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Enes Kanter’s defense has not improved

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And it likely never will.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Oklahoma City Thunder
Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kanter’s defense has been a subject of some controversy as of late. We can all agree that Kanter is bad at defense. But what we can’t agree on is whether Kanter’s defense has improved under the Thunder’s tutelage. Kanter’s “improved” defense is a storyline that the Thunder push, and some fans buy into.

I’m here today to dispel that myth.

Kanter’s shot percentage difference (This indicates to what extent Enes altered the shots of other players.)

2014-15 (Post All-Star game): 1.5

2015-16: -0.3

2016-17: -1.0

This appears to corroborate Kanter’s improvement on defense at first glance. But when you take a closer look....

Kanter’s Less than 6 foot shot percentage difference

2014-15 (Post All-Star game): 1.2

2015-16: -3.5

2016-17: -3.5

You see that Kanter has been doing basically the same thing for the past two years. Kanter’s sample size and role from 2014-15 is different, which may account for that difference. Clearly, we’ll have to delve deeper to get the full story.

Kanter's defensive box plus/minus score

2014-15 (Thunder): -1.7

2015-16: -3.1

2016-17: -1.6

These scores are really all over the map. One way to possibly take this is that Kanter improved from last year to this year. But....

Kanter's defensive win shares

14-15 (Thunder): 0.8

15-16: 2.1

16-17: 1.0

This clearly shows Kanter regressing from last year to this year. It’s unclear at this point what has changed about Kanter’s game in particular. But my clear conclusion is that one category has improved for Kanter, while another category has suffered. This warrants further investigation.

Kanter’s Blocks per 36 Minutes

14-15 (Thunder): 0.6

15-16: 0.7

16-17: 1.3

This is probably the only real case you could make for Kanter's improvement. Blocks are a tangibly measured stat, and Kanter has more of them. But when you consider Kanter's difference in rebound rate, it makes sense.

Kanter’s Rebound Rate

14-15 (Total): 17.6

15-16: 21.0

16-17: 17.1

Basically, Kanter has chosen to stand and block his defender instead of going for the rebound every time. But this is not "improvement". It's simply a change in how he plays the game. Kanter's knowledge of where to be on defense is terrible. Kanter's judgement of pick and rolls is terrible.

Worst of all? The increased blocks mean increased fouls, and trips to the line for opponents. For every block, Kanter also gives the other team a free trip to the line.

Kanter’s Fouls per 36 minutes

14-15 (Thunder): 3.3

15-16: 3.5

16-17: 3.8

At the end of the day, I’ve got to defer back to my co-writer R.K. Anthony. Here’s what R.K. said to me on Facebook back in October....

“Kanter’s awareness is fine, Marina. It’s his fortitude level. He’s afraid of collision type contact.” -R.K. Anthony

R.K. mentioned Kanter’s defense again to me on November 28th.

“See what I mean about Kanter doing things on defense to avoid collisions? It puts him in a bad position.” -R.K. Anthony

Let’s take a look at some footage from last night’s game, just to confirm. Here’s some side by side freeze frames of Kanter doing a terrible job of stepping up to help defend.

I’ll close this with a quote by Kanter’s former teammate, Trevor Booker. For context, Booker is a scrappy power forward known for his hustle, energy, and rebounding. Kanter is also a rebounding specialist, which I think makes for interesting context.

“[Kanter] did what he always does. He got his stats. He didn’t defend. He took [a loss].” -Trevor Booker, March 28th, 2015

No matter how much Kanter likes his team or wants to win, I still don’t believe that Kanter’s heart is in his defense. And until someone lights a fire under Kanter’s butt, he’s going to be a hindrance to this team’s long-term success. There’s a reason the Jazz gave the Thunder Kanter for peanuts.

Furthermore, with OKC’s bench lacking ballhandlers and a superstar on a two year contract, time runs short. Kanter has to go, posthaste. Let him be another team’s problem.

Stats courtesy,, and Stills captured from footage edited by Ximo Pierto on YouTube.