Enes Kanter – Improving Efficiency

Photo: Nathaniel S. Butler NBAE/Getty ImagesPhoto: Nathaniel S. Butler NBAE/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz dropped another competitive home game Wednesday night, this time to the Dallas Mavericks. In the loss, Enes Kanter did what he’s been doing on a near regular basis since the All-Star break – scored in double-figures with an efficient night from the floor.

In eight of the 13 games since the festivities in New Orleans, Kanter has shot 50 percent or better. He has also been able to set or tie a new career-high in points three times during the stint. While he is averaging a few more minutes a game, his numbers have jumped because of how efficient he’s been. Since the break, with Kanter on the court Utah scores 108.4 points per 100 possessions – up more than 12 points from what they would score with him in the game before February 19.

Before the All-star break the Utah Jazz were a little less likely to score with Kanter in the game than with him on the bench. Since, they are scoring an extra 4.3 points per 100 possessions with him in the game. It’s a pretty drastic jump showing that what we see on the court is true, he’s going to be a really good offensive player as he becomes more consistent.

Where Kanter is still a drawback for Utah is on the defensive side of the floor. Using the defensive rating (how many points the Jazz allow per 100 possessions) Kanter is a detriment by 6.5 points. Meaning, when he’s on the court the Jazz will give up 6.5 points more during 100 possessions than they would have with him on the sideline.

For every 100 possessions Kanter has played since the break, the Jazz have lost by an average of 2.2 points. That’s obviously a negative but it’s actually better than the team average which has Utah losing by 6.6 points on the whole during the same time frame.

While that’s a lot of numbers to wade through, essentially it shows that Kanter is a fantastic offensive piece that’s still developing for Utah but playing him on defense hurts the Jazz. Overall, the Jazz are better with him on the floor than without.

The problem with raw numbers like the ones above is that they can’t tell the whole story. One major factor they leave out is which lineup Kanter plays with. During some of those last 13 games he’s played with the starters but more of the time he’s been with the second unit or a mix of both.

Ever since the Utah Jazz drafted Kanter three years ago, fans (and probably the organization) have wanted to see the big man integrated into the system to play alongside Derrick Favors. During the three-year stretch with both of them on the roster, there’s been times when they’ve played together, but it’s relatively rare.

To the basketball novice, myself included, it seems simple; Kanter has an offensive skillset ahead of his years even if it’s still a little inconsistent, and Favors is one of the best inside defenders in the league. The two sound like a match made in heaven.

Kanter’s first year in the league was the lockout shortened season and the duo played together in 63 games but that was for an average of only 10 minutes per outing. The team, as a whole didn’t perform great with them playing together. In just the 10 minutes they would lose by an average of 1.6 points. While boards went up, scoring and field goal percentage took a dip.

In year two of Utah’s future bigs, the combo made it onto the court together 64 times but this time only averaged 11 minutes per outing, an increase of one minute on the floor together per game. The Kanter and Favors unit was able to get in the positive last season, but by only half a point playing on a team that was still led by Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap.

Now, as team leaders, they still haven’t seen much floor time together but there might be good reason for that. In the 39 games they’ve seen the court together it’s been for an average of 12.9 minutes. It’s still not a huge sample but the numbers haven’t been pretty.

This year the duo loses by 20.7 points during the average 100 possessions they play together. That’s the worst combination of any two players on the Jazz that have seen the court for more than 300 minutes (they’re at a total of 503 minutes playing together). The numbers are discouraging to say the least.

Even with Kanter’s recent boost offensively, the combo still can’t figure out how to make their time on the floor together a net-gain for the team. Since the break, they haven’t seen a boost at all. Far from venturing a guess as to how the Jazz can solve the issue, I just thought the numbers were interesting and will be worth thinking about next time we see the pair sub into a game.

As far as Kanter’s game as a whole, he’s improving quickly. He essentially took a year off while at Kentucky because of being ruled ineligible. He then entered the NBA to work his way through a lockout shortened season, with no training camp. Last year he played consistently but injured his shoulder before the season ended forcing him to take most of the offseason off.

Finally he’s playing an entire season with a prominent role and he’s learning quickly. Now, with just 17 games left, let’s see what else Kanter can learn.

Posted in Featured Writers