Oklahoma City Thunder: The Evolution Of Enes Kanter

As the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to roll on this season, the impact made by Enes Kanter goes under the radar.

When it comes to the success of the Oklahoma City Thunder this year, there’s only one player that’s often credited for their place around the league (and rightfully so).

The Herculean effort that is Russell Westbrook‘s season this year has certainly been the biggest reason why the Thunder are 25-18 right now.  I mean, a man who is capable of averaging a triple-double at this point in the season certainly deserves plenty of adulation and acclaim.

But there’s more to the Thunder than the all encompassing talent that is Westbrook.

They’ve more than hold their own in the first year in the post-Kevin Durant era and they’ve found players with plenty of promise (i.e., Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines) as they re-position themselves for the future.

Along with that, the many holdover players for the Thunder, of which there are many of who are still far from their prime, have continued to progress in their own right.  While no one ranks above all, one player’s impact in particular is steadily flying under the radar.

Upon his arrival to Oklahoma City nearly two years ago, Enes Kanter has been the subject of scrutiny for more than a few reasons, the biggest being his defensive limitations and his sizeable contract signed in the summer of 2015 (with help from the Portland Trail Blazers).

But now in his second full season with the team, Kanter has continued to embrace his role coming off the bench, a role that he keeps thriving in.

Although he’s averaging 21.5 minutes per game this year, Kanter’s production by per 36 minutes shows a better story of his improvements as he’s averaging double figures in points (24.1 points) and rebounds (11.2 rebounds) by that standard.

With his sterling true shooting percentage (61.8 percent), Kanter regularly feasts down low as well as makes regular trips to the free throw line, shooting 78.4 percent from the stripe on a free throw attempt rate of 39.5 percent.

Kanter’s strong offensive output extends to his impact on the team as he currently holds the highest offensive rating (108.4 points per 100 possessions), per NBA.com/stats.  In the time he’s off the floor, the Thunder’s offensive rating slides to 102.5 points per 100 possessions.

With Kanter’s ability to bolster the team’s offense in his time on the floor, it more than makes up for his overall net rating, which currently stands at plus-1 per 100 possessions on the year.

While there’s more details that can help back up this case, it’s time to start wondering why Kanter’s value to the Thunder often goes unheralded.

To the credit of both he and Thunder head coach Billy Donovan, the success Kanter’s found coming off the bench has more than propped up a middling bench overall.

Sure, the majority of Kanter’s offensive value lies directly around the basket, but in doing so, he’s grown in becoming a threat in an old school, traditional way like posting up and scoring off of second chance opportunities.

In fact, Kanter is averaging 1.21 points per 100 possessions on putback opportunities.

Of course, Kanter wouldn’t be where he is without his limitations on the defensive end.

He’s often too slow footed to defend within space and teams regularly target him in order to exploit that as well as his defensive awareness.

But we’re well past the point, at least during the regular season, to say that his weaknesses defensively overshadow his impact on the offensive end.

Considering Kanter keeps on developing in a very different kind of season for the Thunder should be giving the team and front office a lot of optimism for the future, one that Kanter will firmly be a part of in the years to come.

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