Enes Kanter is entering his third year with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being acquired via trade on the back end of the 2014-15 NBA season. Kanter is in the second year of a four-year, $70 million dollar deal.
Kanter played in 82 games with the Thunder last season, with only one start. He posted 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds in 21 minutes per game in the 2015-16 season. Players defended by Kanter last season averaged a 46.7 field goal percentage.
Defense has always been a primary issue for Kanter, and is statistically one of the worst post defenders in the league. Tim Kawakami even chose Kanter as No-Defense Sixth Man of the Year for his 2016 No-Defense team.
Every team in the NBA attacks Kanter in the pick-and-roll and almost automatically gets a good shot, as he is virtually useless in these spacial scenarios. He has an incredible amount of trouble moving his feet while defending the pick-and-roll and more often than not gets obliterated for it.
The Thunder were -5.7 worse defensively per 100 possessions with Kanter on the floor than when he was out. He also managed to tally just 33 blocks in 82 regular season games (1,721 minutes). It's almost as if he is in outer space during the Thunder defensive sequences.
For all of the liability that Enes Kanter is on defense, he sure does make a hell of an offensive weapon, and Russell Westbrook seems to trusts him down low. Still, Kanter will have to do more on the defensive end of the floor to earn the trust of his coach. Billy Donovan only started Kanter one game last season, his defense being a red flag and the most likely reason for holding Kanter back.
Through the preseason so far, Kanter is averaging 26.5 points per game on 65.6% shooting and 9 rebounds. These numbers are impressive, although both games were high scoring affairs against non-NBA opponents in Spain. It is best to wait before assuming he is going to hit what Michael Scott would call "Threat Level Midnight" this season. (Sorry, Toby).
It is also worth noting that the Thunder acquired Joffrey Lauvergne from the Denver Nuggets in exchange for two protected 2017 second round draft picks. If there is any player on the roster to put a dent in Kanter's role with the team over the course of the season, it would be Lauvergne.
Enes Kanter is not a bad NBA player, he is actually a really good and fun player and a great teammate. He just struggles with defense and it does not seem like it will change anytime soon, so the Thunder need to be prepared to suffer the consequences.
The silver lining for Enes Kanter, and the Thunder, is that Donovan's scheme requires very little real defensive prowess for big men (the guards have more pressure) and Kanter will likely continue to expand his offensive role this year.