Fueling Inside

By Thomas Zhou

Enes Kanter’s transition from the Utah Jazz to the Oklahoma City Thunder has turned out to be a wise move for multiple parties. Utah, while losing its dismal starting center, has little to worry because of a rising Rudy Gobert. But the biggest winner goes to Kanter’s new team: OKC. The thunder are in desperate need of more fire-power heading into the end of the regular season.

Kanter has shown no problem adapting to the Thunder’s transition rhythm, but it is his ability to finish strong in the paint and feature down the stretch that makes him a valuable piece for the team. And now, with Serge Ibaka out due to a knee surgery, the Turkish center bears a heavy burden. As shown in the past few games, he is more than qualified for such a role.

Kanter has averaged 17.7 points, and 10.9 rebounds per game as a member of the Thunder . He has posted seven double-doubles in the last nine games. (He missed one due to an injury). He became the first Thunder center to have at least 20 points and 10 rebounds since the franchise arrived in Oklahoma in 2008-09 season. OKC has played without yet aspired for an above-average scoring center for a long time.

Kanter’s low-post attack is a threat thanks to his footwork. After Kanter sets screen for Westbrook, the point guard can either pull up his trademark mid-range jumper, or distribute the ball to his new fellow who can knock down 15-footers. Kanter scores in an unnoticeable way but it is what his team lacks. His steadiness, not athleticism, is a complement to the Thunder’s explosive style of play.

As Chuck says, a team with Westbrook and Kevin Durant needs someone who can put easy baskets.

What matters most is that Kanter is a beast on the offensive glass. The numbers in offensive rebounds for his last six games were 9, 9, 4, 7, 6, and 7. As a team whose shooting percentage ranks 18th in the league (per ESPN), the Thunder can expect more second-chance points with him on the court. Even if Ibaka continues to shoot from distance after recovery, Kanter’s presence is enough to make up the vacancy inside.

As Westbrook fuels the Thunder with triple-doubles, and Durant and Ibaka are recovering, Kanter powers OKC from inside the paint for a final playoff-spot spurt. The Thunder, on a four-game winning streak, is already three games ahead of the ninth Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference.

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