Putting up big numbers off the bench, Enes Kanter is a candidate for this year's Sixth Man of the Year award.
Two years ago the Oklahoma City Thunder traded for center Enes Kanter at the trade deadline to help Russell Westbrook on offense when former teammate Kevin Durant was out for the season with a broken foot.
Fast forward two years later and Kanter is not only a candidate for this year's Sixth Man of the Year award, but the lead candidate for the award.
Halfway into the season with the All-Star break approaching near us, there has been a lot of chatter about who deserves the Sixth Man of the Year thus far.
Is it Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers who has won the award multiple times in his career? Is it Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets who has helped James Harden put Houston back on the map as one of the best teams in the NBA?
The easy answer is to say it's Gordon because he leads the league in points off the bench (17.6 PPG), and leads the NBA in three-point shots made (160 3PM), according to basketball reference.com.
However, the real answer is Enes Kanter. Here's why.
Averaging 21.7 minutes per game, nine fewer minutes than Gordon (30.6 MPG), Kanter is scoring 14.6 points per game and grabbing 6.7 rebounds per game, according to basketball-reference.com.
Now just think if Kanter was playing the minutes Gordon was averaging. Kanter is averaging 7.3 points per game per 10 minutes. Add another nine minutes to Kanter's minutes per game and he would be averaging close to 22 points per game. Five more than Gordon.
Not to mention if he was playing the same amount of minutes as Gordon, he would be averaging 10 rebounds per game and two assists per game. A stat line of 21.9 PPG, 10 RPG, 2 APG, compared to Gordon's current stat line of 17.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, and 2.8 APG, according to basketball-reference.com.
But these stats aren't the only reason why Kanter deserves the Sixth Man of the Year award.
Since coming to Oklahoma City, Kanter has evolved his game as not just a low-post big man, but a big man who can shoot the midrange, pass the ball out of double coverage, and run the floor on a fast break.
A few years ago Kanter could not make this pass like he does to Jerami Grant in the video below.
Kanter also struggled with catching passes, shooting the midrange shot, and running the floor on the fast break. However, he showed the country during a national televised broadcast against the Golden State Warriors that he can do all of that now.
The one knock against Kanter, however, is his defense. The main reason why Kanter does not get more than 20 minutes per game is because he is a liability on defense.
He struggles to guard big men in the post, something that fellow teammate Steven Adams is good at. But Kanter has improved his defensive game with the help of Adams in practice.
Overall, Kanter deserves to be the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year.
Yes, Gordon has done a terrific job in his first season with the Rockets. However, you could make the argument that the Thunder would only be a .500 team if Kanter was not on the roster.
He helped tremendously on the offense when Victor Oladipo was out for an extended period of time with a wrist injury, and has done a terrific job of being the leader of the Thunder's second unit.
With the first half of the season in the books, the NBA has two front-running candidates when it comes to the Sixth Man of the Year award, but with Enes Kanter having a slight edge over Eric Gordon.