Enes Kanter is good at a lot of things on the court. He's the best offensive rebounder in the league. He can still shimmy his way through the post when the situation calls for it or if he's up against a smaller defender. Kanter isn't a world beater on the low block, but his rebounding can prove to be demoralizing and he has a great feel around the basket.
What he most definitely is not known for is his defense. That's the reason Kanter has never been able to secure a starting spot in the NBA for extended stretches. He's good at what teams need him to be-- an offensive plus who provides immense value on the glass. But put him in a pick-and-roll situation, and it's bad news. He's slow, flat-footed, and doesn't possess any natural defensive instincts that would help him offset his weaknesses in the area.
With all that being said, the Boston Celtics will likely end up relying on Kanter quite a bit for his defensive capabilities in the first round of the playoffs. It would be fair to read that sentence and assume Boston is in deep trouble if that is the case. But recent history has proven that they actually can rely on Kanter to an extent when it comes to defending one Joel Embiid.
Boston's center rotation consists of Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Robert Williams. Theis is the incumbent starter and will stay that way thanks to his ability to protect the paint at a reasonable level and has enough lateral mobility to stick with a guard on a switch when the occasion calls for it. But neither he nor Williams have the bulk to really match up with Embiid down low. He's just too big. Theis is a great technical defender and Williams can jump through the roof, but there isn't much to be done if Embiid lowers his shoulder and plows through them, as he did in December when he dropped 38 points against Boston.
But Kanter, despite his horrid defensive reputation, is actually passable when getting posted up. Even though he's only listed as five pounds heavier than Theis, Kanter is just a solid wall when someone tries to bang with him down low. He's no stopper by any means, but he won't be displaced nearly as easily. Combine that with his quick hands and he's the best option Boston has to prevent Embiid from doing whatever he wants.
Don't get me wrong. I don't think Brad Stevens is going to play Kanter 30 minutes a game or whatever in their playoff series against Philly just because he can stay in place a little better than Theis. But playoff games often come down to the tiniest details, and Kanter has the body to be able to stifle Embiid a little bit. That little bit could be just enough down the stretch.
Boston has consistently out-gameplanned Brett Brown and the Sixers in their recent playoff matchups. If Embiid is settling for jumpers, it doesn't matter who's guarding him. But if he's going to be dedicated to getting his on the low block, Kanter will end up being very important-- and for the first time in his career, it'll be because of his defense. What a world.