It has been ‘Kevin Durant said this, Russell Westbrook said that’ all offseason for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Such drama is overshadowing the potential the Thunder have to form something big…real big.
Although the NBA preseason just started in early October, Enes Kanter has not wasted any time getting into regular season form. The 6-11 center averaged 26.5 points and nine rebounds in the Thunder’s first two preseason games against FC Barcelona and Real Madrid, two of the best teams in the EuroLeague.
Kanter, who only started in one game for the Thunder last year, came off the bench in Monday’s matchup against Real Madrid. 7-footer Steven Adams started at center but was forced to leave after spraining his right ankle in the second quarter.
Although the Thunder lost to Real Madrid, Kanter stepped in and finished with 29 points and 10 rebounds. With Adams nursing his ankle injury, Kanter got the start against FC Barcelona on Wednesday, scoring 24 points and grabbing eight rebounds in the win.
Adams averaged eight points and just under seven rebounds in 25 minutes per game in the 2015-16 regular season. Despite playing four less minutes (21) than Adams, Kanter was a bit more productive in the box score, averaging 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds. .
One might go ahead and say that Kanter should start over Adams because Kanter’s numbers are a bit more appealing, but why not start both of them?
After all, Adams has established himself as one of the most valuable defensive enforcers in the league. Sure, Adams only averaged slightly over one block (1.1) last season, but his ability to alter shots, grab timely boards and do the dirty work pretty much makes him a lock in the starting lineup.
The Thunder traded away Adams’ previous frontcourt starting mate Serge Ibaka to the Orlando Magic on NBA Draft night back in late June. Like Adams, Ibaka was a defensive enforcer. Despite Ibaka being able to knock down jumpers from the perimeter — which took him a few years to develop — Ibaka lacked the natural soft touch and back-to-the-basket skillset Kanter possesses.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Kanter has developed well since being drafted as the No. 3 overall pick by the Utah Jazz in 2011. In a three-team trade involving the Jazz, Thunder and Pistons during the 2014-15 season, Kanter was shipped to the Thunder.
Kanter was an immediate fit in Oklahoma City, averaging 18.7 points and 11 rebounds while starting in all 26 regular season games he played in for the Thunder in 2014-15.
Kanter took on the role of a secret weapon off the bench for the Thunder in 2015-16 but his resume points to the fact; this guy can really put the ball in the hole.
Last year, Kanter shot 79.7 percent from the free-throw line, 57.6 percent from the field and proved he can step out and hit the occasional 3-pointer, going 10-for-21 (47.6 %) from behind the arc.
Kanter has also earned a reputation as a pretty humorous guy, especially on social media. On September 23, Kanter jokingly tweeted out a picture of him defending future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett, who retired a couple of weeks ago.
And he found some time to take a pic with Adams and soccer superstar Cristiano Ronaldo while the Thunder are in Spain for the NBA Global Games 2016.
#StacheBros 2016. It’s a movement.
Information from NBA.com and Basketball Reference were used in the report.
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