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Five Statistical Nuggets on New Trail Blazers Center Enes Kanter

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Here are five interesting statistical discussion points on the Blazers’ newest player, veteran big man Enes Kanter.

NBA: Washington Wizards at New York Knicks Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

While brand-new Portland Trail Blazers center Enes Kanter has been in the NBA news a fair amount this season, it’s mostly been for non-basketball related reasons. He didn’t travel to Turkey because he felt threatened by the Turkish government and didn’t want to leave the US, and went through an extended tussle with the New York Knicks’ management and coaching about his lack of playing time. But now, Kanter is about to join a new team, and he will probably be getting a fair amount of minutes right away. Here are five statistical launch points for looking at Enes Kanter, NBA player.

1. He’s moved away from the three-point line instead of towards it:

While the NBA has increasingly shifted towards three-pointers, typified this season by the ridiculous shot-taking (and making) of James Harden, Kanter has bucked the trend by focusing on his inside game. After taking only three long ball in his first three seasons, Kanter took 41 in 49 games for the Jazz in the 2014-2015 season, with 7% of his shots coming from deep. Just 22 years old, and with a decent touch from three, one might have guessed that Kanter would eventually become a respectable shooter from outside. That has not happened, as his three-point rate has never been that high since, and his percentages haven’t increased either. Still just 26, Kanter could add more facets to his game, but a consistent three-point shot does not seem to be one of them.

2. He’s one of the best offensive rebounders in the NBA:

While a good defensive rebounder, Enes thrives as a “garbage man” on the offensive end, collecting teammate’s misses for his own buckets. He’s placed in the top 10 in offensive rebounding percentage each of the past six seasons, including leading the NBA in 2015-2016 and 2017-2018. There’s a lot of value in players who can score without needing plays called for them, and offensive rebounding is one of the best ways of doing so.

3. Kanter’s an efficiency god:

While Kanter doesn’t possess much range, he doesn’t always need it, as he’s a very sure scorer in the painted area. For his career, Kanter has a field goal percentage of 53.9, which places him 11th among all active players. His lack of outside shooting costs him a bit in terms of efficiency, but that’s counterbalanced by his free throw shooting, which is excellent for a big man (78.2% for his career). His career true shooting of 58.3% has him 17th among active players, and 53rd in the history of the NBA. He’s not a go-to scorer by any means, but he’s a very good finisher.

4. He is not beloved by certain advanced metrics:

While his box score numbers have always been very good, Kanter’s impact has long been questioned by advanced metrics, particularly those centering on plus/minus numbers. In basketball reference’s BPM (box plus minus), Kanter has been a negative every season except his past two on the Knicks, and possessed a negative DBPM in all but 2017-2018, when it was a paltry 0.1. Meanwhile, ESPN’s RPM (real plus minus) has him as a negative each of the past five seasons, and negative defensively across the board as well. Essentially, these stats would indicate that Kanter’s box score numbers don’t really help his team in actually winning games, largely because his defense is simply not up to par for a big man. Kanter is certainly a rotation NBA player, but advanced stats would paint him as someone who’s around replacement level or a little below: not someone you want getting minutes for a good team in the playoffs.

5. Kanter is always available:

While Enes Kanter might not quite be an iron man like beloved former Blazer Wes Matthews, the Turkish big man rarely misses games. In his 8 seasons in the NBA, Kanter has never missed more than 10 games due to injury. He played in 70 contests in his sophomore season, 2012-2013, but two of the games he missed were DNP-CDs, not because of injury. Since then, he’s missed two games, seven, zero, 11, 10, and then a bunch this season, but again because of coaches’ decisions, not injury. Availability is an underrated talent in a league as grueling as the NBA, and Enes Kanter is almost always ready to suit up if called upon.