Now before I begin I believe I need to preface this by saying that I like Enes Kanter. I think he can be a productive player in this league and could even be a 20 point and 10 rebound a game type player. I do NOT think he should be traded if the Jazz are not receive something of value in return. Kanter should not be given away, but if there is a trade where the Jazz receive value in return should they trade him? However, the question remains, should the Utah Jazz trade Enes Kanter? With the Jazz recently stating they believe Derrick Favors is a center (C) leads me to think the writing is on the wall for Kanter to leave. In fact, I think they should trade him for several reasons. I don’t think he can be a successful power forward (PF) in the league. With the 5th pick the Jazz will most likely be in a position where the top few players are all bigs, making it difficult to provide minutes for everyone. I think the Jazz can improve long-term as a team by trading Kanter. And finally, he has simply been an average player at this point in his career and I think his trade value would drop the longer they wait.
Why Kanter is Not a Power Forward
I have argued recently with some fans in the comments section of a recent post, which can be found here. In these discussion I some fans have stated that Kanter can in fact play PF, he can be a beast on offense, and his defense really is not that bad. First off let me take on the argument that he can play PF by giving a simple explanation on the difference between a PF and C. A center is a player who plays with their back to the basket. They are post players and typically strong rebounders and defenders. Even though the NBA is increasingly going with smaller lineups the C still needs to have some size. Offensively though a C is a post up player. PF is a position where they can post up, but will also need the ability to hit jump shots and be able to take the ball to the rim from about 10-15 feet and in. Kanter simply does not have the foot speed to take anyone to the rim. He does have a jump shot, but without being able to get to the rim a defender will be all over him to take away the jump shot if he does hit it a few times. He just does not have the athletic ability to compete at a higher level at the PF position.
Kanter can be a beast on offense. You will not get much of an argument from me on this one. I think he can be an excellent offensive player in the league. He plays below the rim, which results in too many of his shots being blocked, but as I stated earlier I think he can be a 20/10 player. That is solid.
The problem is he simply cannot defend. Some tried to state that he is not a terrible defender. Well, the numbers say otherwise. For this I will use the PER statistic. If you don’t know what that statistic is you can get a brief description here. I will only say this the average is set at 15, a score of 16.5 = 3rd option, 18 = solid 2nd option, 20 = borderline All-Star, 22.5 = Bonafide All-Star, 25 = Weak MVP candidate, 27.5 = Strong MVP candidate, 30 = Runaway MVP candidate, and 35 = Historically great season. The argument against the PER is that it highly favors offensive players while discriminating against defensive players that don’t contribute much offensively. However, since Kanter is an offensive player this should work in his advantage. It does not. His PER is 15.7, indicating he is an average player. Now 82games.com provides an excellent breakdown of Kanter when he plays C and when he plays PF. When playing C he has a PER of 16.3 and 15.1 when he plays PF. He is a little better when playing C, but not by much as both indicate average player. Now, when we look at the average PER of players Kanter is defending you see his struggles become apparent. When Kanter was defending a C they had an average PER of 20.1, indicating that Kanter made them look like borderline All-Stars. When Kanter defended a PF they posted an average PER of 27.7! That is to say Kanter made opposing PFs look like strong MVP candidates. That simply cannot happen if the Jazz ever want to be successful. Kanter was bad when defending C, but was atrocious when defending PF. Even if he improves his defense it would still be terrible. The Jazz simply cannot consistently be competitive with your PF being dominated in that way.
The NBA draft is quickly approaching. The Jazz currently have the 5th pick in the NBA draft. Assuming they keep the pick they will most likely be left with Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and Julius Randle sitting at the top of their board. Now it is possible that Orlando passes on Dante Exum, leaving him available at 5, but I just don’t think that is going to happen given Exum’s upside and Orlando’s need for a point guard.
If Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, and Exum are in fact the first four players drafted I think the Jazz draft Vonleh. You could argue either Randle, or Gordon, but for the sake of argument I’m just going to say they take Vonleh. Now, the Jazz could keep Kanter this next season as Vonleh learns the NBA game, but that would leave Kanter as a free agent next summer and in a position where they most likely let him walk for nothing. They can resign him this summer, in which case they could hold off on trading him and play him as a backup C or starting PF, but if that happens I see his trade value quickly dropping. This summer may simply be the best time to trade him and receive the most value in return. If the Jazz draft Vonleh there simply isn’t enough minutes long-term to keep Favors, Kanter, Vonleh, and Rudy Gobert.
Assuming the Jazz do take Vonleh the question needs to be asked are the Jazz better with Vonleh or Kanter in five years? I believe they will be better with Vonleh. Vonleh has a better jump shot than Kanter, but Kanter is currently far better than Vonleh posting up. That is an aspect Vonleh is still developing and he made huge strides in his year at Indiana. Vonleh is also incredibly long (7’4″ wingspan) that will allow him to block or alter more shots. Vonleh is not great defensively, but he is solid. The combination of Vonleh and Favors could provide the Jazz with two bigs that can block shots and protect the paint. For me I don’t know how to even begin to describe how excited that would make me. I am sooooo tired of watching teams for years drive to the rim against the Jazz with no fear of having their shot blocked. Now having two players with that ability and then Gobert off the bench may leave the Jazz as the best post defensive team in the league. Also, many people believe Vonleh will have a Chris Bosh type career. Bosh may be the third wheel right now in Miami, and the brunt of a lot of jokes, but do not forget how great he was in Toronto. Bosh averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds his last season in Toronto. If that type of production can be had to go along with some defensive presence than sign me up. Kanter may have that potential offensively, but also cancels out his offensive production due to his defensive liability.
Kanter is an Average Player
I stated the PER for Kanter is average at 15.7. Another statistic that looks at the overall contribution of the player is the win share. Win share is a statistic that rates the value the player brings to the team by the number of wins they produce based on their contributions. Kanter has a win share of 2.2. Kanter was ranked 215 in win shares among all qualified players. Win shares is also broken down into offensive and defensive. For offensive he had a win share of 1.3, good for 182 among qualified players. For defense his win share was 0.9, god for 253 among active players. These numbers simply are not acceptable for someone who is supposed to be a “core” piece for the team.
Finally, the Jazz were actually better when Kanter was off the court. The Jazz averaged 103.2 points per 100 possessions with Kanter ON the court. When he was OFF the court they averaged 105.5 points per 100 possessions. In other words when Kanter, who is an offensive player, was not on the court the Jazz were actually 2.2 points better on offense. On defense with Kanter ON the court the Jazz gave up 115.7 points per 100 possessions. When he was OFF the court they gave up 109.3, or the Jazz were 6.4 points better on defense when Kanter was not in the game.
I know some people are going to think that Kanter is a beast and showed what he can be in a few games, such as when he posted 23 points and 22 rebounds against the Bobcats in 2013. Yes that is a great game posted by Kanter, but there is something called typical performance and maximal performance. What Kanter showed against the Bobcats (and a few other games) is maximal performance. That is a peak performance, but are infrequent. His typical performance would be his averages, which this season was 12 points 7.5 rebounds per game. That is ok, but not great. You want players with a high typical performance, when they have a high typical performance you can expect that type of performance night in and night out. Rather than hoping he can repeat his maximal performance, which just isn’t going to frequently happen.
I simply do not understand why so many fans are completely opposed to trading Kanter. If the Jazz are able to receive something of value in return why would you not want the Jazz to make a deal? Anything that can be done to improve the team long-term should be done if possible. This loyalty to Kanter simply because he has had a handful of solid games should not blind Jazz fans the fact that overall he has been average at best. The Jazz should shop Kanter around to see what type of value they can receive in return with him as part of the deal. If trading Kanter makes the Jazz better they should pull the trigger and trade him. If no team is willing to make a deal that benefits the Jazz then hold on to him and hope he somehow learns to jump higher, move faster, and not be so bad defensively.