alley.

Among other gutsy calls, SCH founder Spencer Hall said he expects Rudy Gobert to play his way past teammate Enes Kanter on the Jazz’s depth chart during this upcoming season. There’s no dearth of excitement about Gobert’s tools and talent, but Spencer’s specific boldness seemed unprecedented enough to invite a conversation.

Could Gobert be ready to leapfrog his friend and go from fringe rotation player to major minute guy? What would it take? Today, we read the tea leaves relative to the battle for big man minutes.

Why it could happen

At first blush, you see things to make you think Spencer’s not that crazy. Several of Gobert’s numbers are closer to Kanter’s than you might think: they both shoot 49% from the field, and in terms of total value, Gobert adds .045 WS per 48 to Kanter’s .050. They certainly add that value in different ways, but viewed at the broadest possible level, you realize Gobert is already close in terms of per-minute value.

Gobert is already an elite rebounder, with the 7th highest total rebound percentage of any player with at least 100 minutes. His block percentage is amazing, too: 7.4% of what opponents put up while Rudy is on the floor gets sent back by the big guy. That number is second only to Cole Aldrich. Rebounds and blocks are two numbers that generally hold up OK on a per-minute basis when playing time is increased.

If Gobert works his way ahead of Kanter in the short term, it will likely be because of his defense. It’s hard to find a statistically significant category where Gobert isn’t much better defensively. He gets baited into more shooting fouls, but that’s to be expected from a rim protector.

What held Gobert back on that end was defensive understanding. Too often he freestyled, jumping out of system to do what he thought was the right thing, and leaving four teammates out on a limb. But I’m encouraged by what we saw on the court and what he said off of it in his time at the Las Vegas Summer League. Getting him to understand team defense and be in the right places appears to be a focal point. When he’s tuned in, he can absolutely dictate what’s going to happen on the defensive end for long stretches, and not a lot of players can do that.

Gobert’s defensive FG% at the rim was 10 percentage points better than Kanter’s and the best on the team. In fact, he was 8th in the league in that stat among players who defended at least one such play per game in at least 40 games last season. That tells us that, if the discipline is there, he might not be far from being an elite defensive player already.

Top 10 rim defenders w/ at least 40 GP and 1 rim FGA defended per game. Source: stats.nba.com

Top 10 rim defenders w/ at least 40 GP and 1 rim FGA defended per game. Source: stats.nba.com

 

Why he might not be there yet

While their shooting numbers overall are closer than one might expect, the composition of Gobert’s offensive game is very different from Kanter’s. The latter is an able mid-range threat, with healthy portions of his used possessions coming at that range, and with pretty good results for a big man. Not so with Gobert.

A whopping 99% of Gobert’s attempts — and literally all of his points from the field — came from inside 10 feet. Even in the 3-10 foot category, Gobert hit just 13% of his shots, so we’re basically talking about a guy who’s not an offensive weapon if he’s not within arm’s reach of the hoop. And while his Summer League performance was encouraging in overall terms, it wasn’t a departure from this script. Of his 19 Summer League field goals, 18 were in the immediate basket area — the other a short jumper created off a teammate’s drive.

There’s something to be said for knowing who you are, and the fact that nearly 80% of his attempts come around the rim shows that Gobert understands his limitations. But it’s hard to play 4-on-5 on offense, and unless Gobert is sitting on the rim, that’s essentially what the Jazz have to do with him out there. The sub-.500 free throw shooting doesn’t help things much.

Passing is another area where Gobert is wanting. He had a total of just seven assists last season — all season!  It doesn’t look good even on a per-minute basis; if Gobert played 24 minutes per game, he’d have an assist about every third game. And it’s not just assists – he doesn’t pass a lot, period. According to the NBA’s player tracking, he had fewer passes per minute played than any other Jazz player (although Kanter was close).

 

What he’d have to improve to move up on the depth chart 

More than anything, Gobert has to address his free throw shooting if he’s going to spend 20+ minutes per night on the court. You can’t shoot 49% from the line and be on the court in any kind of pressure situations.

There’s a chance that in improving his technique relative to free throws, he might even develop a nice touch for short jumpers. If so, that’s gravy. He doesn’t necessarily need that; you can play big minutes in the middle for a good team even if your offensive range is limited. But any improvements in his offensive ability would help justify his minutes enough to unleash the havoc of his defense on other teams.

He also needs to get better at effectively and legally screening. Especially since he’s already a less-than-ideal P&R partner given that he can’t pop off the pick, it is extremely important that he not further diminish his effectiveness on the screen with offensive fouls or bad positioning.

And, as mentioned, he must improve as a ball mover. I wish we had player tracking from Vegas to see if he’s understanding and embracing Quin Snyder’s hot potato ideology. He and Kanter were the only Jazz men last year to pass the ball less than once per minute played. Again, seven assists in a season is just not enough.

 

But for now… it’s Kanter’s to lose

Gobert has a lot going for him, especially in terms of physical tools. But for now, I think Kanter has the inside lane on this one. In terms of skill areas, Kanter is far enough ahead that I think he really controls his own fate. If he does the little things, the things that require focus and discipline, I can’t imagine him surrendering too many rotation minutes to Gobert of anybody else.

Put another way: it’s easier for a highly skilled player to improve overnight in terms of effort and energy than for a raw player to improve overnight in terms of skill.

Of course, this isn’t about pitting players against one another, and the Jazz would do well to help both Kanter and Gobert realize their full potential. And either way this particular discussion turns out, the Jazz should gain from a developmental standpoint. If Gobert does indeed lap Kanter, it means he has developed enough offensively and figured out how to channel his unique, elite defensive abilities. If he doesn’t, it means Kanter has improved his focus and habits, and is doing the little things it takes to win.

When you win 25 games, nobody’s job is guaranteed, so I’m sure everybody will have to come to camp ready to earn things. But as of today, I think Kanter is penciled pretty heavily into that second big slot.

Author information

Dan Clayton
Dan Clayton
Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City where his hobbies include complaining about League Pass, finding good doughnut shops and dishing out assists for the Thoreau It Down team in the Word Bookstore basketball league.
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Enes Kanter Freelance Friday Roundtable http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-freelance-friday-roundtable/ http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-freelance-friday-roundtable/#comments Fri, 08 Aug 2014 20:37:52 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=12501 Author information
Freelance Friday
Freelance Friday
The post above is one of our Freelance Friday posts, giving those from the Jazz community as a whole a chance to contribute to Salt City Hoops.
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(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

Editor’s note: This Freelance Friday, we had 3 different submissions focusing on Utah Jazz center Enes Kanter. As a result, I decided that the best way to include all 3 point of views was a roundtable of the best parts of all 3 articles. The first submission is from Paul Kelson, who didn’t submit a bio, but I’m sure he’s a great person with many important accomplishments on his resume. 

Enes Kanter and the Summer of No Extension – Paul Kelson

This summer would appear to be the watershed moment of Kanter’s career.  As a member of the 2011 NBA draft, Kanter is eligible for an extension (along with teammate Alec Burks).  This is a very precarious situation the Jazz find themselves in: they can try to lock Kanter up to an extension that pays him anywhere from $8-12 million—which is an overpay if you only factor in on-court production—or they could demur and for a second straight year allow a former lottery pick hit free agency, allowing some enterprising team to sign him to an offer sheet that could pay him as much as $15+ million a year[1].  That $8-12 million dollar range is certainly optimistic—depending upon whose camp you’re in—but Kanter would likely turn down anything lower than that.  Let’s look at things from both sides.

The case for an extension this summer: he’s only 22 years old, and has spent most of his career playing as the fourth big, until last year when he played on a team whose offensive spacing was so bad opposing defenses had no qualms about throwing double teams at him.  Also, the Jazz just last year could not come to terms with Gordon Hayward on an extension, then had to match a max offer.  In an effort to avoid that circus again, the Jazz could very well be willing to give Kanter a non-max extension and hope that he lives up to his potential.

The case against an extension: Kanter’s game features an unreliable jump-shot, he’s not a rim protector, and has sub-average athleticism.  He’s a mediocre finisher (shooting 56% in the restricted area), and his shot charts show his preference for working the post on the right side of the floor (40/86, 47% shooting) over the left (15/48, 31%).  Kanter could struggle to get more than 25 minutes a night on a team with Derrick Favors, Trevor Booker, Jeremy Evans, and Rudy Gobert as bigs.

Consider how free agency is treating the power forwards from the 2010 class: Ed Davis, a young and exciting player who has spent most of his career playing back-up for more-established big men, signed a 2 year/$2 million contract with the Lakers.  Patrick Patterson got $18 million over 3 years from the Raptors.  Trevor Booker’s contract with the Jazz pays him about $5 million a year.  Players like Ekpe Udoh (a good defensive player who struggles—to put it kindly—on offense) and Greg Monroe (who, with his passing and offensive ability, could be described as a rich man’s Enes Kanter) still sit out there unsigned.  Teams are unwilling to pay big money for a big man who either cannot spread the floor or cannot protect the rim, and Enes Kanter, as he is right now, cannot do either of those things.  The Jazz could easily look at this year’s free agency market and decide to shut down extension talks with Kanter, opting to let him hit the free market and hope to bring him back at something closer to $6 million a year or less.

And it might behoove Kanter to sit on the extension talks for this season as well: again, he will be 23 next offseason, and will have spent a full season playing in an offensive system that values crisp ball movement and offensive spacing.  Coach Quin Snyder, who comes over from Atlanta (a team that could regularly put five guys on the floor with three-point range) will definitely attempt to convert Kanter into a stretch four who can hit from the corners.  If Kanter can demonstrate next season his ability to flush the three pointer (or at least the potential to do so) his value on the open market will skyrocket, considering that Marvin Williams got $7 million per year from Charlotte to play the stretch four despite being a dumpster-fire defensively, or that the Clippers inked Spencer Hawes to a 4 year, $23 million contract to be their third big man.

In the end, it doesn’t make a lot of sense for either side to agree to an extension this summer: Kanter is too raw and unknown for the Jazz to commit too much money to him with the raises for Hayward, Favors, and (potentially) Burks about to kick in and raises for Burke, Gobert, and Exum looming on the horizon, and Kanter has too high a ceiling to accept anything that might be considered a bargain—now, or in the future.  They might meet and exchange a few numbers, but both sides have too much money at stake to risk making a fatal mistake this summer.

This next submission is from Nicholas Walker. Nick is double majoring in Philosophy and Anthropology and working as a writing tutor at Cal State Fullerton.  He only recently started following the Jazz, drawn in by their struggles but also their small market charm and hope for the future.

Overvalued Bigs – Nicholas Walker

Among writers and league sources alike, there seems to be general consensus Kanter will be due a salary in the $10-12 million range.  While many might brush this aside as business as usual, I would assert that is an overpay for Kanter and his production with the Jazz and indicative of a larger systemic overvaluing of bigs in the NBA. For purposes of clarification, I am not referring to star big men like Blake Griffin, Al Jefferson, or Chris Bosh. Instead, I am referring to the NBA’s 2nd or 3rd class of big men where a production per million evaluation has largely been ignored.

Obvious bad contracts aside such as Bynum’s most recent, Biedrins’ contract we took on, and Kwame Brown’s multiple bad contracts over his career, there are number of more insidious, forgotten contracts of big men in NBA history.  One recent case is that of Chris Kaman, who was making as much as $14 million in 2011, and despite underwhelming on that contract, was able to get $8 million from the Mavericks in 2012.  What earned him that money?  Scoring that always seemed to hover around the 10-12 range (only once reaching 18.1 in 2009), average rebounding numbers (7.9 RPG career average), and missing lots of games due to injury. Mark Blount was given 8.5 million in 2008 despite having only one productive year, being waived by multiple teams, and only playing as a backup/rotation big the majority of his career.  After the 2004-2005 season, Jerome James was given a 5 year, 30 million contract for one year of playoff success, even though he never averaged 20 mpg or more, and his career scoring year was 5.4 PPG in 2002.  I could go on, but these examples serve as a good snapshot for the inflated market for bigs.

How these previous contracts relate is not necessarily in similar basketball skills, but rather the thinking that motivates these paydays; what unites them is the use of speculation and hypotheticals in projecting future production. If you don’t have the franchise savior type, you’re probably better off letting another team overpay the center coming off the rookie contract.

Our final contribution is from David Bennett. Originally from Richfield, Utah, David recently graduated from BYU with a masters degree in accounting. He and his wife will be moving to New York City this fall and are expecting their first child in September. 

Enes Kanter: Stretch Four? – David Bennett

Enes Kanter has attempted three three-pointers in his three NBA seasons, exactly one three-pointer each season of his brief NBA career. This being said, if you look at his shot charts below per NBA.com, he is actually a league average or above mid-range shooter.

kantershotchart1  kantershotchart2

The second chart shows all of Kanter’s shots from the past season. Notice the large cluster of makes in the left corner that are a step or two in front of the three-point line. This evidence leads me to believe that in the 2014-15 season, Enes Kanter will become a stretch four for the Utah Jazz. Why? Two reasons:

  • If Enes can’t develop into a stretch four, he won’t be able to co-exist with Derrick Favors in Coach Snyder’s system. Every Jazz fan has heard the buzzwords floating around this offseason: “positionless basketball”, and “playing with the pass”. Floor spacing is essential in a system like this. Without a big who is a threat from deep, it will be difficult for Burke, Exum, and Burks to get the space they need to get to the rim.
  • Coach Q has developed stretch fours before. As Zach Lowe mentioned in his article, “Paul Millsap is further proof that at least some power forwards with solid midrange strokes can remake themselves into 3-point threats with hard work and the right coaching.” Similar to Enes, Paul’s career attempts were almost nonexistent before his move to Atlanta. In Millsap’s first three seasons in Utah, he attempted only 11 three-pointers (making only 2). In his seven total seasons in Utah, he only attempted 113 total three-pointers. Last season in Atlanta, Paul attempted 212 three-pointers. Millsap credits Snyder for the change in his game, saying “He’s helped me a lot on my game… The spacing, the ball movement, the confidence that you can shoot the basketball when you’re open, that has opened up my game a lot.”

Thanks again to our Freelance Friday contributors. If you’d like to submit something for the next Freelance Friday, email your work to saltcityhoops@gmail.com.

Author information

Freelance Friday
Freelance Friday
The post above is one of our Freelance Friday posts, giving those from the Jazz community as a whole a chance to contribute to Salt City Hoops.
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The Favors-Kanter Pairing Revisited http://saltcityhoops.com/the-favors-kanter-pairing-revisited/ http://saltcityhoops.com/the-favors-kanter-pairing-revisited/#comments Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:34:07 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10874 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

As a long season winds down in Salt Lake City, we begin the transition to the offseason – both a look back at the results from the year that was, and a look forward to the future.  In this year’s case, there will be somewhat more of the latter and less of the former than would typically be expected in Utah – we’ve had a pretty good idea what this year’s team was for quite a while now, and a look to the near and distant future will certainly make for more intrigue and fascination.

Falling somewhere between the two categories, as many elements of Utah’s offseason evaluation surely will given their personnel, is the issue of the Derrick Favors-Enes Kanter pairing in the frontcourt.  It’s an issue I’ve tackled already this year, when I identified the struggles the pair were having on the court together as one of the more serious and worrisome issues going forward for a franchise surely banking on these two top-five picks to be a longtime frontcourt foundation.  But that was nearly two months ago, and the issue is certainly worth revisiting as we approach year’s end.  Coach Ty Corbin, whether having heard the pleas of many to get the duo more time together in what amounted to a lame duck season or simply having decided to do so on his own, has showcased Favors and Kanter for slightly longer periods as the year has gone on, so there’s certainly a large enough sample to work with as well.

Put simply, some things have changed since then, but many (including much of the overall picture) have stayed the same.  Offensively, in a trend that had begun to develop even before my previous piece in late January, the two have found their footing to a small degree.  Well, let’s put that more accurately: Favors has found his footing and then some, while Kanter has actually somewhat regressed offensively.

While Enes has continued to use a very similar portion of possessions while the two share the court, his efficiency has dropped across the board, most notably a large decline in shooting.  His mid-range game has fallen off at a remarkably alarming rate – his percentage on shots from 16 feet out or further has gone from 48.4% to a morbid 17.6% in the last two months with Favors also on the court, though he continues to shoot them just as often.  He’s forcing up any partially open jumper available to him, and though they’re shots he’s capable of making, he’s shown very little situational selectivity – just because you can make a shot doesn’t make it a good shot, especially if there are other options available.  Watch here, and note the time on the shot clock:

There are big men in this league with with a deserved license to take this look with 12 seconds on the shot clock anytime it’s available; Enes Kanter is not yet one of them.

Favors, on the other hand, has taken a big dip in usage over the last two months when the two share the court, but this has been accompanied by an equally large jump in offensive efficiency.  He’s shooting the ball much more effectively, particularly from close to the hoop – he’s reversed an ugly sub-60% rate from within three feet of the basket to a more acceptable (for his position) 73.9% since mid-January, a pretty huge increase for a guy who takes over 40% of his attempts from this range.  His mid-range game remains spotty, but it’s still a big improvement on previous seasons and is at least enough to warrant a small amount of attention from defenders.  Meanwhile, he remains a beast out of the pick-and-roll, in the league’s top 25 for per-possession efficiency, per Synergy Sports, and continues to hone an increasingly polished post game.

The overall result is, as I mentioned above, a departure from the sub-league-cellar numbers the pair were putting up earlier in the year, but not by too much.  Favors’ improvement is a positive, though, and Kanter certainly won’t continue to hit under 20% of his longer range jumpers while they play together – of the two areas, the duo has certainly progressed more on offense.

Of course, that could also be because they haven’t progressed at all on defense.  They’ve hardly budged an inch from their per-possession defensive numbers since my initial assessment in January, numbers that would rank them even lower than the league-worst figure the Jazz and Bucks currently share.  Like on offense, though, the way they’ve gone about things has changed a bit, though many of the larger themes remain the same.

For starters, lineups with the two on the floor together continue to allow opponents remarkably high shooting percentages, including a nearly 50% figure overall from the floor that has remained relatively constant throughout the year.  They’ve started defending medium mid-range shots more effectively, bringing their field-goal percentage against on looks between 10 and 15 feet down from well over 50% to a more manageable 44.2% the last two months.  Unfortunately, they’ve allowed an unfavorable trade-off here – the percentage they allow from between four and nine feet has simultaneously risen nearly seven percent, and these shots are not only easier to make but also represent a far larger portion of total opponent field-goal attempts.  They’ve also forced less turnovers than what was already a very low rate to begin with – in a general sense, the pair continues to appear to be too slow and laborious as a frontcourt defensive duo, one unable to prevent any decent opponent from creating spacing and good looks, and without the trickiness to make up for it by generating lots of turnovers.

But even more concerning, perhaps, has been the lackluster way the Jazz have rebounded with the two sharing the court.  A problem earlier in the year that’s only gotten worse in recent months, these lineups are among the worst groups of any high-minute twosome on the team.  They were already in the bottom half here before it, but since my first piece on January 22nd, of 28 two-man units that have logged at least 150 minutes for the Jazz, the Favors-Kanter unit ranks 27th, or second-last, in percentage of total rebounds collected:

The reasons have ranged from mental lapses to flat-out laziness at times, but the results are simply not good enough from a duo many expected to be a premier rebounding force within the league.  Given some of their other limitations, the pair simply has no chance as an effective defensive frontcourt going forward if they continue to anchor such subpar rebounding units.

Overall, there continue to be a ton of question marks and worries surrounding the presumed big tandem of the future.  Far from the least of these is the simple fact that, regardless of which period of time you examine within the season, both players have performed significantly better while the other sits on the bench.  Kanter remains the larger culprit of the two from a big-picture standpoint, particularly in terms of his wobbly offensive play of late, but Favors is far from blameless.

And just as it was a couple months ago, this remains a big issue for the Jazz going forward.  The front office would certainly have hoped for many more questions surrounding the pair, and particularly Kanter, to have been answered by the end of this year, but they may not entirely get their wish as the Jazz play a slate of relatively meaningless games to close the year.  Properly evaluating this will be one of many difficult tasks ahead for Dennis Lindsey and crew this summer during an offseason that could prove to be a pivotal one for the next half-decade of Jazz basketball.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Enes Kanter Vs. The World http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-vs-the-world/ http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-vs-the-world/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 19:14:19 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=10379 Author information
Dakota Schmidt
A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.
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AP Photo/Jim Urquhart

AP Photo/Jim Urquhart

On the eve of the 2013-14 season,  the Utah Jazz brass were cautiously expecting the duo of Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors to be the team’s frontcourt catalysts for the next decade. As we reach the unofficial start to the 2nd half of the season and near Thursday’s deadline,  the time may be right to take a glance at the progress of the more controversial part of that duo: Enes Kanter.

In his third season in the NBA, Turkish forward Enes Kanter was expected to be the offensive powerhouse next to the defensive-minded Derrick Favors. While Favors has been a solid figure on the rebuilding Jazz squad, Kanter has been an extremely inconsistent player who’s struggled to find a solid place in the rotation. After being etched as the starter during the early stages of the season, Kanter has basically been demoted to the team’s first front-court bench option.

As we near the unofficial start to the 2nd half of the season,  and Thursday’s trade deadline, we’re going to try to judge Kanter’s overall on-court impact. In a similar mold to my previous piece on point guard Trey Burke, I’ve compiled a handful of graphs consisting of front-court players who’ve been drafted in the first part of the 1st round since the 2008 draft. From Kevin Love to John Henson, Kanter will be compared to the best young frontcourt players in the NBA.  By utilizing advanced numbers from Synergy and NBA’s stats site, I’ve made sure that these players are currently active (apologies to Brook Lopez) and who have at least averaged 25 minutes per game. Despite his current reserve role, Kanter fits those credentials by averaging 25 minutes per game.

Offense

OPP Chart (2)

Usage Rating (Bigs)
As a means to judge a player’s overall offensive performance, it’s important to look at both Offensive Points Per Possession (OPPP) and Usage Rating. For example, Sacramento big DeMarcus Cousins is the most utilized player on this list (and in the NBA) but isn’t the most efficient offensive weapon. While that definitely doesn’t hinder Cousins’ overall impact on Sacramento, being tasked as undoubtedly been the team’s top option which could lower the overall efficiency because of how often he’s used on the court.

While his low OPPP could be looked at in the same way as Cousins, Kanter’s limited offensive improvement is more worrisome. During last season, Kanter started to develop into a solid low-post option in a reserve role behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. From the depths of the paint, Kanter shot a solid 51%, a higher shooting percentage than the departed duo. As we’ve transitioned into the 2013-14 season, Kanter’s previously solid performance has taken a tumble down the Wasatch Range. During the up-and-down season, Kanter’s has shot a below-average 43% from inside the paint, a troubling sign for the 21 year old forward.

Rebounding
chart_1 (19) Another sign of Kanter’s steady decline during his 3rd season can be pointed at his lack of improvement as a rebounder. While it’s possible to see some sort of decline in per 36 or advanced stats as a player moves into a larger role, Kanter’s been on a steady decline since his rookie season. Between his rookie season (18.3 TRB%) and 2013-14 (14.0 TRB%), Kanter’s overall decline as an overall rebounder is pretty troubling.

Defense
DPP Chart
While the overall message of this piece has centered around Kanter’s steady decline in multiple facets of his game, his poor play on the defensive end over-cedes the aforementioned offensive and rebounding flaws. Was Enes Kanter expected to be the same defensive force as Derrick Favors? Absolutely not, but that shouldn’t excuse his awful play.

With his extremely high DPPP may come off as alarming, Kanter’s overall hesitance on the defensive end could be even worse. While Kanter has occasionally been able to utilize his solid 6’11 frame effectively, he’s still incredibly raw. As apparent from the above compilation, Kanter is consistently being pushed around by the opposing bigs in the low-post, strange for a player with his bulky frame. One of the biggest reasons for this could possibly be his stance in the low-post where he really doesn’t push off on the opponent, leading him to be pushed closer to the rim.

Conclusion

While this post mostly centered around how Kanter’s a step or two behind his young frontcourt counterparts, the 21 year old Jazz forward shouldn’t be considered the 2nd coming of Darko Milicic. While he’s in his 3rd season in the NBA, Kanter is still an incredibly raw, 21 year old prospect who didn’t play much in terms of actual organized ball besides a single season in high school and a limited role with Fenerbahce Ulker in Turkey. Even though his lack of improvement is a troubling sign, Kanter has shown flashes of being solid mixed with long stretches of mediocrity.

As an unabashed optimist, I’m still excited about what Kanter could possibly bring in the 2nd half despite his clear flaws. One of the more interesting and important parts of Kanter’s 2nd half will be his performance while next to Derrick Favors. In the 340 minutes where they’ve shared the court, the duo has a 143 point disadvantage on the opposition. Could that turn around in the 2nd half? Hopefully… because it can’t get much worse.

Author information

Dakota Schmidt
A Wisconsinite who spends way too much time watching mediocre basketball. Started to love the game as I watched the "Big 3" era of the Bucks in the early 2000's but was eventually raised on the teams lead by the likes of Michael Redd, Desmond Mason and Andrew Bogut. Those mediocre teams helped me grow an appreciation for the less than spectacular style of basketball which has lead me to different gigs with Queen City Hoops (Bobcats), Ridiculous Upside (D-League) and now Salt City Hoops.
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Can Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter Work Together? http://saltcityhoops.com/can-derrick-favors-and-enes-kanter-work-together/ http://saltcityhoops.com/can-derrick-favors-and-enes-kanter-work-together/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 23:00:20 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9992 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Building and maintaining a competitive NBA roster from year to year is a complex task. More often than most GM’s around the league would prefer, crises arise in some area of this process. These situations can come up for a multitude of reasons, from guys under (or over) performing to several impact players coming up for contract extensions in the same year or group of years. And more often than not, the theme of player development is somewhere in the equation, rearing its ugly and hard-to-predict head.

The Jazz now find themselves in exactly this type of quandary, and it becomes more serious with each passing game. Despite several rapidly improving areas and a general sense that this team is much better than its dismal record might indicate, Utah’s frontcourt foundation of the future, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, continues to be unable to share the floor together without disastrous results.

The problem starts and, unfortunately, mostly ends, with Kanter. While Favors has looked every bit like the $12 million a year player he will become next season, the young Turk has trended the opposite direction in his first year against starter-caliber competition, despite a recent run of semi-reasonable play. To the naked eye, he began the year well enough, starting Utah’s first 14 games alongside Favors and posting a respectable 14.1 points and 7.3 boards per game while shooting almost exactly 50%. But despite reasonable enough numbers, the trends began emerging nearly right away – through those 14 games where both started together, lineups featuring both big men gave up nearly 115 points-per-100 possessions and scored at just short of 94 points-per-100, a sickening discrepancy of over 20 points.

Coach Ty Corbin saw the carnage and reacted, a move that saw the Jazz climb out of a miserable hole and may have saved his job. He replaced Kanter in the starting lineup with Marvin Williams and has stuck with this general formatting for the most part, with the few exceptions (including last night in a miserable effort against the T-Wolves) mostly relating to injuries to Favors. And while, after a brief adjustment period, Kanter has performed at least decently against mostly bench units, there are still some alarming trends that raise serious questions about the future of the pairing.

First and foremost, of course, is the general idea that two top-five lottery picks from back to back years might simply not be a very good fit together on the court. Since Kanter’s first “bounce-back” game after being permanently removed from the starting lineup, Corbin has slowly started to try the pairing together for small sections at a time. There is one sliver of light when you look at this more recent sample, at least on offense: after scoring at a rate well below Milwaukee’s league-worst output up to that point, Favors and Kanter have annihilated the league offensively these last 14 games together, scoring a ridiculous 123.0 points-per-100. Small sample size, no doubt, but still a positive…until you consider the defense over these same two periods. A tandem that was already well below Utah’s own league-worst mark defensively, this more recent patch has seen them plummet to regions where you wonder if they might be better off just staying on the other end – Utah allows over 120 points-per-100 in this time period with both on the floor.

SportVU’s rim protection numbers shed some more light on the miserable defensive performance these two have put together. Favors is still allowing an unacceptable figure at the rim given his skill set (50.4%), something I’ve touched on more than once this year, and Kanter is even worse at 51.9%. It’s always going to be a struggle for Kanter in this area given his lack of bounce and foot speed, but a tough early-season fouling trend doomed his confidence almost from the start. Watch him here against Andrew Bogut, not exactly a world-beater off the dribble:

Scared into submission by a ton of contact fouls in situations like these at the start of the year, more and more of Kanter’s defended shots at the rim are fly-bys like this rather than solid, fundamental defense. He’s been wearing ice skates all year and continues to do so, and he’s so morbidly afraid of taking the foul that he offers token resistance for an easy layup. He has another unfortunate tendency, as well:

Getting the ball swiped isn’t what I mean, although it’s obviously not ideal. But his real mistake is just after, as he halfheartedly runs out to challenge the resulting Jamaal Crawford three to no avail. These kinds of plays are common for Kanter, and though his intentions and hustle are in the right place, he needs to get a bit more brainy in these spots – his challenge here does absolutely nothing to disturb Crawford’s shot, but also takes Kanter, a vital piece on the boards, completely out of rebounding position. Attacking shooters is fine when there’s a chance at disturbing a shot, but effort for effort’s sake can often be a sub-optimal play, and Kanter does far too much of this sort of thing.

But the rim might not even be the worst area for the pairing defensively. For the entire year, opponents are shooting a ridiculous 52.6% between 10-15 feet with the Favors-Kanter duo sharing the court – of 87 players attempting at least one shot from a very similar distance on NBA.com, there are only seven players who shoot better than that 52.6% mark. The combo is just too slow and inexperienced, and even a recent switch I documented from a primarily high-hedge pick-and-roll defense to a drop-back strategy hasn’t helped.

All this has to be worrying for the Jazz, who have already locked up Favors long term and will need to do the same with Kanter before tip-off next season to avoid letting him enter restricted free-agency in summer 2015. The harsh reality is that Utah will have to consider trading the Turk if he can’t find his way next to Favors and produce. His offensive skill set is valuable for a big in today’s league, and the Jazz could frame certain metrics that would seem to indicate that maybe the Favors-Kanter pairing is just a bad fit on defense, rather than Kanter himself just being bad. Throw in the fact that a team trading for him essentially has first right of refusal for the next five or six years of his services, and he could actually be quite a valuable piece to the right team. Of course, even considering this path will make Dennis Lindsey queasy; these are exactly the sorts of quandaries GM’s hate. Trading a top-five pick before his rookie deal expires isn’t unheard of, but it’s almost universally considered a big negative for any team doing so. Unfortunately, there’s enough concern that Utah now has to face this very real possibility.

These are the sorts of icky swamps any NBA GM will face from time to time, and how little mess they leave behind can often determine the fortunes of a franchise. The Jazz have some tough decisions to make in the upcoming year, and it starts with their frontcourt. Here’s hoping they choose wisely.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Talking Enes Kanter, Minute Distribution, and Player Development – Salt City Hoops Saturday Show http://saltcityhoops.com/talking-enes-kanter-minute-distribution-and-player-development-salt-city-hoops-saturday-show/ http://saltcityhoops.com/talking-enes-kanter-minute-distribution-and-player-development-salt-city-hoops-saturday-show/#comments Mon, 30 Dec 2013 07:25:37 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=9337 Author information
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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Enes Kanter, skying here, has done the opposite in 2013-14. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Enes Kanter, skying here, has done the opposite in 2013-14. Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

On this week’s edition of the Salt City Hoops Saturday Show, Andy Larsen, Dan Clayton, and Ben Gaines talk about important issues in the Jazz’s young season. the development of the young core. The team leads off by going into deep analysis about Enes Kanter. What’s different about how he’s playing compared to last season, and what can or should be done about it? Then, in the second segment, we look at the issue more generally: should young players on the Jazz be getting more minutes? Dan and Andy disagree here, and Ben adds in an interesting comparison to baseball development. This is all done with thrilling vocabulary and listener feedback via Twitter (By the way, you can follow the Saturday Show at @SCHSaturdayShow). How do young players develop best? All this and more on this week’s Saturday Show!

Author information

Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen
Andy Larsen is the Managing Editor of Salt City Hoops, the ESPN TrueHoop affiliate for the Utah Jazz. He also hosts a radio show and podcast every week on ESPN700 AM in Salt Lake City.
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http://saltcityhoops.com/talking-enes-kanter-minute-distribution-and-player-development-salt-city-hoops-saturday-show/feed/ 0 On this week's edition of the Salt City Hoops Saturday Show, Andy Larsen, Dan Clayton, and Ben Gaines talk about important issues in the Jazz's young season. the development of the young core. The team leads off by going into deep analysis about Enes K... On this week's edition of the Salt City Hoops Saturday Show, Andy Larsen, Dan Clayton, and Ben Gaines talk about important issues in the Jazz's young season. the development of the young core. The team leads off by going into deep analysis about Enes Kanter. What's different about how he's playing compared to last season, and what can or should be done about it? Then, in the second segment, we look at the issue more generally: should young players on the Jazz be getting more minutes? Dan and Andy disagree here, and Ben adds in an interesting comparison to baseball development. This is all done with thrilling vocabulary and listener feedback via Twitter (By the way, you can follow the Saturday Show at @SCHSaturdayShow). How do young players develop best? All this and more on this week's Saturday Show! Salt City Hoops no 47:08
Enes Kanter: Ahead of the Curve http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-ahead-of-the-curve/ http://saltcityhoops.com/enes-kanter-ahead-of-the-curve/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 19:29:39 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8339 Author information
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

Enes Kanter’s game, not to mention his dunk face, is ahead of schedule. Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images

While it’s been no secret to those in Salt Lake City, folks around the league are starting to take note of what we’ve known for some time: the Jazz are stacked with young talent.  Their usual dose of smart drafting coupled with a willingness to be bold on the trade market (nearly three years later, their return for Deron Williams is still the best package a team has received in recent years for a likely-departing superstar) has landed them a treasure trove of assets, and has done so without the bottoming-out process that frequently accompanies such a collection in today’s NBA.  Derrick Favors is locked up long-term, Alec Burks is already looking very impressive, and even project-pick Rudy Gobert is showing flashes of being ahead of the curve developmentally.

And while cautious optimism is surely the name of the game at this point, allow this hoops geek a moment or two of overdone hyperbole:  Enes Kanter is going to be awesome.  Like, really awesome.  I have him as not only the top prospect in Utah, but as one of the top prospects for his age in the entire NBA.

Those who read my dissection of the Favors extension on Monday may recall a brief look into the complexities of developing and evaluating young talent.  Expanding just a little on this, an obvious part of what makes this process so difficult is the amount of incomplete information teams are forced to work with.  Teams are expected to evaluate, with varying degrees of certainty, hundreds of different elements that could affect a player’s development – physical talent, basketball IQ, maturity, the list goes on.

Beyond just these basic assessments, though, lies a deeper concept that scouts are quick to point out: not all skills have equal value for developing players.  Over decades of experience, talent evaluators within the league have tracked a variety of trends that examine which types of skills are most likely to develop over time and with good coaching, as opposed to those that are often harder to learn and require a special sort of player to develop them.

While a true examination of this subject could be 1,500 words by itself, it’s this general theme that has nerds like myself so worked up over the young Kanter.  Not only does he project elite skills, he does so in areas where it’s extremely rare to see guys his age developing so quickly.  Let’s take a look.

Kanter is a huge plus in the effort category.  He’s engaged on every possession, both ends of the court, and you can see his true willingness to improve his game.  As Denim Millward points out in his excellent JazzRank piece on Kanter earlier this week, the guy has only been playing basketball for roughly seven years; the development he has made in such a relatively short period of time would seem to indicate a ridiculously high basketball IQ.

Simply put, Kanter possesses certain offensive skills that are so rare as to be nearly non-existent in today’s up-and-coming NBA talent pool.  It starts with his footwork (and remember I’m allowed some hyperbole here): Kanter’s footwork as a 21-year-old ranks right up there with the likes of greats at his position like Tim Duncan, Kevin McHale, and Hakeem Olajuwon when they were the same age.  He has well-oiled spins in both directions, pivoting off either foot.  His timing and feel for a defender’s presence, even with his back to the basket, are years ahead of his age.  His finishing abilities haven’t caught up just yet (more on this in a moment), but this is what I mean when I talk about rarity of skills; finishing at the basket is something young players frequently struggle with and often improve with age and practice, but this sort of transcendent footwork is something a large percentage of big men will never grasp for their entire careers.  With apologies for the low quality, look at this sublime drop-step to up-and-under action he pulls on multiple Laker defenders:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7K5CXtFKFGQ&autoplay=0&hd=1]

 

Before I get too excited here, it’s worth noting that his finishing issues warrant some improvement.  Of 47 qualified centers last season, Kanter was 34th in field-goal percentage at the rim, per Hoopdata.  This was despite an excellent ability to create looks at the basket (rarity of skills, again); his 7.2 attempts at the rim per 40 minutes are over double league average for centers and signify a problem in the execution, not the setup.  Die-hard Jazz fans will know what I’m talking about – Kanter is still too timid when he goes up for dunks and layups, especially after offensive rebounds.  Coaching and practice are likely to improve him in this area, and the rest of his game is polished enough that if he can even reach league-average as a finisher, he’s going to be scary with the ball in his hands.

A big part of this is his jump shot: in yet another area where young players (especially young bigs) typically struggle, Kanter is already well above average for centers league-wide.  Per Hoopdata, he was excellent among 47 qualified centers for three distance ranges from the hoop last season:  3-9 feet (50.0%, 5th among centers), 10-15 feet (46.4%, 11th), and 16-23 feet (44.0%, 8th).  These numbers place him in the company of elite jump-shooting bigs like Chris Bosh, Kevin Garnett and Al Horford.  This type of accuracy from distance combined with his raw strength and speed for his size forecasts a post game that could become insanely difficult to stop.  Check out Cole Aldrich trying to keep Kanter honest by preventing the jumper, only for Kanter to blow by him for a dunk:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spxBXGQVhto&autoplay=0&hd=1]

 

Like any young prospect, there are several areas Kanter could improve on.  Finishing at the hoop is one, and an across-the-board improvement on defense is likely another.  Like Favors, Kanter is still inexperienced against high level NBA offense, but he doesn’t quite possess Favors’ raw athleticism, so adjusting will be tougher for him.  He’s still very jumpy against pick-and-rolls and other actions meant to confuse; it almost seems like sometimes he’s trying too hard on defense and his body can’t keep up with his brain.  He’s prone to the “ice skates” look that’s common among young big men, often unable to control his momentum to the point where he finds himself out of position.  He also needs to make better decisions going over and under screens, as he frequently takes too long a path and gives up open looks.  But again, these are all areas where high-IQ players typically improve with age and practice, and Jazz fans should be confident that Kanter can at least reach league-average levels on defense, if not slightly above average.

And if he can indeed reach these levels, while also improving his finishing at the hoop as we discussed, opposing bigs better watch out.  He’s already well above average as a rebounder, especially on the offensive glass.  He has excellent instincts and hustle, and his timing and box-out angles are quite advanced for his age (what a surprise, right?).

In short, imagine if Al Jefferson could play defense at even an acceptable level – that’s how Enes Kanter projects, only with better rebounding skills and even more physicality and strength.  In a league with fewer and fewer real post-first bigs, Kanter could develop into the sort of weapon that can flummox opposing defenses with his variety of skills.  Couple this with Favors’ pick-and-roll potential (and both guys’ willingness and ability on defense), and the Jazz have found themselves a twin towers pairing that should strike fear in the hearts of teams around the league.

Author information

Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett
Ben Dowsett is a life-long Jazz fan and general sports fanatic based in Salt Lake City. He also writes for Nylon Calculus (Hardwood Paroxysm/Fansided Network), and can be heard on the airwaves for the SCH podcast and appearances with ESPN AM 700. With a strong background in both statistics and on-court fundemantals, he writes primarily as an in-depth strategic analyst. He can be found on Twitter at @Ben_Dowsett.
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JazzRank #3: Enes Kanter http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-3-enes-kanter/ http://saltcityhoops.com/jazzrank-3-enes-kanter/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 18:01:19 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8248 Author information
Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Photo courtesy of ESPN.com

Approximately seven years ago, I started a new job with an insurance company.  (I know this is quite possibly the most boring lede ever, but stick with me.)

After seven years of learning the fascinating ins and outs of the company, I finally feel like I have a firm grasp on my job and can get through most days without asking too many questions.

Approximately seven years ago, Enes Kanter picked up a basketball for the first time.  Getting drafted into the NBA after such a short time playing competitively is an accomplishment the native of Turkey doesn’t seem to get enough credit for.  The learning curve for Kanter was at about an 89.9 degree angle, yet he still succeeded at summiting Mount Lottery Pick.

Going into his third full season, the climb from promising young talent to bona fide starter doesn’t get any less difficult.  The 21-year-old will have a heaping helping of responsibility plopped down on his plate, starting tomorrow against the Oklahoma City Thunder.  How Kanter responds to the added pressure that will force him to rapidly “grow up” is a pivotal point, not only for Kanter, but for the entire Jazz squad.

In addition to the arsenal of gorgeous post moves Kanter has at his disposal, he has also clearly displayed a penchant for being a ridiculously fast learner.  Is there any reason to think his rapid ascension from basketball newbie to quality NBA starter will plateau?  At face value, there certainly doesn’t seem to be.

The biggest battle Kanter will be fighting this year may be with his age and maturity level.  I think we all remember Kanter’s ever-entertaining Twitter feed prior to the Jazz brass neutering it.  Whether it was a not-at-all-subtle request for the company of a female companion or a workout picture of himself looking Dolph-Lundgren-in-Rocky IV shredded, Kanter’s social media account made it abundantly clear he was an incredibly young kid who was having a blast with his relatively new-found fame and fortune.

As fondly as we look back on the naughty-tweeting, mic-dropping, worm-mangling Enes, those days seem long gone.  In terms of his actual game, that’s probably a great thing.  Kanter still oozes untapped potential.  As far as his game has come thus far, the sky is truly the limit.  A handful of All-Star appearances is a lofty goal, but does not seem at all unreasonable, provided he focuses with laser-like intensity on improving his game, spending countless hours in the gym and ironing out the weaknesses.

The reining in of Kanter may be newly-anointed Jazz leader Gordon Hayward’s biggest challenge.  It’s no small feat for any NBA captain to help a rich, good-looking 21-year-old ignore the throngs of adoring female fans to work on his free throws and defensive rotation assignments, let alone a first-time leader who is still young enough to have difficulty growing anything more than a Shaggy beard.

Stat-wise, there were several promising improvements from year one to year two.  Kanter posted a 5% increase in field goal percentage from 49% to 54%, and a whopping 13% increase in free-throw percentage, from 67% to 80%.  His rebounding rate has dipped per-36-minutes, from 11.5 in 2011-12 to 10.2 in 2012-13, and his assists (an average of 1 per 36 minutes) have plenty of room for improvement.

Passing effectively out of the post and moving back towards being an elite NBA rebounder are two of the biggest opportunities for improvement for Kanter that could dramatically change the fortunes of the obviously-rebuilding 2013-14 Jazz squad. Kanter rebounding at a high level paired with board monster, defensive savant and post-mate Derrick Favors would make for some very long nights for opposing 4’s and 5’s.

But regardless of how Kanter performs this season, we’d do well to remember that this is year seven of his basketball life. He’s a basketball prodigy beginning his maturation phase, and the sky is the limit.

Author information

Denim Millward
Denim Millward
Denim Millward, before SCH, wrote for Bleacher Report about the Jazz and the NBA. Despite this, he is actually a good writer, and we promise we will eschew the slideshow format on this site. He also contributes to The Color Commentator Magazine, and strangely, likes wrestling.
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Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter: The Superhero Frontcourt http://saltcityhoops.com/derrick-favors-and-enes-kanter-the-superhero-frontcourt/ http://saltcityhoops.com/derrick-favors-and-enes-kanter-the-superhero-frontcourt/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 17:26:18 +0000 http://saltcityhoops.com/?p=8063 Author information
Scott Stevens
A voice of the everyday Jazz fan. Scott works as a creative writer at an advertising agency in Los Angeles. Sticking it to Laker fans every chance he gets. A former "Jazz Rowdy" and avid interneter with production and writing experience on global sports brands. He has lived everywhere from Texas to DC, and all the way to Thailand. He now happens to live on a boat.
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It’s been a long time coming for Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. After waiting patiently behind on the bench and fighting for minutes, it’s finally their time to shine.

Kanter has already shown his soft touch around the rim, while Favors has proven his worth at protecting it at the other end. So which one is leading the frontcourt?

Is it possible for two big men to equally share the spotlight? Or will one always undoubtedly fall into the role of sidekick? After watching the Jazz fall to the Blazers for the second time this preseason, I recognized a unique relationship between Favors and Kanter—they are like Batman and Robin.

The only problem is: which one is which?

Kanter goes for 16 points in the first quarter alone, and 23 total. Favors pulls in 17 rebounds with 2 blocks. Kanter has shown an impressive knack for positioning, with put backs and pull ups. Favors is already putting up excellent defensive numbers.

So who runs the show and who plays second fiddle? Well, each has his weaknesses as well. Favors hasn’t really shown the development on the offensive end like many thought he would. Kanter lacks quickness to cover the way he needs to on defense, often struggling against the pick and roll.

At this point, neither has claimed the position of caped crusader. Which also means that neither has been relegated to The Boy Wonder. Until one of them decides to take the reigns, we might be looking at split superhero roles for the two bigs. Offensive Batman and Defensive Batman. They just might need to hand over the keys to Batmobile each time down the court, figuratively speaking.

All comic books aside, this offensive/defensive relationship might impact the way Kanter and Favors position on the roster. The Jazz offense, since the days of Karl Malone, has typically run through the power forward. They set up shop on the lower block and go to work. This role seems to fit Kanter’s skill set more than that of Favors. Defensively, centers are usually the ones to protect the rim. This responsibility clearly belongs to Favors.

Who’s to say that they should be classified into one position or the other? I don’t necessarily believe in forcing positional roles on players just because that’s the way it’s always been done. The NBA landscape is changing. In fact, The 2-time reigning championship team features a player that can play all five positions. So whether you think Kanter should technically play the four position or Favors should, they both need to work together. While they’re going through some growing pains, there might be nights where Favors has his way offensively, and Kanter shows some defensive presence.

All in all, the Jazz have two young, very impressive big men, each more skilled on one end of the floor than the other. But together, they cover each other’s weaknesses, kind of like a super hero and his trusty sidekick. Except in this case, they trade off in handling the bad guys based on offense and defense.

Hopefully the duo will become more like Batman and Superman together, and we can forget about Robin all together. No one, if given the choice, takes Robin anyway. Robin doesn’t beat the bad guys on his own.

Author information

Scott Stevens
A voice of the everyday Jazz fan. Scott works as a creative writer at an advertising agency in Los Angeles. Sticking it to Laker fans every chance he gets. A former "Jazz Rowdy" and avid interneter with production and writing experience on global sports brands. He has lived everywhere from Texas to DC, and all the way to Thailand. He now happens to live on a boat.
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