Utah Jazz @ Toronto Raptors: Key Match-up

(FIBA Europe / Pascal Allee)

Because this season cannot be measured by wins and losses, I have decided it’s beneficial to focus in on key match ups this year.  As this has been dubbed a “season of discovery”, this helps us judge improvement as the season progresses.  By doing so we won’t get as disappointed when we lose as many games as we could lose.  The match up for tonight’s game against the Raptors that we should focus on is:


Enes Kanter vs Jonas Valanciunas


As I think that Trey Burke could be very similar to Kyle Lowry offensively, I was very excited to see this match-up.  Unfortunately that will have to be postponed due to Burke’s broken finger.  There is however another match-up that has more history behind it than most fans may know.

Enes Kanter(Turkey) and Jonas Valanciunas(Lithuania) were the best center prospects in the 2011 NBA draft.  Teams and fans argued about which was the right prospect to select.  You could go with Valanciunas, who was said to be the sure thing, or you could go with potential of Kanter.

Valanciunas had been playing European basketball since he was 16, and most recently had played for BC Lietuvos Rytas.  He was seen as an all-around skilled big man.  For a team to draft him, they would have needed to buy him out of his contract, or wait for it to expire before bringing him over seas.  Scouts said he was probably the better of the two prospects, but you would have to wait a couple years to find out.

Enes Kanter was the unknown product.  Growing up in Turkey Kanter did not play basketball for the first time until he was 15.  He became a child basketball prodigy in Europe.  Besides those U-18 Eurpoean games of him playing against pitiful competition, there was only a handful of games scouts could study.  Kanter played a couple games at a prep school and the Nike Hoop Summit.  That was all scouts had to go off, as Kanter was ruled ineligible to play for Kentucky by the NCAA.  In those games that scouts did have to study, they saw potential.  The Nike Hoop Summit had his coming out party with 34 points and 13 rebounds in only 24 minutes against the US team.

The two had run in to each other before on August 2, 2009 when they were both only 17 years young.  Turkey and Lithuania met in the U-18 European Basketball Championship.  This was the biggest stage these bigs had stepped on to yet.  Kanter absolutely dominated and led Turkey to a 21 point blow out over Valanciunas and Lithuania.  Have a look at the box scores for both of these bigs below.

Enes Kanter  36:00 16-22 0-0 3-5 7 12 19 1 2 3 5 4 35
Jonas Valanciunas 26:00 6-9 0-0 2-2 4 1 5 1 4 0 2 4 14

In the end Kanter went 3rd in the draft to the Utah Jazz and Valanciunas went 5th to the Toronto Raptors.  Valanciunas did not enter the NBA until last year due to his contract in Europe.  Kanter was stuck behind a logjam of bigs, and Valanciunas was often injured.  Now four years after Kanter and Valanciunas met at the U-18 championships, they are both starting big men in the NBA.  Tonight we get to see this rivalry continue, and get one step closer to knowing which of the two is the better center.


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