NEW YORK — Like every other player here for Thursday night’s Draft, Enes Kanter would love to hear his name called first when NBA Commissioner hits the stage with that first card in his hand.
And there are rumblings that if there is a surprise to be had by Cleveland with that first pick it could be Kanter. But if things don’t go according to plan, Kanter has his eyes on another destination that he feels would be an ideal fit.
Kanter continued to rave about the Washington Wizards and his love for D.C. and the “international feel” the city has. For the Turkish-born Kanter, that feel could be crucial during his rookie season. It certainly helps that he’s gotten a public endorsement from the face of the franchise, John Wall, and talks regularly with Wall about the benefits of starting his NBA career with a friend to help him make the transition.
“I would love to go to D.C.,” Kanter said. “It’s an international city, [President Barack] Obama loves basketball and I would love to play with John Wall. I think it could be a great team, Washington.”
Add the 6-11, 260-pound Kanter to a core that includes Wall, JaVale McGee and Jordan Crawford and there could be reason for excitement for Wizards fans, especially if Kanter turns out to be the type of player some league insiders think he could be.
“In two or three years this could be the guy we’re talking about as the best player in this draft,” a Western Conference executive said Wednesday afternoon. “He’s a big, physical kid with lots of room to grow. And he’s a better and more polished player than he was before this season began.”
Kanter didn’t get a chance to show it on the floor, having been ruled ineligible by the NCAA to play at Kentucky during his freshman season.
That didn’t prevent him from working on his game, though. He worked out with the Wildcats all year and says the court time, even if it was just practice, helped him smooth out the rough edges in his game. The proof came during the predraft workout season, where Kanter impressed at every stop, including two stops in Cleveland, the team with the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft.
The Wizards have the sixth pick but according to reports have been trying to move up in the order, perhaps as high as No. 2. Kanter believes he could go that high, though he didn’t want to guess to what team. The Timberwolves own the No. 2 pick.
Wherever he lands, Kanter certainly won’t lack anything in the confidence department.
“I think with the right team I will be great,” Kanter said when asked where he sees himself in five years. “I would say All-Star.”