The Trail Blazers have arrived at the midpoint of the season with a 21-14 record. Damian Lillard, and his MVP-level production, have rightfully captured the lion’s share of the headlines coming out of Portland. Before circling back to Lillard, Blazer’s Edge associate editor Steve Dewald is working through a list of midseason awards while the All-Star break unfolds.
Today’s award looks at a player that has exceeded expectations this season. Enes Kanter, who was thrust into the starting lineup after Jusuf Nurkic’s injury exit, has produced a steady stream of double-double performances in a feature role. If Nassir Little or Anfernee Simons continue to show growth, they could take home the season-long version of this award, but the big fella deserves the honor at this time.
Blazer’s Edge Midseason Awards | Breakout Player
Enes Kanter | C
PTS: 11.9 | REB: 11.9 | FG%: 59.4
Kanter’s return to the Blazers has showcased two things: Neil Olshey’s ability to strike gold in modest moves and the big fella’s clear fit in coach Terry Stotts’ system. In a transaction that shipped Mario Hezonja to Memphis in a three-team deal, Kanter returned to Portland from Boston. Once again, it was assumed that Kanter would play a secondary role behind starting center Jusuf Nurkic. Due to another unfortunate injury, the former Knicks big man has returned to the starting rotation.
Since Nurkic’s exit in mid-January, Kanter has emerged as one of the NBA’s most consistent double-double threats. During that stretch, Kanter has averaged 12.9 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. League wide, his rebounding average (4.5) during that span trails only Hawks center Clint Capela.
When it comes to his work on the boards, Kanter often supplies the Blazers with just enough of an edge to overcome spotty defensive performances. By thwarting opponent’s fast-break opportunities and limiting second-chance points, Kanter’s production has become a key ingredient to Portland’s 21-win start to the 2020-21 season. On three occasions, Kanter has recorded a 20-rebound night.
Just before the All-Star break, Kanter produced a gorgeous 22-point, 21-rebound double-double. Here is a second look at the highlights from that matchup:
Overall, Kanter’s blue-collar effort and consistency made him a clear favorite for this midseason award. As the Blazers continued to lose starters to injury, it was Kanter who stepped up into the void to produce both points and rebounds on a nightly basis. A lot of his work is a forgotten art in the modern NBA, but that doesn’t mean that it should go completely unnoticed. Yes. He has clear limitations on defense. But the Blazers would be in a significantly worse situation if it wasn’t for Kanter’s production in the first half of the season.
Agree with Steve? At the midseason mark, who would you give the breakout player award to? Tell us in the comments below.