Is Kanter the draft's most intriguing prospect?

Is Kanter the draft's most intriguing prospect?

Published May. 19, 2011 12:16 p.m. ET

There are several reasons that while Kyrie Irving is considered the
NBA Draft’s best prospect, Enes Kanter could be considered the most
interesting and the most complicated.

Now that there’s a chance
the Cavaliers could get both, let’s take a look at Kanter — his journey,
his talent level and what could be ahead…

1. Kanter is a skilled,
nearly 7-footer who turns 19 on May 20. Part of what makes his case so
interesting is that he didn’t play basketball at all last season. He
enrolled at Kentucky but was ruled ineligible by the NCAA after it was
determined that he received excess compensation while playing for a
professional team in his native Turkey. He wasn’t under contract with
that team because he was under 18, but an NCAA investigation revealed he
received “above his actual and necessary expenses” and therefore
forfeited his amateur status.

4. That Kanter
declined an invitation to again play in the Hoop Summit last month — and
reportedly has declined early invitations to work out against any other
draft-eligible players — is a little alarming. After a year, shouldn’t
he be itching to go against live competition? There are questions about
his athleticism and whether he’ll ultimately be a tough and unique
matchup for true centers or just another space-eating power forward.
Teams considering him high in the draft are pretty sure he’ll rebound
and that he’s ready to score, at least at some level, but must look at
his upside and take into account how the year layoff may have affected
him. He’s young, and a team that thinks his best basketball is ahead
will take him high in next month’s draft.


5. How high? That’s the
(multi) million-dollar question. The Timberwolves, at No. 2, always are
unpredictable, and may already have a slightly shorter Kanter in Kevin
Love. The Jazz at No. 3 will take a long look but just traded their
franchise point guard for young big man Derrick Favors last winter. The
Cavaliers are next at No. 4 and have plenty of options, including
trading down, addressing a pretty glaring need at small forward or going
for another European developmental prospect. Maybe Kanter’s time in the
U.S. makes him a little more of a sure thing, at least in the short
term, to NBA teams. Maybe European players projected to go high in the
draft like Jan Vesley and Jonas Valanciunas bring more upside or a more
appealing skill set. I’m the wrong person to ask about them. I do know
Kanter brings a certain level of skill and strength and a certain
(albeit small) level of, well, certainty. Maybe that’s enough for the
Cavaliers. Maybe that’s enough for a team ahead of the Cavs to take him.
Between now and June 23, he’s a guy to watch. And almost every eye in
the NBA will be watching.