Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Enes Kanter remains a mystery to the majority of American basketball fans, but his agent expects the Turkish star to go in the top couple picks of the June 23 NBA Draft.
“We expect him to go within the first two picks,” Mike Naiditch, an NBA agent who is close to Kanter’s agent, Max Ergul, said Wednesday by phone. “We expect him to go in the top 2, maybe 3, but we don’t think he’s going to go past that.”
Said ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla: “He’s going by the fourth pick. I think he could go as high as 2. The reason he won’t go 1 is because Cleveland won’t want to make a mistake on a foreign guy.”
Conventional wisdom has Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams being taken first and second by the Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves, respectively.
The 6-foot-11 Kanter will begin his workouts Friday when the Utah Jazz, who own the No. 3 pick, come to Chicago to watch him work out at Tim Grover’s Attack Athletics. The Toronto Raptors, who have the No. 5 pick, will watch Kanter Monday in Chicago.
On Monday evening, Kanter, 19, will fly to Cleveland for a workout there Tuesday. The Cavs own the No. 1 and 4 picks.
Minnesota will host Kanter June 16-17, following the EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy.
The Washington Wizards, who pick No. 6, have also expressed interest.
Kanter, who was ruled ineligible at Kentucky this past season because of his professional history in Turkey, has drawn comparisons to Dwight Howard, Dennis Rodman and Al Horford.
“He’s more the Turkish Dwight Howard,” Naiditch said. “Kanter has the ability to face the basket and shoot it. The thing with Kanter that’s just amazing to me is that he has a knack for the ball. He’s so smart and he knows where the ball’s going to be. He’s going to rebound like Dennis Rodman. He doesn’t look like Dennis Rodman, a little different hairstyle, but the kid has a knack for getting rebounds. When it’s all said and done that’s what’s going to set him apart at first.
“And then as he matures, his offensive game will develop to the point where it could be as good as his rebounding game.”
Fraschilla, the ESPN analyst who specializes in international players, has a different comparison for Kanter.
“The best analogy I can you give in the NBA right now is Al Horford,” Fraschilla said by phone. “If there was an arrow up or down, Enes’ arrow coming into this next four weeks is up.”
After measuring 6-11 1/2 in shoes and 262 pounds with 5 percent body fat at the Chicago Predraft Camp, Kanter excelled there.
“He runs the floor great, he shows well at the combine,” Fraschilla said.
“His track record, while limited, the one performance people take away from is the Nike Hoop Summit performance where he was the dominant player on a court with Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones and Terrence Jones.”
Kanter exploded into the basketball consciousness at that event in 2010 with a 34-point, 13-rebound performance despite a bad back.
Kanter was declared ineligible at Kentucky, and thus hasn’t played a competitive, five-on-five game in more than a year.
“When the NCAA made me ineligible, I just didn’t give up,” Kanter told ESPN’s Chad Ford in Chicago. “I talked to Coach Cal [John Calipari] and I said i just wanted to help you. I just try to help my teammates and I just try to help Kentucky.”
After working out at Attack Athletics in 2010, Kanter returned there this year after school ended and has been working on his offensive game.
“I hate to lose and I like to play post moves and rebounds,” he told Ford. “Right now I’m working on my face-up game. I want to be a power forward, too. I love to play tough game. I think that’s my tough game.”
That game could have Kanter going within the top few picks in the draft.
“I don’t think he’s quite as much as a secret as people think,” Naiditch said. “He’s just not as conventional as a college player.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.