BOSTON -- There is no mistaking the light-hearted, easy-breezy demeanor of Enes Kanter and how at this point in the Celtics’ franchise, it is an ideal fit.
From his opening press conference in Boston, picking jersey No. 11 and doing a little bit of trolling in the process (No. 11 was Kyrie Irving’s old number), he has quickly endeared himself to Celtics fans. But as we’re coming to find, there’s so much more to who Kanter really is.
He is not one afraid to speak his mind, evident by him consistently being outspoken against the government of his native Turkey. Despite the laughs and positions he takes politically, lost at times is the fact that he’s a pretty damn good basketball player particularly when it comes to scoring and rebounding, which, at the end of the day, is why he’s a Boston Celtic.
It’s a successful season for Kanter if…
...he consistently delivers in Boston the way he has with his previous teams. Kanter, selected with the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft - two spots behind Irving, six spots ahead of Irving’s replacement, Kemba Walker - is one of the best when it comes to double-doubles. And considering the holes left in the frontcourt with Al Horford (Philadelphia) and Aron Baynes (traded to Phoenix) gone, the Celtics will need double-double Kanter more nights than not. Last season, he had 32 double-doubles. To put that in perspective, Kanter’s total was more than Boston’s top-2 double-double leaders last season, Kyrie Irving (21) and Al Horford (10).
It’s a disappointing season for Kanter if…
...Kanter’s biggest shortcoming as a player - his defense - becomes such an issue that not even the best efforts on head coach Brad Stevens’ part, can cover it up. He is one of the few players on this Celtics roster who can dominate one end of the floor, and disappear for long stretches at the other.
So far in camp, it appears to not be a huge issue. But there's no denying that defensively, Robert Williams III and Daniel Theis are ahead of him - and it's not just because they played for Boston last season, either. But this is the preseason and while it has value, it by no means serves as a true indicator of how things will be when the games truly count.
For example, Nikola Vucevic did not play in Boston's 100-75 preseason win over the Magic. Vucevic is a player who would challenge Boston and, just as significant, result in Kanter having to guard him. Kanter must also play well enough to stay in a rotation that is going to be crowded for the team’s bigs, with chief challengers Williams and Theis.
Kanter comes in the season motivated to not just play, but be a major cog in the team’s success. Last season’s run with Portland gave him a feel for what it takes to make a deep playoff run. It's something he’s hoping to replicate with the Celtics. His ability to provide inside scoring, rebounding, solid defense and leadership, will go far in determining both the success of the Celtics and his future in Boston or elsewhere. Signed to a two-year, $9.77 million deal, Boston - on paper at least - is getting a tremendous bang for its buck. And Kanter, like most free agents who sign a short-term deal with the C's, is hoping a strong showing will allow him to cash in on a bigger payday when he hits free agency whether it means returning to Boston or signing elsewhere.
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