May 24, 2011

Kanter passes first few tests but team workouts will be key

CHICAGO -- There was plenty to talk about in the lobby at this year's NBA predraft combine.

That's always the case, of course, with team executives, agents and even players themselves filling the foyer of the downtown Westin every year to discuss which prospects are rising and which ones are falling as D-day (June 23) nears. But the buzz was even louder than normal this time around, in part because of the weak nature of the draft class and the first-round fluidity that it creates, and also because of the heavy dose of international players has added to the mystery.

The next step has already begun, as more than 20 prospects are in Minnesota on Monday and Tuesday to showcase their skills. Teams have begun holding workouts as well, but it's the Windy City gathering where first impressions are made and the unofficial stock price is set even if there aren't actual games being played.

As such, we take a look back at the players not previously discussed to help paint a clearer picture of this year's draft pool.

Don't count out Kanter

The 19-year-old Turkish center is as big a mystery man as there is in this class. Literally.

The player who was stuck on the sidelines at Kentucky last season because he was ruled ineligible, measured out quite well, standing 6-foot-11 ¼ in shoes and weighing in at 259 pounds while proving to be incredibly well-conditioned. His body fat was just 5.9 percent, or a little more than half of expected No. 1 pick and former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving (10.2).

And according to his agent, Max Ergul, Kanter -- who is projected as a top-five pick despite the fact that teams haven't seen him play since last year's Nike Hoop Summit in Portland -- convinced NBA executives that he has the stamina to play heavy minutes right away.

He lasted approximately 21 minutes on a brutal treadmill test that includes steep inclines, declines and sprints, putting himself atop the big man class when it comes to being dedicated about his body.

"He went 21-plus minutes on the treadmill test, and only five guys -- plus Enes -- [did that] and four of them were guards," Ergul told "[NBA officials] said that was the first time in the draft in modern history that had happened, that no 6-11-plus guys ever finished 21-minutes-plus on the treadmill test ... People don't realize how prepared this kid is, how dedicated he is."

Yet the talk surrounding Kanter in Chicago had much more to do with the fact that he didn't sit down for interviews with Utah (No. 3, No. 12 picks), Toronto (No. 5) and Milwaukee (No. 10). Those non-meetings raised questions about whether Kanter's camp was avoiding certain teams, but Ergul said that wasn't entirely the case. They were only avoiding the Bucks.

"The only one I really didn't care for him [to go to] is Milwaukee," Ergul said. "I'll be honest ... it came out all wrong. [Utah general manager] Kevin [O'Connor] knew about it ... We called them, and it was because in next two weeks I had a feeling we were going to see each other extensively, so there's no reason for that [interview].

"Kevin told me he's really impressed with the kid and he wants to have him in Utah and he'll also come to Chicago ... I apologized to him five times for it coming out wrong, even though I didn't do anything wrong. He knew we were going to see them."

Ergul also answered the questions about why Kanter sat down with teams that have picks much lower than Kanter is expected to be taken.

On a meeting with New Jersey (No. 27): "New owners [Russian Mikhail Prokhorov] have European ties, and they're moving to Brooklyn -- which has the No. 1 Turkish population -- so I wanted them to get to know Enes a little bit."

On a meeting with San Antonio (No. 29): "I think coach [Gregg] Popovich has an opinion that really matters. If [Detroit president of basketball operations] Joe Dumars or Pop calls me or [Lakers general manager] Mitch [Kupchak] and asks for an interview, I'm not going to deny that. They may or may not get him, but I will give them their seniority. They are the guys who earned it. It's the same thing with Kevin O'Connor."

There is another lottery team that did not meet with Kanter, though, as he did not sit down with Sacramento (No. 7 pick). Kanter, who has been working with famed trainer Tim Grover in Chicago for the past six weeks, plans on holding most of his workouts in Chicago and being selective about where he travels.

"Utah is coming here to Chicago, and we're going to go to Minnesota in the second half of June," Ergul said. "Toronto is coming here. Cleveland (Nos. 1 and 4 picks), we're trying to discussing logistics of dates and stuff."

As was reported here on Thursday, Houston (14th, 23rd picks) is interested in moving up in the draft. The source with knowledge of the Rockets' desires said they are hoping to do so to either nab Kanter or perhaps San Diego State small forward, Kawhi Leonard.

Because teams have only seen Kanter in person when he scored 34 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in the 2010 Nike Summit, his workouts will be key.

"I can now say that I've never seen him play live before," one executive who was at predraft camp said sarcastically. "But in the drill work, [Kanter] looked terrific."

Kanter passes first few tests but team workouts will be key
Posted: Monday May 23, 2011 7:02PM ; Updated: Monday May 23, 2011 7:32PM

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