Forward: This is a series of posts looking at the development — or lack of, as the case may be — of Utah Jazz players
A popular sentiment among many Utah Jazz fans this season is to say the young core group of draft lottery players acquired in recent years has not only not gotten better, but regressed in their development. In the curious case of Enes Kanter, this might be true.
For Jazz players like Derrick Favors, Alec Burks and Gordon Hayward, it’s easy to point out the parts of their game that have improved, in some cases dramatically. Meanwhile, in the case of Enes Kanter, aside from higher scoring numbers that align with minutes played, it’s difficult to find any other reason he should even be on the floor at all.
Kanter began the season as a starter aside Favors, but by the time the Jazz were 1-12 and getting pounded by opposing offenses nightly he found himself back in the role of a bench player, this time as the first big off the bench rather than as Utah’s fourth option big man as last season, when his numbers were so promising.
If we’re honest with ourselves, in the one area, statistically speaking, that Kanter has improved in, offense, his numbers would appear to have regressed when compared to last season. The Millsap Doctrine has failed us.
Kanter is actually worse on offense as a starter or primary bench big than he was when his assignments were primarily second or third unit big men. The straight up offensive points-per-game numbers this season are nice, but something of a mirage created by increased playing time. His field goal percentage is worse by almost eight percentage points now that he has to go up against top tier NBA defenders rather than pine fodder fillers.
Not to mention, the NBA skill that got him the most playing time and was a big reason for his being drafted in the first place, stellar rebounding, has evidently become a lost art to Enes as he concentrates almost exclusively on recreating himself as an offensive force.
The good news is, these are his “good” numbers.
Those rational minds among us have always recognized Kanter as a project and young man still. I had high hopes for him coming into this season, even boldly stating on a preseason Taxi Squad podcast that he’d lead the team in points this season. I don’t think any of us anticipated that he might be the worst player on the team this season defensively.
Last season, Enes Kanter led the Utah Jazz in simple rating, a season-long plus-minus of +6.5. This season he has the worst simple rating of any player still on the Jazz’s roster.
This represents a swing of 22.8 plus-minus to the negative from last season to this. Truly putrid. Simple rating makes an argument for Kanter being the single worst player on the Jazz roster.
And the deeper we dig the worse it gets. He fares no better in basic stats
or advanced numbers.
And it doesn’t seem to matter whether he’s at the center or power forward position. Kanter is getting roasted left and right by opposing offensive players.
I’ve seen everyone from Greg Miller to Al Jefferson to Ty Corbin to Jazz PR staff blamed for these heinous numbers, but in the end the player himself has to be held accountable as well, if you’re the type that feels a need to point fingers.
Every other young Jazz player is making strides. The common denominator here is only Enes, and it’s pretty clear that simply putting him on the floor in game time situations hasn’t served him well to this point in his budding career.
The reality is, Enes Kanter may simply not be ripe yet. We know he has a deep desire to compete at the highest level of basketball, but at this time he might be better served to abandon his attempts to be an offensive force and go back to the basics that got him to where he is now; things like boxing out and keeping his man from establishing such deep position in the post so easily.
Kanter is a young man yet, one that has found that being a man among men is more difficult than when he was a man among boys and could impose his will and strength with ease.
There’s no reason to give up on him yet, but fans should try to remember that not every player pans out to potential — a sweeping word that is open to wide interpretation — or develops in the same way at the same rate.
So, has Enes Kanter really regressed? It might just be that some projections were premature and failed to fully take into account the level of competition when projecting future production. He has many valuable skills and a unique background, meaning he may have to be brought along differently to find success in the NBA rather than thoughtlessly throwing him to the wolves.