Welcome back to another edition of the Peabody Award-winning series “How They Drew It Up.” This Posting & Toasting exclusive is sweeping the nation by storm. An anonymous G-League video intern reached out to the website and said the series “has a lot left to be desired.” I’m big time, baby!
This week, we are going to focus on Enes Kanter. And I say “we” because Jonathan “Not John Schuhmann” Schulman is making his HTDIU debut! Kanter is the focus of this film session because some folks are still caught up in the gaudy box score numbers and double-doubles. As I outlined in the off-season, the eighth-year center’s box score numbers do a poor job predicting his RAPM, which is a valuable adjusted plus-minus metric. In more layman’s terms, Kanter is still a minus player on the court despite his impressive points- and rebounds-per-game figures.
Using a regression equation and differentials is absolutely a nerdy way of presenting this concept of “Enes Kanter doesn’t contribute to winning basketball,” so I instead decided to present the case via this recurring series. Simply pointing to a few metrics in a spreadsheet and saying “I told you he’s not good” doesn’t really jive well when you look at a box score and see Kanter putting up 20-20 games with seven assists.
Despite the numbers he put up against the Bulls, Enes Kanter did not play “good” basketball. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but Stingy and I are here to explain why Kanter has not been good to start this season. Stingy will start us off, then I will finish up the rest of the article. Let’s start the show!
Teammate Open in the Corner? I’ll Just Continue to Post Up
You know what makes me sick? How Damyean Dotson always makes the excellent effort and never reaps the reward.
So here we have a question of what did we see and what didn’t we see.
Trier misses a good look and Mudiay corrals the long rebound, only to make an awkward arms-reach post entry to Enes Kanter.
Dotson hustles to the left corner and, had he gotten a pass in rhythm, could have fired a round right there. According to Austin Clemens, Dotson is connecting on 60 percent of his left corner threes so far this season. (Quick note from Drew, this was written before the Hawks game and the numbers may be slightly different).
OK, maybe it’s a tight spot so he doesn’t shoot it, but still passing to the open man could give Damyean a chance to drive to the basket with LaVine trailing, and boom, you have a quick 2-on-1 going downhill. Kanter instead looks him off.
Enes proceeds to ignore D.Dot’s ensuing baseline cut and steadies himself to go after Wendell Carter Jr. as Dotson clears through. Now Enes decides to get to work chiseling away at Wendell, who is a formidable defender.
Meanwhile, Noah Vonleh chips LaVine on the opposite block. Jabari Parker elects to just stand there and do nothing. LaVine desperately wants to take a swipe in Kanter’s cookie jar, but picks up Vonleh instead, and Dotson quickly relocates to the right wing, where he’s hitting 44 percent of his attempts.
Cameron Payne has no reason whatsoever to guard Mudiay, so he hangs out on the witch’s nipple and waits for Kanter to put the ball on the deck before diving in to try to scrape it away. Jabari Parker is still just standing there, possibly wondering if he remembered to put the ice cream in the freezer or if he left it out on the counter.
Kanter pukes out a little hook shot. Gross.
Enes Moving & Confusing
Hey guys, it’s Drew again. Did you miss me? Probably not, and I completely understand. Anywell, let’s talk about the clip below.
Before we discuss Kanter, I want to quickly mention that when Burke has gotten into the game, he’s been more willing to shoot threes when his defender goes under a screen instead of dribbling inside the line for a long two. All of the Knicks’ ball-handlers need to do this more. As you can see, Burke does exactly that: pulls the trigger as the guard goes under the screen. Burke drains the three, but it’s waved off. Why? Because Enes Kanter commits a terrible and blatant moving screen.
Kanter is probably the most frustrating screener on the team. You can make the case for Mitchell Robinson, but he gets a pass this year for all the reasons I’m too lazy to list. You know them already. This frustration comes from the fact that Kanter refuses to actually make contact with the defender and tries to slip the screen to not receive a pass, but rather get down low for an offensive rebound. All he needs to do on this play is literally just stand there and set the screen. But those offensive rebounds, though, right?
Slipping a screen works when the screener is a threat to both roll and pop as well as the ball-handler is a threat from three-point range. If the roll man’s defender is pressing up on the ball-handler too much, slipping the screen allows the roll man a clean path to the baskets; it’s effectively a cut. This either forces the help defense to rotate to the roll man (if he’s a vertical threat) and someone on the perimeter is open or the roll man has an easy dunk/layup if the pass is good.
How much of this describes Enes Kanter and Trey Burke? Burke can make the passes, but that’s about it. I get that offensive rebounds are Kanter’s thing, but, man, just read the situation better and set a damn screen.
Call Roto-Rooter For This Clogged Lane
This next clip falls within the same family as the last one, in that it involves Kanter’s desire to get into the paint. This clip is from Zach DiLuzio, who is in between part time jobs with Posting & Toasting and Knicks Film School.
As my colleague points out, Kanter clears out to the low block at the worst possible time and takes away a clear driving lane for Frank Ntilikina. Kanter is too focused on where he and Mitchell Robinson need to be and is not paying any attention to what’s occurring on the ball. Very similar as to how he dives to the rim instead of focusing on settle the pick, Kanter is focused on getting into a post up, killing the flow of the offensive possession.
Granted, playing Kanter and Robinson makes zero sense for spacing purposes, but that doesn’t change the fact that Kanter prefers to be 10 feet or less from the rim. He’s the best version of himself when he’s down low posting up and trying to grab offensive rebounds. But because he doesn’t do anything else offensively, him camping in the paint takes away so many driving and cutting lanes for the other offensive players. This, in turn, really prevents the Knicks offense from being more efficient and versatile.
Where is the Help?!
Domantas Sabonis is everything you want Enes Kanter to be: plays within the offense, sets great screens, moves well, can pass, efficient around the rim, and not a complete trash can on defense. Sabonis shot 100 percent on the Knicks and crushed them in the pick-and-roll.
This is a great screen from Sabonis. Look at all the space created for he and Tyreke Evans to work with. Hezonja really has zero shot at stopping this by himself. This really is more of the Pacers executing a great pick-and-roll, but Kanter’s lackluster help defense cannot be ignored. For a guy that big and strong, he’s truly an awful rim protector. Opponents simply do not care if he’s contesting a shot — if he actually is. This is early in that game; Kanter needs to go and contest that shot, even if he does end up fouling Sabonis. Unfortunately, he’s never going to be able to be a step faster, but you really cannot be a five in the NBA and be that passive protecting the rim.
If You’re Gonna Foul, Foul Hard
It’s one thing not being the fleetest of foot and not always having a step on the guy you’re guarding or supposed to help on. As frustrating as it is to watch, you at least understand why someone is consistently getting beat. It’s a whole other thing to get beat off the dribble and give a half-assed foul that doesn’t prevent the shot in any shape or form.
The clip above also shows the limitations of Trey Burke as a pick-and-roll defender, but we aren’t here to go into detail on that. Spencer Dinwiddie certainly does perform a nice move to slice and dice his way to the hoop, but Kanter just stands there and performs such a weak foul that does nothing to prevent the And-One.
These type of obvious touch fouls are commonplace with Kanter. He does them too frequently and it’s quite annoying. If he was actually in a defensive stance and tries to prevent the shot once Dinwiddie passes him, that isn’t an opportunity for an old-fashioned three-point play. If this isn’t a clear-cut example of why Kanter isn’t good at pick-and-roll defense, then I don’t know what to tell you because his defense truly has a lot left to be desired.
First bonus clip of the season and it’s certainly a doozy. Shout out to fellow Posting & Toasting contributor and my best friend, Ashwin Ramnath, for sharing this with me so I can share it with the Internet.
The combination of Burke, Hezonja, and Kanter on the court trying to play defense is a recipe for disaster. Facing those three on defense is what opponents pray for so they can boost their season averages. I mean, just look at this play.
There appears to be some miscommunication with Hezonja and Kanter, but even so, Kanter legit has zero interest stopping the ball and then GOES TO BOX OUT HEZONJA! WHAT KIND OF NONSENSE IS THIS?! The effort on this play is flat-out appalling, especially when combined with the notion of Kanter is more focused on rebounds than actually stopping the ball.
I know some folks may think that these are cherry-picked clips, but this stuff happens every game… multiple times… and usually bundled together. The NBA season is barely into November, and I could truly fill this article with clip after clip of these significant concerns. The inability to actually set screens without trying to slip them for low post position, clogging lanes because of his presence near the rim, and simply being a dumpster fire on defense is why I originally argued that Kanter’s points and rebounds have little to no impact on winning games.
Last season, Kanter dropped a 30-20 game against the Sixers on Christmas and the Knicks still lost. The top five performances of Kanter’s Knicks career, based on Basketball Reference’s game score metric, all resulted in team losses. He has had 10 games with a game score figure above 20.0 and New York has only won two of those games. This isn’t a coincidence. Defense and doing the little things on offense are critical to winning basketball games. Getting points and rebounds at the expense of the other stuff does not.