With the third pick in the 2o11 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz selected Enes Kanter, a 6-foot-11 center out of the University of Kentucky. Kanter was the MVP of the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship in 2009, averaging 18.6 points and 16.4 rebounds per game.
He enrolled at the University of Kentucky, but was ruled ineligible before the season started after he received $33,000.00 in excess benefits from the men’s basketball department he played for in Turkey.
Kanter has soft hands and displays good touch on his shots, both around the basket and from the perimeter. He’s a good finisher who can score in multiple ways in the paint, and has above-average low post moves. While his jump shot isn’t a strength yet, he has very good form on it and releases it quickly. For a big man, he has very good arch and a solid follow through.
While his offensive game is solid, his defensive game is below average. The athleticism and strength he shows when he has the ball hasn’t translated to his defensive game. He gets caught standing in the paint with his arms down too often for a guy that should be defending the basket, and doesn’t box out enough to keep the opposing center off the glass.
These aren’t physical abilities he lacks — it seems more a mental issue and a lack of interest. Not playing college basketball has probably effected his maturity level and until he got into the NBA, he was always the best player on the court.
In his rookie year, Kanter averaged 4.6 points and 4.2 rebounds in 13.2 minutes per game. He started off the season buried behind Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the roster and eventually fell further down when they traded for Derrick Favors. In 2012, still playing a bench role, he averaged 7.2 points and 4,3 rebounds in 15.4 minutes per game.
He increased his shooting percentage from 49.6 to 54.4, and his free throw percentage from 66.7 to 79.5. He is finally beginning to mature and become a better NBA player.
In the offseason, the Jazz let Al Jefferson go to the Charlotte Bobcats and watched Paul Millsap go to the Atlanta Hawks. They didn’t sign anyone to replace those two, so that shows they have supreme confidence in Favors and Kanter to be their starting PF/C combination. I expect Kanter to double his minutes and double his numbers this season, and it isn’t out of the question that he can be a 15-point and 10-rebound per game player.