“This about wraps up the Eastern Conference for me,” Charles Barkley said on NBA Countdown after the trade deadline passed. He was not joking. “This makes the Indiana Pacers a clear and present danger to the Heat,” he continued. He still was not joking.
Word around the league in the weeks leading up to the deadline was that the Sixers were asking — well, begging — for a first-round pick in exchange Turner. Instead of a first-rounder, Philly received an oft-injured wing player (likely bought out) and a likely bottom-two second-round pick.
That the Sixers acquired quite possibly the worst pick in the draft suggests there wasn’t a market for their leading scorer. And there’s a reason for that — one that has little to do with his “rental” status. Evan Turner is mediocre at best, and terrible at worst.
We know that, and apparently GMs know that too. But the Turner we know — the inefficient scorer/lazy defender — isn’t the one that the pundits are describing.
— Sam Amico (@SamAmicoFSO) February 20, 2014
The Pacers had been looking hard to upgrade their bench with a scorer. Getting Evan Turner? Huge.
— Jared Zwerling (@JaredZwerling) February 20, 2014
When the outsiders look at Turner, they see a versatile swingman who averages 17.4 points, 6.0 boards, and 3.7 assists. Someone who can take over at any time, and hit the big shot with the game on the line.
What we see — with our admittedly foggy Sixer blogger goggles — is a player who barely belongs in an NBA rotation. He’s a defender who can’t stick anybody on the perimeter, and that’s evident in his opponents’ 41 percent shooting from 16-24 feet. Offensively, he touts a below replacement level TS% of 50.4 percent and an eFG% (45.1) lower than DeWayne Dedmon’s (51.7). He can’t shoot the three (29 percent), and he’s inefficient from midrange (38 percent). Given that’s where he’s taken 306 shots — the 13th most attempts in the league — that’s a problem.
As Spike Eskin graciously noted on the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast, Turner lacks an elite skill. Rebounding was his strength; he led all guards in boards in his second season. But for whatever reason (regression to the mean, system, effort, position), he now has average rebounding numbers for a guard. (His RB% ranks 8th on the Sixers.)
Maybe he could make a difference on the Pacers. He has shown flashes of efficient play before and with a fresh start in a new system that doesn’t require Turner to be “the man,” he could be a plus-player off the bench.
I’m skeptical. The problem is, Turner’s game mostly revolves around having the ball in his hands. He’s ball-dominant (24.2 USG), and though he can create his own shot (sort of) and get to the line at a decent rate,1 he might not mesh with Indiana’s second unit. The Pacers bench is already anchored by combo-guard Lance Stephenson, who takes care of ball handling duties (19.5 USG) and creates for teammates (24.1 AST%). He has great range, and he scores from distance both in the pick-and-pop and in simple catch-and-shoot situations. He’s also great off-the-dribble, scoring on 60 percent of his 213 drives to the rim this season, per NBA.com.
In the event of a Stephenson injury, Turner could fill in as a Lance-lite — a second-round pick is a small price to pay for insurance. But the Turner addition seems a bit redundant and he certainly doesn’t make the Pacers “loaded.” Keep in mind: he’s never thrived off the ball at any point in his professional career. I wouldn’t expect that to change now.
— Gregg Doyel (@GreggDoyelCBS) February 21, 2014
Despite all his inefficiencies, he might be an upgrade over a hobbled Granger. Any edge in the postseason against Miami is important. But the pundits saying he’ll be the difference-maker who gets the Pacers by the Heat come June may need to adjust their expectations.
Good luck, Indiana, and farewell, Evan.
1. His career FTr is a dismal .223, but he’s up to a decent .274 this year.