1. Kanter’s strong start and slower finish
Enes Kanter had his turn as the Jazz’s leading scoring man, finishing with 23 points after getting off to a blistering 16 point, 8-8 shooting start in the first. Despite that, it actually ended up as only an above-averagely efficient game for the big man. After his great start, he finished the rest of the game 2-9, with 5 fouls, 4 turnovers, and only 4 rebounds (all of them offensive). Kanter commented after the game that he isn’t quite at 100% yet, and that his endurance and ability to run the court is still somewhat off its peak, so his struggles later in games may subside as the season continues.
Enes’s offensive game is built on the two pillars of putbacks and patient post-ups. He usually either scores through immediately putting back an offensive rebound, which he works incredibly hard in securing position for; or by baiting the opposing player into jumping, thus giving him the ability to go under for the open layup. Additionally, and to his credit, he’s developed a nice midrange jumper, one of the most efficient in the league last season. However, he struggles when opponents play him straight up because he lacks elite athleticism, as evidenced by a two-minute stretch tonight when he was forced into an airball from two feet, shot a forced fadeaway that hit the top of the backboard, then missed a layup off the underside of the rim. His success this season will be largely contingent on his opponents: if they bite on his fakes or lack the size to deal with the physicality under the boards, he’ll look great. If he runs into a patient defender with size, he’ll be forced into turnovers.
2. Lester Hudson’s “surprise” performance.
After Trey Burke came down with an injury, most observers (including Salt City Hoops) figured that the temporary backup point guard would come from the group of Alec Burks, Scott Machado, Ian Clark, or an outsider. However, it was journeyman Lester Hudson who played 27 minutes in tonight’s game, more than starting point guard John Lucas III. Hudson played well, making three 3 point shots, and was especially excellent defensively, getting 2 steals and a block by smothering Portland’s point of attack. (As Coach Ty Corbin said, “I thought he did a good job defensively, staying on a guys body and getting his hands on a lot of balls.” Real quote.)
Hudson’s hasn’t been a terrible NBA player when he’s gotten the opportunity, putting up a 12.6 PER over the course of his 538 minute NBA career. He had a mini-Linsanity moment just 16 months ago, playing for Cleveland; over the course of 4 games in 6 nights, Hudson finished with 23, 26, 25, and 19 points in consecutive NBA games. In other words, it’s no surprise that Hudson can surprise.
3. NBA referees’ new points-of-emphasis on display
The assembled media had a chance to sit down with tonight’s referees (Rodney Mott, Olandis Poole, and Derek Richardson) before the game to discuss the NBA’s new rule changes and points-of-emphasis for the season. While that meeting was off-the-record, the results of it at tonight’s game are not. The referees called 6 delay of game penalties and numerous moving screen offensive fouls, slowing down the game and confusing fans. While the ideas behind enforcing these rules more strictly make sense, the unintended consequences probably override the benefits: the game, of course, actually slows down more as delay of game penalties are called, and big men get in foul trouble much more quickly when accruing two offensive fouls per game. The truth of the matter is that like most points-of-emphasis, this annoyance probably won’t last past Christmas, as players adapt somewhat and the referees cool down.