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. 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. 1 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.
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:
Thanks again to our Freelance Friday contributors. If you’d like to submit something for the next Freelance Friday, email your work to firstname.lastname@example.org.