The FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post.
Enes Kanter comes in at 94 in our rankings, and he makes for an intriguing player to consider. On the one hand, he looks like he should have a huge impact on the game. On the other hand, some of his numbers seem hollow and unimpactful on the game.
As a result, there was a pretty big split with our votes. He was ranked as high as 70 by one voter and left off the list entirely by two (though, one had him 114). That disparity between what he seems to do and how he affects the team makes a big difference.
Let’s present a chart here to illustrate what makes Kanter so intriguing. The vertical axis shows individual performance, the horizontal axis shows how much that individual performance impacts the team, as measured by Real Plus-Minus.
Kanter’s Real Plus-Minus is minus-0.68. That means overall, he actually has a slightly negative impact on his team’s performance, in spite of what looks like prodigious production. If you’re less impactful than half the league, how can you be a top-100 player?
On the other hand, he is producing a lot, and you can argue that he RPM numbers are what are flawed here. In the right scheme, where his defensive weaknesses are covered up but he can thrive as a low-post scorer and rebounder, he could have a great impact. And you can argue that with the Thunder putting defensive players like Paul George and Patrick Patterson, they could put Kanter in and benefit from the things he does well without suffering from the things he doesn’t.
If the reason Kanter didn’t have much impact is that his situation didn’t allow for him to have one, then he could vault up into the mid-70s here.
So what does Kanter do well? He scores like a big man. He was in the 85th percentile in post-up plays (1.02 ppp), according to Synergy Sports Tech, in the 72nd percentile as the roll man (1.135 ppp) and in the 63rd percentile on put backs (1.138 ppp). Overall his 1.046 ppp ranked in the 81st percentile.
Whatever else you want to say about Kanter, there’s no denying he’s a beast on the block. He had the third-most points posting up there, behind Marc Gasol (.994 ppp) and LaMarcus Aldridge (.936), but Kanter averaged 1.201 ppp. In volume and efficiency, he was in a league of his own. And a lot of that just has to do with skills. He can back down defenders and then throw an array of moves that create an open shot, seemingly impervious to how many defenders are there.
When you can do things like this with regularity, you have value:
As effective as Kanter is on offense, though, he’s just as inept on defense. But he’s the type of guy whose defensive woes are hard to see through the numbers. His Synergy numbers are palatable (.879 ppp, 68th percentile) but deceiving. His minus-1.24 Defensive Real Plus-Minus at ESPN is probably the more accurate assessment.
To be fair, when he’s right in front of a guy who has the ball, he tends to do OK. And he uses his length to do a reasonable job of contesting shots, especially if he’s just having to close out by running straight at the shooter. But he has no lateral quickness and that lets him get beat when he’s not the primary defender, meaning when he needs to help out at the rim, he rarely does.
For example, look how awkward he is in picking up Tyler Ulis here. There’s nothing about his footwork that is right. He gets completely turned around as a result, and then he caps things off by fouling the shooter and giving him the and-one.
If the Thunder can use him the way the Rockets used to use Donatas Motiejunas, where his primary job is to play centerfield and just close out on shooters or defend the post-up, the damage can be mitigated. And there is justifiable hope that the Thunder’s offseason additions will allow that.
But Kanter barely got on the court in the playoffs last year because of his defensive woes. And criticism there is entirely fair.
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