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.
NEW YORK –Enes Kanter isn’t bashful.
He believes if he had been eligible to play at Kentucky last season, the Wildcats would’ve won the NCAA championship and he would be the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft.
“I believe if I go play, I will go as No. 1 pick,” Kanter, who was ruled ineligible because of his professional background in Turkey, told reporters here Wednesday on the eve of the draft.
When he was asked to expand on his answer, he said, “Because I believe I’m the best player in this draft.”
Asked if he believes there’s a chance the Cleveland Cavaliers might take him instead of Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the No. 1 pick, Kanter said, “Top three, yeah.”
He also said Kentucky, which lost to Kemba Walker and eventual national champ UConn in the Final Four, would’ve “dominated” college basketball had he suited up alongside fellow draft prospect Brandon Knight and stud freshmen Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones.
“Yes, we would’ve won national title,” Kanter said.
Kanter and his agents expect him to go within the top three picks, although DraftExpress.com has him going at No. 4 to Cleveland.
If that happens, he could team with Irving, the likely No. 1 pick, to lead the Cavs into a positive post-LeBron Era.
“I believe if I fall to 4 and if I play with Kyrie, we can make playoffs,” Kanter said.
Still, Kanter said he could also imagine playing in Utah, which picks at No. 3, or Washington, which drafts No. 6.
As for Utah, he said, “First of all I feel so comfortable with them. The coach was great, [GM] Kevin O’Connor was great. I talked to him a lot. He’s a great guy. I just feel so comfortable with them. And the coach [Ty Corbin] knows everything about big men. I think if I work with him, he will make me so much better.”
Washington is also attractive.
“I would love to play with [former Kentucky star] John Wall, JaVale Mcgee [of the Wizards],” he said. “They are a really good team, really talented team. I believe they will be a really good team next couple of years.”
Wherever he goes, Kanter said he’ll make an impact with “back-to-basket, post moves, toughness.”
“I can help defense, offense and everything,” he added.
Asked about a NBA potential lockout, Kanter said he had a contingency plan.
“I’m debating, you know?” he said. “If there’s a lockout I will go to Turkey and play National Team.”
But he won’t play professionally there.
“No, I wouldn’t play professionally,” he said. “I would probably talk about it with my agents. I don’t know yet.
As talented as Kanter is, he may not even be the best basketball player in his own family. His younger brother, Kerem, is in the Class of 2013 at Arlington (Fla.) Country Day.
“He just turned 16, he’s like 6-8, something like that and he’s left-hander,” Kanter said. “He’ll be great.”
Will he be better than Enes?
“I don’t know,” he said. “He’s too young. It’s too early to say that.”
Asked if Kentucky coach John Calipari knew about the brother, Enes said, “I don’t know. Probably, yeah. He got a couple offers.”
As for Thursday night, both Kanter and Knight have Calipari on their lists for the Green Room.
But whom will Coach Cal sit with at the draft?
“We both have him on the list so he might go back and forth,” Knight said. “You never know.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
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.