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Feb 21 2014

Pundits Think Evan Turner Is Really Good

“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.

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.

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.

  • robbybonfire23

    Well, he is better than Tony Wroten. Eric Maynor, and Earl Clark. Maybe they are their basis for comparison.

    • JulianW

      Yes I suppose ET is “better” than those players, in the same way that being kicked in the shin is “better” than being kicked in the nuts.

      • robbybonfire23

        You got it, Julian. I actually saw some blogger references, at tsn.ca to Turner being a “great” player. I kid you not. What a disconnect between his supporters and his critics, like 180 degrees.

        I do think the history of his lackluster effort and results here, weighs this debate verdict to our side. We already know the “downer” Indiana is in for, hitching a star to this shirker, during the time they coddle and suffer him.

        • Wesley Share

          Yeah, I think that a lot of the national guys really just don’t watch the Sixers at all. I don’t expect them to, honestly. But they’re undoubtedly given a stat sheet before they go on air, on which they see “17 points per game” and say “wow, this kid is good.”

          • robbybonfire23

            Exactly, Wesley. The classic example being Monta Ellis going 6-17, with one assist in 38 minutes, BUT, scoring 23 points and being tabbed the “star of the game,” in the post-game box score wrap. So that perhaps we are all thinking we could have gotten a lot more for Turner, I don’t think we realized how severe the public over-estimation of
            his abiilty level actually was..

          • Wesley Share

            Yeah, definitely. Only a matter of time before they realize they’re wrong…

  • robbybonfire23

    This is what is really interesting about sports. We have one contingent, starting with the media with their superficial “deadline wraps” on games to get out there, and their spoon-fed, public subscribers who reflexively buy into their biased and shallow pronouncements as regards teams and players innate value, like, well, Fundamentalists in another arena.

    The other contingent rolls up its sleeves and does the in-depth research and value-appraisal homework, all the while coming under excessive scrutiny when its findings do not jive with public and “popular” perception. If the 76ers are on the road to becoming the Sabermetrics / Athletics version of an NBA “maverick” organization, I think we will not only have the last laugh, but also, in the next three to four years, have some championship hardware to show for it.

  • Kyle Neubeck

    Barkley’s comments were especially hilarious. If people expect him to be the “missing piece”, I’d like to congratulate Miami on a 4th consecutive finals appearance.

    • robbybonfire23

      LOL! He’s “missing” alright.

  • hk99

    It is more than a little bizarre that the so-called experts don’t realize that all any contender had to do was offer their 2nd round pick for Turner and the 76ers would have accepted the offer. In fact, they could have gotten Turner for their 2nd round pick and cleared cap space to boot and not a one was willing to do so. It should be interesting to see what ET gets in free agency.

    • Wesley Share

      If the Pacers sign Lance, he SHOULD stay in Indy for less money and win but I think someone dumb (Bobcats, probably) inevitably throws 4/40 at him and he walks.

  • Joe Betz

    Turner can play and he has the ability to get to the rim, something Granger could no longer do. Turner will be asked to get to the line and help a 2nd unit that struggles to score. Oh, and Turner, for whatever reason, has huge games against the Heat–the Pacers like that. Turner never had the NBA talent to justify being the 2nd pick, but he does have talent and I think he will shine for 20 minutes a night with the Pacers in the role he was meant to assume in the league: above average 2nd unit player who does everything well and nothing terrific.

    • robbybonfire23

      Good point re Turner’s possible contribution as a back-up. As a starter he was dreadfully over-matched, his one “motivated” game per month notwithstanding.

      • Wesley Share

        I just don’t see his fit in the second unit. He can’t play off-ball and shoot on the perimeter, and handling the ball would mean taking away possessions from a far more effective, efficient and productive guard in Lance Stephenson. I’m intrigued to see how it goes, I just have incredibly low expectations. Don’t see what area he specifically gives them a lift in other than a few points here and there via iso-ball.