Ever since his arrival to the great plains of Oklahoma City, Enes Kanter has been a bit of a controversial subject for the Thunder faithful. Conflict lies between the bounds of his innate ability to read defenders in the post and score, paired very closely with his glaring deficiencies on the defensive end of the floor.
The narrative is out and about that Kanter does more bad than good for this Thunder squad. After analyzing the stats, it’s time for that narrative to be squashed.
So far in this 2016-17 campaign, Kanter, a Turkey native, is averaging 14.1 points, 6.6 rebounds per game, and shooting a very respectable 57 percent from the field, along with an even better percentage from the free throw line at 77.9 percent.
“He does things at a high level that nobody can do consistently,” Russell Westbrook said. “He constantly keeps doing that on a winning team, and I think that’s important.”
While these season stats are adequate, especially considering Kanter only averages 22.8 minutes per game, his statistics over the past six games are even better. Over the Thunder’s last six games, Kanter is nearly averaging a double-double with 18.5 points per game to go along with 9.8 rebounds per game.
According to basketball-reference.com, Kanter finished last season atop the NBA in offensive rebound percentage at 16.7 percent. He also finished fourth in the league in field goal percentage, and 10th in player efficiency rating at 24.0. The offensive efficiency, paired with his instinctive ability to grab rebounds, especially on the offensive end of the floor, makes Kanter the down-low presence that he is for the Thunder.
“Teams are gonna come double-team,” Kanter said. “You cannot think about it, but if they do, just punish them.”
Many of Kanter’s biggest critics point towards the contract he signed with the Thunder and argue that he is being overpaid, mainly because of his defensive struggles. However, if a person truly looks at the amount of money big men get paid today in the league, he or she would realize that Kanter is anything but overpaid.
This past summer, Bismack Biyombo signed a contract with the Orlando Magic for four years, 70 million guaranteed. So far this season, Biyombo is averaging a measly 6.0 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game.
Ian Mahinmi also signed a similar contract to that of Kanter’s when he inked a deal with the Washington Wizards this past summer, a deal that totaled 64 million dollars over four years. Mahinmi has only played one game this season due to injury, but over his career he has only averaged 5.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.
After analyzing those two contracts, it’s pretty obvious that no matter how ineffective Enes Kanter is on the defensive end, his offensive numbers are leaps and bounds above other big men that are getting paid the same amount as him.
“All year long he’s made my job easier,” Westbrook said.
With Kanter’s ability to shoot the mid-range jumper, he effectively stretches defenses out, resulting in bigger lanes for Westbrook to drive through. Without a big man like Kanter who can shoot, opposing teams would be able to pack the paint against Westbrook, making it very difficult for him to get to the rim.
Perhaps the most important vote of confidence for Kanter came earlier this month when Westbrook jump started the Enes Kanter for Sixth Man of the Year campaign.
“He’s the best player in the league coming off the bench which means he’s the Sixth Man of the Year,” Russell Westbrook said.”
A vote of confidence from the Thunder’s All Star, MVP-caliber point guard should be all Thunder fans need to realize Enes Kanter’s true value in regards to this Oklahoma City team.
“It’s not even a question,” Westbrook said.