Thunder Playbook: How Enes Kanter Fits With OKC

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Feb 24, 2015; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder center Enes Kanter (34) attempts a shot against Indiana Pacers center Roy Hibbert (55) during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Admit it, Enes Kanter wasn’t on your wishlist for the Thunder. 

Arron Afflalo, Brook Lopez, and Pau Gasol were at the top of the list. C.J. Miles, Darren Collison, and Vince Carter were tossed around. Fans even kicked the tires on Mike Miller and Mario Chalmers…but no where was Kanter mentioned. 

And yet, he may end up being a better fit for Oklahoma City than any of other options listed above. 

To the fans’ credit, they were on the right track when clamoring for Lopez and Gasol. A soft-handed, offensive-minded post has never really been something that the Thunder has utilized. In fact, throughout the franchise’s history, the team has never had a true offensive presence in the paint; Nenad Krstic came closest but even his greatest output was capped at 9.7 points per game in the 2008-2009 season. 

Since then, the Thunder’s front office has opted to go with a more defensive approach at the five spot. In February, 2011, Oklahoma City dealt Krstic for Kendrick Perkins and bolstered the bench unit with like-skilled players such as Nazr Mohammed, Daniel Orton, Hasheem Thabeet, and Steven Adams in succeeding off-seasons. To the Thunder’s credit, it’s difficult to knock their logic given the team’s extreme success since acquiring Perkins, amassing a 253-116 (.686) record and consistently being one of the league’s strongest defensive units. 

So was a deviation from the plan really necessary? Adams has made tremendous strides this year as both a rim protector and a finisher at the rim, to the point that I even named him the Thunder’s most improved player in my mid-season awards. There’s an argument to be made that despite Kanter’s early success with the team, he still represents a potentially unnecessary skill set, given the talent around him. 

In this edition of Thunder Playbook, I take a look at how Kanter fits with the team from an X’s-and-O’s standpoint and how they will continue to utilize “The Turkish Hammer” (note: officially submitting that as my vote for Kanter’s nickname. You heard it here first.) going forward. 

Next: Kanter on Offense