June 22, 2011
Top draft prospects are drafted on potential every year, but few have ever proven as little as Turkish big man Enes Kanter(notes). Scheduled to play for Kentucky last season, Kanter was ruled ineligible by the NBA for a prior relationship with a Turkish club team and sat out the entire season. While scouts love his skills, they haven't seen him in many competitive environments beyond last spring's Nike Hoop Summit and a year of American high school against inferior competition.
But Kanter has attracted teams for good reason, because he's very talented and shows it off in workouts and games alike. Over the past few weeks, we've also learned that he's very confident. In fact, at Wednesday's draft media availability in New York, he said he thinks he's the best player in the draft. From Mike Prada at SB Nation (via PBT):
"I believe if I could have played [at Kentucky], I would go with the No. 1 pick," he said. "I believe I am the best player in this draft."
That may seem like a bold statement, but it's indicative of Kanter's entire approach to his pre-draft media appearances. In fact, it looks downright humble next to his NBA.com video player profile, in which Kanter claims to have a mix of "Pau Gasol's post moves, maybe Dirk's [Nowitzki] shots, maybe Dwight's [Howard] toughness." If that comparison proves to be true, then Kanter will be the best player in NBA history.
As a longshot to be the top pick, Kanter has room to be arrogant without seeming like a liability for a Cavs franchise looking to break with their LeBron-enabling past. Still, it's a little disconcerting that a player who's proven absolutely nothing to American basketball fans talks about himself in terms usually reserved for once-in-a-generation prospects.
For all we know, Kanter could be the best player in this draft. But we also have no idea if he's totally unworthy of a lottery pick. In truth, Kanter has more in common with the preps-to-pros prospects of the late '90s and early '00s than any other player since the NBA instituted its age limit: He's played in so few high-level environments that it's difficult to tell how prepared he is for a long season of 30-plus minutes per game. If he turns out to be a bust, then these comments may end up making him look like a cautionary tale.