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Posts Tagged ‘Enes Kanter’

Jazz at Trailblazers 2-21-14

Final Score: Trailblazers 102, Jazz 94

The Jazz gave one of their more impressive road efforts of the 2013-14 season, going toe-to-toe with the 36-18 Trailblazers for 45-minutes before folding late. While Alec Burks provided a scoring spark in the 1st-half and Gordon Hayward turned in a quietly impressive line (17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists on 5-11 shooting), the two stars of the game for Utah were clearly Trey Burke and Enes Kanter.

Trey Burke

Burke scored 21 points on 8-16 shooting from the field and 3-5 from behind the arc, while also dishing 7 assists and grabbing 6 rebounds.

Burke completely owned the 3rd-quarter, in which he scored 12 points and handed out 3 assists on a perfect 5-5 shooting, including two threes. In addition, the rookie made an outstanding steal in which he face-guarded Lillard and drifted with him along the three-point line and used his peripheral vision to deflect an incoming kickout pass, that directly led to a throw-ahead assist to Alec Burks for a fastbreak layup.

Although Burke shot just 3-8 on the pick&roll, one of his misses (a driving left-hand layup) freed up Kanter for an uncontested tip-in and another attempted floater enabled Burke to rebound his own miss and score so in reality Utah was 5-10 when he shot via screen-roll. Additionally, on mid-range pick&roll jumpshots Burke hit an impressive 3-4 – critical considering it is Portland’s intent to force opponents to take contested midrange shots while trying to minimize scramble rotations that often lead to open threes and paint points.

Burke nailed 2 of his 3 catch&shoot three-point attempts and of his 7 assists, 4 came in transition (or early offense before the defense could setup) while two others were setting the table for a Kanter jumper via pick&pop.

Burke’s a playmaker with the ability to push the tempo (if the Jazz ever try to do that) and create for his teammates but right now it comes down to making shots. After inexplicably sitting for the first 6 minutes of the 4th-quarter (in which the Jazz shot 1-11 and were outscored 14-2), he came back in the game and confidently drilled a right-wing three to pull Utah back to within 83-80. There’s no question that even as a rookie Trey Burke wants to be the guy to take and make all the big shots, and that’s a quality that will only bode well for the future as the Jazz look to him run the show over the next several seasons.

Enes Kanter

Enes Kanter tied his career-high with 25 points on 12-20 shooting, to go along with 10 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.

Most impressively, Kanter scored his points in a variety of ways. He shot 2-3 and scored 5 points when getting touches on the left-block. He shot 3-4 from direct opportunities via the pick&roll, including 2-3 on pick&pop jumpers. He scored 6 points on 3-6 shooting on offensive rebounds and he was a perfect 4-4 playing off-the-ball as a weakside dive/kickout man (including 2-2 on spotup mid-range jumpers).

He’s shown he can be an effective low-post scorer but doesn’t demand the ball to find ways to contribute, with his offensive rebounding and pick&pop ability helping to round out his game.

Kanter also started in place of Favors in Utah’s December-9th meeting with Portland and had an impressive game as well, scoring 19 points on 50% shooting as Utah also hung in against the Blazers before another late collapse.

Kanter’s Screen-Roll Defense

From the outset one member of the Utah Jazz broadcast team made it a point to harp on what he considered poor defense by Kanter – namely Kanter’s refusal to show out and contest a lot of shots on the pick&roll. Similar to how teams used to attack Al Jefferson in the previous two seasons, Portland made it a priority to involve Kanter in defending pick&roll as often as possible.

Utah’s strategy remained simple – allow Kanter to drop back into the lane and force Portland into taking a lot of mid-range jumpshots. Of the 41 direct pick&rolls that involved Kanter defending the screener, Utah allowed just 31 points on initial defense (not counting second-change opportunities).  Of those 41 plays, Portland shot 13-34 (38.2) from the field, drew 3 fouls (resulting in 4-4 from the foul line) and turned the ball over 4 times. Most impressively, out of their 34 shot attempts only two were three-point field goals.

Obviously the Blazers missed LaMarcus Aldrige’s mid-range shooting but when Kanter was involved in defending screen-roll, Utah could not have asked for better results against Portland’s high-octane offense. One negative is how susceptible Utah leaves themselves on the offensive glass. With Marvin playing at PF, anytime their center (be it Kanter or Favors) leaves his man to help, Utah is left with a huge disadvantage trying to rebound the basketball (12 offensive rebounds for Portland tonight).

Nevertheless, allowing 31 points on 41 possessions speaks for itself. Considering there were also a handful of plays where the initial screen-roll yielded no shot so Portland continued to move the ball, admonishing Kanter’s defensive performance last night is not only unnecessary but ridiculous.

Kanter will give up points at the rim but he also did a good job staying vertical in his challenges which resulted in quite a few Portland misses in the paint (many by Lillard who is among the poorer finishers in the basket area). It’s also important to remember Kanter isn’t a shotblocking force. Jerry Sloan didn’t rant and rave on the sideline when Mehmet Okur didn’t block a shot and Kanter deserves a similar approach. What you ask for from Kanter is good positional defense where he can use his 6-11 frame to contest shots to the best of his ability, and if the ball still goes in the hoop you can live with it because he can contribute in a lot of other ways.

(Side Tangent: It’s also absurd to criticize Kanter when he leaves his man to pick up a free driver toward the rim and then gets burned because no one rotated to his man. In Jazzbasketball that’s called “helping the helper” and it’s very difficult to be a good defensive team when your defensive rotations can’t extend to that level.)

Blazers announcer Mike Rice may have said it best late in the 3rd-quarter, “Once again, Kanter has been the man in there, he’s been able to defend that rim against – and I mean everybody is dribble-driving for the Blazers – and testing him. So far he’s not done a bad job at all.”

Portland’s 4th-Quarter Huddle

One really neat thing about the Blazers telecast is Portland’s sideline reporter, Michael Holton, was able to listen in on the Blazers’ huddle during the timeout and then relay that information to the viewers prior to the start of the 4th-quarter.

Holton reported: “Well the entire timeout was spent talking about defense. Terry Stotts wants the Blazers to keep the ball on the sideline and then rotate the defense to the [middle]. They’re (Utah) turning the corner, getting all the way to the rim. He spent the entire timeout breaking down how they need to correct that.”

Some of those adjustments were noticeable on a Burks turnover (7:59 4th-Qtr) where they pushed him wide and stole the ball as he tried to come back middle but a lot of it came down to Robin Lopez closing up the middle when there appeared to be gaps in the defense.

Regardless, it’s nice to be given access to that type of inside information as the game progresses. It was reminiscent to the days of the NBA on NBC when Jim Gray would camp by Utah’s bench and report Jerry Sloan’s message to his team during timeouts.

The Final Word

Overall last night’s is precisely the type of contest you hope the Jazz have more of as the season winds down. Although Portland is in a bit of a funk while playing without LaMarcus Aldrige and an under-the-weather Nicolas Batum, the Jazz’s young core came to play and pushed the Blazers to their limit, forcing Portland to elevate their game to another level. I believe it’s those 10-12 minute stretches when opponents raise their intensity like Portland did to start the 4th-quarter that is ultimately more beneficial to Utah’s growth and development than the other 36 minutes played at the regular speed limit.

Burke, Burks, Hayward, and Kanter all had their moments on the road against a good team. At this point when you know what to expect from the coaching and other role players, that sort of thing is really all you can ask for at this point. I don’t believe in moral victories in professional sports, but if there is such a thing as a “good loss,” this was probably it.

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Enes Kanter Jump Shot

One of the bright spots from Utah’s 99-92 preseason loss to Portland Wednesday was the offensive display by Enes Kanter. Kanter scored on an array of post-ups, putbacks, face-up jumpers, pick&roll opportunities and even out in transition.

While he did most of his damage in the paint – he also showed impressive range shooting 2-4 on mid-range jump shots.

Enes Kanter Shot Chart vs Portland 10-16-13

While Kanter has definitely shown more confidence in his shot this preseason – those who have watched him closely knew he already displayed the range and touch to be an effective mid-range jumpshooting big.

Last year – while an overwhelming majority of his shots came from the paint (75.5% of his FG Att came in the paint) he also shot a respectable 39.1% from the mid-range area.

Kanter Shot Chart 2012-13

To put that “39.1%” in perspective, let’s compare Kanter’s mid-range shooting percentage to those of some of the league’s best centers:

  Mid-Range FG%
Player  Season FG Att FG%
Tiago Splitter 2010-13 7 44 15.9%
DeAndre Jordan 2012-13 3 17 17.6%
Dwight Howard 2012-13 8 38 21.1%
JaVale McGee 2012-13 14 55 25.5%
Greg Monroe 2012-13 61 199 30.7%
Nene 2012-13 66 213 31.0%
Andrew Bogut 2010-13 35 113 31.0%
Larry Sanders 2012-13 35 111 31.5%
DeMarcus Cousins 2012-13 107 330 32.4%
Pau Gasol 2012-13 83 224 37.1%
Brook Lopez 2012-13 124 319 38.9%
Joakim Noah 2012-13 59 151 39.1%
Enes Kanter 2012-13 36 92 39.1%
Roy Hibbert 2012-13 77 196 39.3%
Al Jefferson 2012-13 216 542 39.9%
Jonas Valanciunas 2012-13 30 73 41.1%
Tim Duncan 2012-13 190 444 42.8%
Al Horford 2012-13 197 451 43.7%
Marc Gasol 2012-13 155 325 47.7%
Tyson Chandler 2012-13 7 14

50.0%

As you can see Kanter’s 39.1% already puts him near the top of the charts among NBA centers.
While many of the top PF’s (Love, Aldrige, Garnett, West, Nowitzki, Bosh, Lee, Ibaka) all shot between 41-51% from mid-range – notable 4’s such as Blake Griffin (35.1%), Zach Randolph (35.2%), Carlos Boozer (38.6%) and even Paul Millsap (37.3%) all shot poorer from mid-range than Kanter last season.

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With teams forcing the pick&roll baseline more than ever, Kanter’s ability to pop out and consistently hit that 16-footer will be a valuable weapon for the Jazz this season. Additionally, his ability to step off the block and face his man up will give defenders another look to go with his already (at times) punishing low-post game.

Halfway through preseason, it’s clear Kanter is already Utah’s most offensively polished bigman and teams must respect his perimeter shot – something they also needed to do last season.

 

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Derrick Favors Enes Kanter Alec Burks

There appears to be growing anticipation that the Utah Jazz will finally enter theh 2013-14 season with their “Core-4” all featured in prominent roles. Perhaps this will be the year the Jazz are finally willing to look to the future which features two #3 picks, a #9 pick and a #12 pick – all of whom were drafted within a year of each other.

Should that be the case, the next question then becomes: “What will be the production of the Core-4 while playing increased minutes on a consistent basis?”

In my opinion Gordon Hayward – who despite being relegated to starting just 27 games last season – has come the closest to displaying what he can do as a regular. With limited opportunities in an offense that often relied upon Al Jefferson and Mo Williams to dominate the basketball – Hayward still produced 14.1 pts/3.1 reb/3.0 ast averages in 30 mpg that is quite comparable to Paul George’s offensive numbers when extrapolated out on a per-36 minute basis. With more offensive opportunities while playing a few more minutes, it’s not unrealistic to expect Hayward to plateau in the 16-18-point range while hopefully maintaining 45/40/80 shooting percentages.

Many more question marks lie with the future production of Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and Alec Burks. While it’s impossible to predict – some quality information can be gathered by examining their past performances when playing significant minutes.

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We’ll begin with Derrick Favors. Favors has played 168 career games with the Jazz (including 4 postseason games) and has exceeded the 30-minute mark in 16 (9.5%) of those. Here are his averages in those games:

Favors’ Averages When Playing 30+ Min
Pts Reb FG% FT% FTA Blk Stl TO MPG
14.2 10.6 52.6% 68.1% 4.3 2.8 1.3 1.4 34

W/L: 10-6
Team +/-: +16
Favors +/-: +43

Obviously averaging 14&11 on 53% shooting with 3 blocks and over a steal per game is huge – but for a big who at times was plagued by turnovers – the 1.4 TO’s in 34 mpg was equally impressive.

As is the case with Favors – quite often he makes his defensive impact felt beyond the boxscore (like he did March 22nd in San Antonio where the Jazz were +15 with him on the court but -22 with him on the bench).

Utah posted a 10-6 record in games where Favors played 30 minutes or more (with two of the losses coming in the 2012 postseason against a vastly superior Spurs team). More impressively, the Jazz’s overall net point-differential was +16 in those 16 games but when Favors was on the floor he posted an individual plus/minus of +43.

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Unfortunately, the sample-size of 30-minute games for Enes Kanter is much smaller.

Kanter has eclipsed the 30-minute plateau just 4 times in 2 seasons. Not only did he record a double-double in each game – he posted averages of 17.8 pts and 12.5 rebs on 57% shooting from the floor with the Jazz going 3-1. Although two of those games were 30-point Jazz routs – Kanter started both of them and his double-double production played a large role in determining the final outcome (including a 23-point/22-rebound performance vs Charlotte).

However in order to enlarge the sample size – here are Kanter’s averages in his 19 career games in which he surpassed the 20-minute mark.

Kanter’s Averages When Playing 20+ Min
Pts Reb FG% FT% FTA Blk MPG
12.1 8.2 54.7% 78.6% 3.5 0.9 25

W/L: 8-11
Team +/-: +19
Kanter +/-: +73

The Jazz posted an 8-11 record in those 19 games – but upon further review W/L isn’t indicative of Kanter’s performance. When closely reviewing the circumstances of each game – 6 of the 11 losses were 20-point defeats where Kanter received much of his playing time due to the Jazz starters were getting throttled. A 7th loss was a game in Dallas in which the Jazz trailed by 21 in the 4th-qtr only to have their bench (including Kanter) lead them back to within 3-points late before eventually falling 113-108. Conversely, only 3 of the 8 wins could be labeled “blowouts” in which it could be assumed the outcome was long decided before Kanter reached the 20-minute benchmark.

A better inclination of Kanter’s effectiveness is the fact the Jazz were +73 with him on the court and only +19 with him on the bench in those 19 games. Combined with an impressive 12&8 with Boozer-like shooting efficiency in little over half of a game – and it’s obvious that given the opportunity Kanter can produce and do it very effectively.

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As was the case with Kanter, playing time has been hard to come by for guard Alec Burks as well.

Burks broke the 30-minute mark 7 times in his 2 seasons, posting averages in those games of 14.0 pts, 4.0 reb, 2.7 ast and 1.3 stl on 55% shooting from the floor, 79% from the foul line and 50% (5/10) from behind the arc.

Similar to Kanter – the sample size was enlarged to include all games in which Burks played 20 minutes or more.

Burks’ Averages When Playing 20+ Min
Pts FG% FT% FTA 3pt% Reb Ast TO Min
10.2 43.9% 75.2% 3.2 36.8% 3.4 2.1 1.8 25

W/L: 28-18
Team +/-: +118
Burks +/-: +197

Again – the 28-18 W/L record should be taken with a grain of salt. The Jazz went 11-6 in 2011-12 when Burks’ exceeded the 20-minute mark but several of those games were blowout wins with Burks receiving playing time to close. With that said, the 17-12 record Utah posted in 2012-13 with Burks playing 20+ minutes carries more weight- with very few of the 17 wins coming with Burks’ playing mostly garbage time. Unlike his rookie year, Burks was relied upon in most of those games to play not only 2-guard but a good deal of point due to injuries and ineffectiveness of Utah’s veteran PG’s.

As was the case with Favors and Kanter, the Jazz had a significantly higher point-differential with Burks on the floor (+197) than with him on the bench (+118). (Similar to Favors, in the March 22nd overtime loss in San Antonio the Jazz were +14 with Burks on the court and -21 with him on the bench.)

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These numbers could mean Favors, Kanter and Burks are due for breakout seasons – or they could mean the exact opposite. The obvious counter is “Well their averages are inflated because they played those minutes in games they were playing well. As bench players – if they weren’t playing well Tyrone Corbin could sit them and those poorer performances aren’t included in their averages.

Desspite the fact there were also countless times in which Favors, Burks or Kanter played extremely well yet still never received increased playing time – there is a good bit of logic behind that counter and it illustrates one of the biggest challenges the Core-4 will face should they be placed in leading roles. Going from super sub to fulltime starter is an adjustment and a learning process that not everyone is ready for. Jerry Sloan gave 21-year olds Andrei Kirilenko and DeShawn Stevenson the opportunity to start in 2002-03 and neither was ready. Kirilenko gave way to Matt Harpring – where both flourished with Harpring having a career season and AK finishing 3rd in Sixth-Man of the Year voting. The following year Andrei was more than ready to start and he made his only all-star appearance as a 22-year old.

There will be games where Favors/Kanter/Burks get off to tough starts and they must develop the mental toughness and focus to work themselves though those rough patches. Gordon Hayward showed that ability last season, with games such as April 5th against New Orleans where he shot 1-8 in the first-half but responded with a 20-points on 8/10 shooting 2nd-half.

Eventually, the Core-4 will need to reach a level of professionalism and experience where they are able to provide consistent performances on a nightly basis, and there will likely be many hiccups during the learning process.

With that said – it cannot be debated that when given the opportunity in the first 2-3 years of their careers, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks have all produced and have all shown they can be a valuable presence for the Jazz. The rest is up to them, but they need to have that responsibility placed upon them in order to take the next step.
More so than even from a Jazz-perspective, for the sake of their promising professional careers – I sincerely hope the Core-4 gets the chance to shine this-coming season. And whether they succeed or not – it’s still a chance that will be long overdue.

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