Wow. Has this been an up-and-down year in the college game. Harrison Barnes was supposed to crush all comers in his one year for UNC on the way to the No.1 overall pick. Now he’s barely in the mock lottery and some are saying he might have to go back for his sophomore year if he wants to maximize his stock. Perry Jones was supposed to be the consensus no.2, but he too has been pretty inconsistent this year (although his stock hasn’t crashed as far).
As the big name college players continues to waver, one guy who’s stock seems to be on the up and up is Enes Kanter, despite not playing at all.
Huh? For those of you who live under a rock, here’s the short version:
Kanter, who is Turkish, wanted to play college ball in the US and signed on with John Calipari and Kentucky – but the NCAA Mafia found out that he had taken more money than they’d realized when he was playing with a pro team back home, so they stripped his eligibility. (My views on the old men of the NCAA are for another day). However, that hasn’t stopped the interest in his game. An interest that one has to say is pretty well warranted.
Let’s check out the specifics, but first, an anecdote. My favourite kebab place in Sydney (among many) is a Turkish one in Matraville. I love their stuff so much that I take an extra bus whenever I feel like one and don’t have my car. Part of the reason (along with the kebabs itself) is that the proprietor is a mad basketball fan who used to have posters of Bogut and Hedo Turkoglu in the prep area before OH&S made him remove them.
Anyway, a few days ago he was talking about Kanter to me, only he used the Turkish pronunciation, which sounds like Cunter. You figure out the rest. Back to business.
Kanter is a 6’10”, 250lb power forward/center. That makes him a pretty decent sized 4 (can handle the Gasol types but quick enough for undersized PFs) and a usable 5 at the NBA level.
There’s a lot to like about his game, but the most surprising thing you learn from watching footage of Kanter is just how polished his game is. Whether a year away from organized basketball has an impact on that remains to be seen, but in high school he had an exceptionally refined offensive post game. He has great footwork, understands how to use the angles and has a nice variety of moves and shots. Offensive post play is like being a great PG – you either have the touch or you don’t. Dwight Howard will never be a true low post scoring threat because he doesn’t have the touch. (I, on the other hand, do have it – unfortunately for me I’m a barely 5’11″ point guard. But I like to post up occasionally just to catch my opponents off guard. Plus, my low post fadeaway and up-and-under are way more effective than my jumpshot). Kanter has it.
Not only that, but he has a high basketball IQ to go with his low block skills (especially regarding his ability to pass out of double teams), an improving mid range jumper and a toughness rarely seen in international big men.
This toughness is evident defensively as well – he isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty and muck in on D. Combined with his BBIQ, he has the rare ability to anticipate his opponent’s move and react accordingly. Most of his blocked shots come through his anticipation as opposed to raw athleticism. Kanter isn’t a slouch, but he’s not in the class of some modern PFs athletically.
His rebounding is also very good. Although his technique could use some work (he tends to try and overpower guys to get the ball as opposed to boxing out to get a clean grab – he won’t be able to get away with this in the NBA) he has a clear nose for the ball and excellent hands to grab them.
How Likely Is He To Declare?
I’m guessing a near certainty what with the ineligibility thing. Once he lost his appeal, he became permanently ineligible to play college ball. His father wants him to get a degree, but he can’t afford to wait another year to declare if he wants to be a high pick – and there’s always summer school. If Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook can do it, so can he.
Generally, the rule of thumb is to compare an international big man to another international big man (just like you only compare white American guys to other white guys)– problem is, there aren’t really any others like Kanter in the league right now. Our own Andrew Bogut is the closest, but even he doesn’t have the same low post game (and I say this lying under my Eureka Flag banner).
I’m thinking that he’s somewhere closer to Kevin Love, if Love was a better defensive player. Like Love, I believe that Kanter can make an impact right away for whoever drafts him and become an All-Star within time.
Who Could Use Him?
I always believe the measure of a player is how much you want him on your team. And right now, I’m literally performing sacrifices to Michael Jordan and the rest of the Basketball Gods (I just burned my old Andris Biedrins Warriors jersey) that Kanter somehow falls into Golden State’s lap. Come on, guys. You’ve been nothing but cruel to us for the past 15 years. A little kindness? Please?
Cause no team needs a two-way big like the Warriors do. Right now we have a defensive rookie who can’t rebound (Udoh) and a dropkick in Biedrins.
Either way, he’s going to be a top-10 pick. Come the draft combine and workouts, he might shoot up the board yet, especially given how crap this draft class is.