By Tristan Deschenes, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Expectations were high for Enes Kanter, who came in as the starting center for the Boston Celtics.
After missing seven out of his first eight games, Kanter had a slow start to his Celtics career. Kanter’s much-improved December, however, has shown why he was an exciting signing for Boston and why the Celtics will need him in order to get over the hump and reach the NBA Finals.
Danny Ainge knew what he was getting with Kanter. He was getting an excellent post scorer and an offensive rebounding machine. Kanter’s season averages amount to 8.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. In December, Kanter scored double-digit points in eight of the Celtics’ 13 games, including a run of six straight games. Kanter’s numbers are not off the charts, but he has shown why the Celtics are going to lean on him in the paint in this year’s playoffs.
Let’s first look at Kanter’s playoff performance for Portland last year. He stepped in for the injured Jusuf Nurkic and averaged 28.8 minutes per game in the playoffs. He also averaged 11.3 points per game, but where he made an impact was on the offensive glass.
In the 2018-19 playoffs, Kanter averaged 3.3 offensive rebounds per game. That includes one game with seven offensive rebounds, three games with six, and two games with five. Extra possessions were a big reason why the Trail Blazers were able to beat the Nuggets in seven games.
Here’s an example from last April of what Kanter can add to the Celtics. Watch in the first clip how Kanter positions himself perfectly for the offensive rebound. After the screen, Kanter gets down to block early to seal off Russell Westbrook. Kanter is then able to grab the rebound off Damian Lillard’s jumper and easily put it back for two.
Kanter is currently 12th in the NBA in offensive rebounding, averaging 3.1 per game. His ability to create extra possessions is a skill that the Celtics have lacked in other recent playoff runs. Last season, the Celtics ranked dead-last of all playoff teams with just 7.4 offensive rebounds per game.
Think of a guy like Tristan Thompson, for example. Thompson was such a big part of the Cavaliers’ success because of his ability to get extra chances for Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. Kanter’s ability to do the same for Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward will be a big part of their efforts in getting past the Milwaukee Bucks or the Philadelphia 76ers.
Offensive rebounding doesn’t only produce extra possessions and extra points. It also has a huge impact on momentum. An offensive rebound can stop a team from mounting a comeback. If the Celtics are struggling, offensive rebounds and put-back scores are ways to get easy points and get them back on track. These little things can add up to a big impact on the game and become even more impactful in the playoffs.
Kanter’s offensive rebounding gives the Celtics an element that they have lacked in previous postseasons. Extra possessions could be the thing the Celtics need to make a deep postseason run and finally make the NBA Finals for the first time since 2010.