Life Without Enes Kanter Hasn't Been Good for the Thunder
Enes Kanter foolishly punched a chair in frustration during the first half of that game, ultimately fracturing his forearm. The center will be re-evaluated in four weeks, but could miss up to eight weeks. While Russell Westbrook has been the offensive star, Kanter has been the Thunder's second-best scorer, averaging 14.4 points while grabbing 6.7 boards each night.
Now that he's forced to the sideline, how will the Oklahoma City adjust to life without him?
Where The Minutes Are Going
So far, it's been Domantas Sabonis and Joffrey Lauvergne who have gotten the biggest bumps in playing time during the three games since Kanter injured himself. But have they done anything with this extended burn?
|Last 3 Games||Domantas Sabonis||Joffrey Lauvergne|
|Effective Field Goal %||39.4%||45.2%|
Here is how those numbers stack up against their season averages.
|Season Averages||Domantas Sabonis||Joffrey Lauvergne|
|Effective Field Goal %||48.2%||48.3%|
Both have obviously seen an uptick in minutes and usage, but are seeing mixed results. Sabonis' rebounding percentage and points per game average are better without Kanter, but his effective field goal percentage, offensive rating and defensive rating have gotten worse.
On the other hand, more opportunities for Lauvergne have led to a boost in offensive rating, but his defensive rating hasn't improved. He is also playing more minutes against starting-caliber players, which could be a factor thus far.
This is admittedly a small sample size, so it will be interesting to see how these two continue adjusting to their new roles within the team, and whether one of them continues dominating the time on the court or if it becomes a timeshare of sorts.
Oklahoma City's Struggles Are Getting Magnified
Even when Kanter was healthy and productive, the Thunder were having a tough time scoring points. Unfortunately, it's gotten worse in his absence, and it's something the Thunder must figure out since it'll be a while before he returns. Here's how they've produced throughout the year depending on where the big man is.
|Stat||With Enes Kanter||Without Enes Kanter|
Kanter's presence on offense is undeniable thanks to the above data. However, one area where Oklahoma City has improved without him is on defense -- which isn't the big man's specialty. Out of 441 possible players, he ranks 340th according to ESPN's defensive real plus-minus.
While defense isn't his specialty and could be a reason why he hasn't cracked the starting five, the Thunder also valued his offensive production coming off the bench, something they'll miss greatly.
What to Expect Moving Forward
Without Kanter on the floor throughout this year, a number of players have seen their usage rates increase, but the most important one is Westbrook -- after all, his already insane 41.9% usage rate has risen to 43% when his big man is on the sideline. With even more pressure for the point guard to keep up this kind of production on offense, it'll be that much harder without Kanter.
While Westbrook's assist percentage has taken a slight dip without Kanter on the floor (-.03%), it could prove to be more significant given his prolonged absence. He's dished out 64 assists to Kanter so far this season, which is fourth best on the team. Westbrook has done a pretty good job of putting the Thunder on his back this year, but he needs some help.
Oklahoma City hasn't performed well in the win-loss column since this injury, losing three straight to the Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls. All three losses have been decided by over 10 points, and Westbrook's usage rate has actually decreased (37.5%) during this time. Without someone stepping up to help on offense, the Thunder will continue to struggle whenever Westbrook isn't at his best.
If the organization doesn't make any roster upgrades prior to the trade deadline, there's a good chance they'll just be leaning even more on Westbrook to carry them -- which is crazy to say considering what he's doing every night -- in order to stay competitive and fight for a playoff spot.