Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The Resurgence Of Evan Turner

Photo via: philaphans 

This time three years ago, college basketball was set ablaze. John Calipari just took the Kentucky job, and took two of the top freshman in the nation (DeMarcus Cousins and John Wall. He also brought Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe with him to Lexington) with him from Memphis to Lexington. Butler went all Gonzaga on the sport, reaching the NCAA Championship game with star forward Gordon Hayward, and a little known coach named Brad Stevens. Duke, led by a bunch of seniors, won the national championship. It was the first since 2001, and the fourth for Mike Krzyzewski. Lost in all of that was the emergence of the number two pick in the draft that year. That player was Evan Turner.

Turner submitted one of the best seasons in recent memory, averaging 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists on 51% shooting while playing 35 minutes per game for Thad Matta’s Ohio State team. He claimed every major award that season, and coming out of college, he was the best player in the draft not named John Wall, and even then, the argument of Turner over Wall was made. As Turner proved, he had the ability to play multiple positions, as well as be a leader for a younger team. In that year's draft, Turner went second overall to the Philadelphia 76ers, and almost everyone agreed that he and current superstar Andre Iguodala couldn’t fit together. Neither seemed like great shooters, and both seemed like players who could create offense for other, rather than create their own offense.

Regardless of those signs, the Sixers attempted to get Turner and Igoudala to work together. The results were lackluster for all parties. Turner struggled in his first two seasons as a reserve, and he constantly clashed with head coach Doug Collins, leading to limited playing time, even when he really needed it. Iguodala played at an all-star level, but like the eight seasons prior, the Sixers weren’t progression past the first round, and the fans demanded that their second overall pick on the court. However, both Iguodala and Turner struggled offensively when they were both on the court, and something needed to be changed.

Then, the Dwight Howard blockbuster trade happened, and in the still of the night, Evan Turner's role had expanded. Suddenly, with Iguodala moving miles away to Denver, the Sixers had their perceived “franchise player” in Andrew Bynum, but all those minutes that opened up became Evan Turner's minutes. Even with the additions of Jason Richardon, Dorrell Wright, and Nick Young, Doug Collins trusted Turner with the starting small forward position, thanks to a solid outing against the Celtics in the playoffs the year before. Now, Turner has assumed a similar role to Iguodala’s the past seven seasons.

What makes Turner great is his ability to play multiple positions, much like Iguodala did. This season, Turner has seen time at every position except point guard, and he’s been somewhat effective. With Bynum gone, Turner has taken a step up in scoring, but he’s also been a solid distributor as well, averaging 4.2 assists per game. With his passing ability, he’s found shooters like Dorrell Wright and Jason Richardson, but most importantly, he’s been able to create a scary tandem with Thaddeus Young, as most of Turner’s assists have been at the rim.

The biggest reason for Turner’s offensive success has been his spot-up attempts. He’s a great isolation player (50% from the field on isolation attempts), but he’s shooting 47% from the field on spot-up attempts, and 53% from three, according to Synergy. In order to increase his offensive success, he’s going to increase his scoring from the pick and roll ball-handling position. He’s ability to handle the ball allows him to get to the basket, but if he can increase his scoring ability from 10 to 15 feet (Turner is shooting 37% from that position), he’d be one of the biggest threats in the league from the pick and roll, thanks to his ability to find the open man inside and outside.

He’s made huge strides on the defensive end, but he’s still just average on that side of the ball. Opponents are shooting 44% from the field overall against Turner, but what’s killing him is post-ups. Most of the times, Turner is getting switched onto power forwards and getting killed to the tune of 60% shooting. Besides post-ups, pick and rolls bother Turner, but he’s not defending well off-screens either. Other than that, Turner has made some strides, and his length allows him to be a terror in the passing lanes at times, and once he develops as a true defender, he’ll be even better.

Above it all, Turner’s rebounding ability is what sets him apart. His 7.2 rebounds per game is great for the Sixers, but his defensive rebounds per game (6.3) ranks third behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. He’s done many things leading up to his breakout season, but the rebounding seem to be the biggest. Along with Thaddeus Young (7.3 rebounds per game), the Sixers have the ability to throw out a small-ball lineup, while not being at a disadvantage on the boards, and that’s huge because it allows the Sixers to play a more talented big, such as Lavoy Allen, instead of stiffs like Spencer Hawes.

In just his third season, Evan Turner has seemingly become one of the better young wing players in the league. With Andrew Bynum gone, Turner, along with Jrue Holiday, has played well enough to keep Philadelphia in the playoff race in the East. If Andrew Bynum comes back, I’m curious to see how Turner will be used, but for now, Turner has taken a huge step up from his days of being called a wasted draft pick. 


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