All draft picks need to prove themselves in the NBA, but most enter the league having proven something to the general public. College stars have spent a great deal of time on our TV screens, other college players have at least spent some time as prospects, and most of the best foreign players face good competition at the club and international levels.
New Utah Jazz big man Enes Kanter is an outlier. A 19-year-old from Turkey, Kanter was set to play for John Calipari at Kentucky, only to be declared ineligible by the NCAA. So he hasn't played organized basketball for an entire year, and before that he was facing subpar competition for a prep school in Southern California. Kanter has lots of talent, but most scouts and GMs had barely seen him play in a competitive environment before he vaulted to the top of their draft boards.
Kanter's agent, Max Ergul, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Friday that his client has official offers from two Chinese teams. Ergul does not want Kanter to miss another year of basketball, and he will seriously weigh the offers if the lockout stretches into late September.
"It's very interesting stuff," said Ergul, who said he could not reveal the names of the clubs because details of the negotiations are still confidential. "We'll be entertaining those ideas as well as the lockout progresses. He's a ballplayer — he has to play." [...]
If the lockout does not end by late September and Kanter decides not to play pro ball overseas, he plans to work out with trainer Tim Grover, who also has ties with Chinese teams.
Kanter's interest in playing overseas isn't notable in itself -- virtually every NBA player of any substance has entertained offers at this point in the summer. Still, his situation is quite different from that of someone like Kobe Bryant. Whereas established players are going overseas to earn some extra money and engage in a diversion during a lockout, Kanter would head to China to prove something and improve his game. He has a legitimate professional interest in the CBA beyond increasing his marketing profile or keeping his bank account afloat.
The CBA isn't the best league around, but it seems amenable to getting NBA imports for a year if it boosts its bottom line. Plus, even at 19, Kanter has experienced enough change that he could move to a new country and probably acquit himself fairly well. He could in fact learn something from a trip to China. If it happens, he may gain more from the lockout than players looking at a club team as a cool way to spend a few months.
- Enes Kanter