For the Trail Blazers to get to the NBA Finals, Enes Kanter needs to be a reliable inside player. Even for Portland to get to the Western Conference Finals, Kanter needs to step up offensively and defensively.
He has found himself playing a lot because of Jusuf Nurkic’s injury. When Portland signed Kanter, people knew it was to fill the hole Nurkic left. But no one expected Kanter to actually have the same impact Nurkic did.
So far, in Nurkic’s absence, Kanter has given Portland a lot of help. In 23 games for the Trail Blazers, he has averaged 13.1 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. In the series vs. the Thunder, Kanter averaged 13.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game against an always-tough Steven Adams.
Kanter has been a pretty decent center throughout his career so far, and he is no doubt a
physical player. But for Portland to take the next step in the playoffs, he needs to do more and be more. Here are all the players Kanter will potentially have to face-off against if Portland makes the Finals:
- In the semifinals, based on who wins, Kanter will have to guard either Nikola Jokic or
LaMarcus Aldridge. Both can post up well and stretch the floor with their scoring
- In the Western Conference Finals, Kanter will either guard Kevin Durant (at times, if the
Warriors advance), or he will guard Clint Capela if the Rockets advance.
- In the Finals, he would have to guard Al Horford (a tough veteran), Joel Embiid (possible
best big man in the NBA), Brook Lopez (who can stretch the floor, plus Giannis
Antetokounmpo) or Marc Gasol (another tough veteran).
The point is, Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum will get their points. If both of them are not on one night, someone will have to step up to provide some help. Even if one of them is having a bad night, someone else will have to step up.
So far, Portland has been spoiled by Lillard’s amazing play, averaging 33 points a game against
the Thunder. But the Spurs and Nuggets are both defensively fundamental teams. Lillard and/or McCollum will have their bad games, and Kanter will need to put his game to the next level.
Portland is also plagued by not having amazing depth, so outside of its two stars, no one else is really capable of stepping up and setting the tone. Kanter is a physical player, not scared of anyone, and he has the ability to score in large amounts.
The next series, no matter who Portland faces (San Antonio or Denver), will be a telling series on Kanter’s impact for the Trail Blazers.
And how big of an impact will he need to have? A big one.
Teams are focused now on how to try to contain Lillard, and if they succeed, there will be room
for someone else to step in and deliver.