Sep 25 2013

Evan Turner (might be) a better scorer in ’13-14

CSN Philly posed a question the other day that I think is worth exploring. The question in question: will Evan Turner become a better scorer in 2013-14?

This is important. If Turner improves his ability to put the ball in the basket by a significant margin, he—given his pedigree as a former No. 2 overall pick—could potentially net something helpful in a trade. It’s also possible that Sam Hinkie, being an open-minded fellow, could interpret such progress as meaningful and permanent and make room in his long-range plans for the 24 year old.

Boris-Diaw-helps-Evan-Turner-have-a-good-time.-APOf course, neither of these things could happen. We could see the same Turner in 2013-14 we endured in his first three NBA seasons: an ineffective, often overmatched, schizophrenic player who, on balance, does more harm than good when he’s in the game. But here’s the thing: I don’t think that’s where this is headed. Evan Turner should be, I think, a better scorer this season.

For starters, he should get more opportunities to shoot the basketball. The Rockets played at a much faster pace than the Sixers last season—and everyone else for that matter, as they led the league with 98.6 possessions used per game—and it’s reasonable to expect that, under Hinkie, some of that should carry over. And while the total possession pie is likely increasing, Turner’s share of it should grow as well. Jrue Holiday’s 16.5 shots per game are gone and Michael Carter-Williams (who didn’t shoot well or often at Syracuse) is the only significant piece brought in to take them. So Turner seems a good bet to set a career high in field goal attempts this season.

He should also make better use of these attempts.

Evan Turner is a notoriously inefficient scorer (he posted a 47.8 TS% the past two seasons), but there are three good reasons to believe he’ll do better. The first is pure chance. NBA players are fairly consistent from season-to-season with one particularly glaring (and important) exception: scoring production. According to the Wages of Wins valuation, In the course of two seasons, about 30 percent of players go from being positive contributors w/r/t scoring to negative, or vice versa.  Though Turner is unlikely to, overnight, go from being one of the least efficient scorers in basketball to a positive in that column, he could easily perform much better due simply to random variation. (And, given his absurdly low-level of performance here, he seems unlikely to go the other way.) The second factor that could nudge his FG% up a few notches is coaching. Brett Brown’s calling card is player development, and the Aussie is especially adept at teaching guys who can’t shoot to shoot. While most of the media’s “Brett Brown: Shooting Guru” bandwidth has been spent imagining how the new coach will work with MCW, ET could be his first, and biggest, beneficiary. Third, and maybe most important, is the structure of the offense ET will be playing in: while Doug Collins favored efficiency-dampening midrange jumpers, Hinkie looks likely to mandate an O that emphasizes 3-pointers (where Turner has already showed promise) and attacking the rim.

Add it all up (seriously, if you’d like to actually add it all up, I’d be obliged) and it looks like Turner is poised to improve. That said, given the baseline he’s starting from, the fourth-year veteran could get much better, and it still wouldn’t be nearly good enough. So…Sixers Fever, can you feel it!