With averages of 12.7 points and 8.1 rebounds off the bench in 81 of Oklahoma City’s 82 regular season games this year, Enes Kanter was an obvious snub when Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford won this season's NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. But in the playoffs, Kanter has been an absolute monster with averages of 15.2 points and 7.0 rebounds a game in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks. These averages make Kanter one of the most productive players in the first round on a staggering 70.7% shooting in only 20.4 minutes a game exclusively off the bench. If you expand on this further based on per 36 minutes Kanter would currently average an incredible 26.8 points and 12.4 rebounds with the same exact shooting percentage.
In the first round against Dallas, besides Kanter’s play Oklahoma City obviously received outstanding play from the superstar duo of forward Kevin Durant (26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists) and guard Russell Westbrook (26.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, 11.2 assists). But these amazing numbers come at a price with Durant averaging 38.2 minutes a game and Westbrook averaging 36.0 minutes a game. With Golden State losing reigning MVP Stephen Curry for at least two weeks and the Los Angeles Clippers losing both guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin, Oklahoma City is currently in the driver’s seat to take the Western Conference Championship and possibly an NBA Title. If Thunder coach Billy Donovan were to start Kanter this would only benefit Westbrook and Durant. Their numbers would drop but the extra rest would help ensure that Oklahoma City has a better chance of winning an NBA Title this season.
Even though Kanter has the footwork of a ballerina and a soft that is as soft as silk offensively he is still a major liability defensively which is normally why Oklahoma City Thunder Center Steven Adams draws the start over Kanter as Adams is viewed as an enforcer and rim protector. But with facing San Antonio in the next round of the Western Conference Playoffs, Kanter would be facing off against either Tim Duncan or Boris Diaw, both crafty veterans. But, Duncan is in the twilight of his career and certainly has had dwindling numbers (5.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks in the playoffs) and Diaw is not a true center, so Kanter could easily defend either player. If Kanter does draw the start against San Antonio he would flourish as he has averaged 15.8 points and 14.2 rebounds in only 27.9 minutes a game against the Spurs this year, all off the bench.
Enes Kanter has put up insane numbers off the bench for the Oklahoma City Thunder this entire season and was an obvious snub for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. After receiving heaps of praise from teammate Russell Westbrook, Kanter should earn the start for the Thunder from head coach Billy Donovan. He would be the missing third option for the Thunder’s starting unit and would help lower the intensity Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have been facing minutes-wise this postseason. If the Oklahoma City Thunder want to capitalize on the loss of Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Los Angeles’s Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, they should start Enes Kanter in order to further help their chances of winning an NBA Championship.