NBA

Here’s How Steven Adams Helped Enes Kanter Become a Rebounding Machine

Enes Kanter has turned plenty of heads over the last decade in the NBA with his massive presence in the paint. Off the court, he’s helping bring up the next generation with free basketball camps across the country. His travels in the league brought Kanter to Boston this season, where he’s established a strong presence. Despite Kanter’s journey around the NBA, his travels out of the country has been more difficult. Kanter only recently received assurance he’d be safe to travel to Canada, but more international travel has been fraught with danger due to Kanter’s constant political involvement. But on top of the media circus and personal safety, Kanter has focused on basketball. His time in Boston so far impressed critics, and he might have former Thunder teammate Steven Adams to thank.

Enes Kanter is part of a big man duo in Boston

Much of Boston’s media has focused on another center, Tacko Fall. But Fall and Kanter are determined to improve both their games by working together. Fall is still on a two-way contract with Boston’s G-League team, but the “International Twin Towers” will be competing together more often soon. 

Even as they work together, Fall’s massive frame towers over even Kanter. At 6-foot-10, Kanter is used to being the big man on the team. But Boston isn’t the first time another center on his team has been taller. During his time in Oklahoma City, Kanter competed for every rebound with the slightly taller (6-foot-11) Steven Adams. 

While there have been plenty of examples of players butting heads as they compete for a specialized role or the limelight on a team, the Thunder stars managed to improve each others’ game. While Kanter’s numbers have been higher than Adams for most of their careers, Adams contributed to Kanter’s development in a surprising way.

Kanter’s journey through the NBA

Enes Kanter is rebounding better than ever for the Celtics, and he might have Oklahoma City center Steven Adams to thank for it.
Enes Kanter (left) and Steven Adams formed a towering duo in Oklahoma City. | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Utah Jazz drafted Enes Kanter third overall in the 2011 draft after a collegiate career that saw the NCAA declare him ineligible. He still signed and practiced with Kentucky, and he worked on their practice squad and helped them make the Final Four. 

From 2011 to 2015, Kanter played in Utah and slowly worked on his game. The talent was there, and he was steadily improving, but Kanter found the key to rebounds when the team traded him to Oklahoma City. 

Over three years in Oklahoma City, Kanter grew from a strong presence under the rim to a devastating one. Kanter and Steven Adams competed for rebounds at Thunder practices, and both came out stronger centers. Continually fighting with Adams for baskets put Kanter on another level.

“When me and him went against each other in practice, it was like a wrestling match. For me, whenever I go out there against other big men, the game becomes so easy because I used to go against a guy like that.”

Michael Jordan was famously tough on his teammates, both in games and in practice. Steve Kerr knows all about it. But the battles in practice helped Kanter develop into the player he is today.

The 2019-20 stats show Enes Kanter’s rebounding prowess

Kanter is currently with his fifth NBA team, the Boston Celtics. At age 27, he has a reputation as a journeyman in the NBA, but he’s picked up new tricks everywhere he played.  

Between his first season in 2011-12 and this year, Kanter developed from a promising rookie to an all-around star. Kanter averages more than 10 rebounds per 36 minutes on defense alone. Over the past few years, Kanter moved to more of a bench role, and his minutes have decreased. But when he’s on the court, his numbers are better than ever. The Celtics are in a transition period after Al Horford’s departure, but they’re a top-four team in the East.

The travels from team to team may continue for the rest of Kanter’s NBA career, but he’s always adept at finding where he fits in. When he’s not on the court, he’s making strides to better his community. Whenever he plays in 2020-2021, Enes Kanter’s rebounding skill is going to make his team stronger — and they’ll have Steven Adams to thank for it.