Celtics

2020 NBA Restart: How a healthy Enes Kanter helps Celtics in the bubble

Celtics

Enes Kanter has been among the more outspoken NBA players during this time of social activism among athletes. 

Well if the Boston Celtics’ first scrimmage was a preview of what’s to come, Kanter’s game will become a jacuzzi-hot topic of discussion in Boston’s quest towards Banner 18. 

Against Oklahoma City’s reserves during a scrimmage on Friday, Kanter needed just 13 minutes to tally a double-double of 11 points on 5-for-9 shooting to go with 10 rebounds.

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While the performance came against a second unit that Kanter should have dominated regardless, it was the first chance to see what a healthy Kanter looked like. He moved well with and without the ball, crashed the offensive glass and maybe most importantly, made his presence felt. 

It was indeed a different Kanter we saw, one that was a far cry from the player we saw near the end of the season who was limited in playing time as well as impact on the floor. 

In his last five games prior to the break, Kanter scored a total of just 19 points while shooting just 35 percent (7-for-20) from the field, stats that are well below what we’ve come to expect from the veteran big man who came into the league’s reboot in Orlando, Fla., averaging 8.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game while shooting 56.6 percent from the field. 

And in all five of those games, Kanter played 16 minutes or less after averaging 17.5 for this season. 

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A healthy Kanter not only provides Boston with some much-needed frontcourt depth but it also gives them a high-impact, back-to-the-basket scorer whose presence has the potential to open things up even more for a Celtics team that ranks 11th in the league in scoring (113.0) and fifth in offensive rating (112.3) this season. 

And while Kanter has often been seen as a liability on defense, it hasn’t been nearly as problematic as many had anticipated. He returns to the floor with a decent defensive rating of 103.7 which is his best defensive rating since his second season in the NBA, then with Utah. 

And his offense has been better than some might believe. While his 8.2 points per game doesn’t exactly send tremors throughout the NBA landscape, he’s scoring at an efficiency rate that ranks among his best seasons as a pro. Kanter’s offensive rating of 112.0 is a career high among seasons in which he played as many games as he has thus far this season.

But a healthy Kanter in the Bubble can do more than just call for change; he can be that change both on and off the court. 

Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Bucks, which begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live followed by tip-off at 6:30 p.m. You can also stream on the MyTeams App.