By Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50)
Any fan of the Philadelphia 76ers is aware of the play-style of Evan Turner — pounding the ball into the ground for 23 seconds then forcing up a bad shot. After Turner receives no foul call (when he feels that he was fouled), he will argue with the official as if he is going to change his mind and give Evan Turner, out of all people, a call. As he is arguing with the referee, the opponent is streaking down the court and just as Turner crosses half-court, a wide-open three-pointer swishes through the net. This scenario is something fans of the Sixers assimilated with Evan Turner over his tenure in Philadelphia. So, while major media outlets and Pacers fans proclaimed that the former Buckeye will make the Pacers a lock for the NBA Finals — Philadelphia knew otherwise.
To keep it simple, Evan Turner has not been the spark plug Indiana thought he would formulate into when they traded for him. To make things even worse, the players surrounding Turner are playing worse since he moved to Indiana. This is just a classic example of understanding that placing a certain name and statistics of a player on a completely different team will not translate into the same production most of the time. Evan Turner performed in Philadelphia this season, because he was only of the pieces that could consistently score — he wasn’t surrounded by a Roy Hibbert, Paul George or David West. He was surrounded by Hollis Thompson (?), Elliot Williams (?) and Brandon Davies (?). Turner is a ball dominant player, without a jump shot to his name. So, when the ball isn’t in his hands, he’s essentially useless.
Evan Turner can perform to a degree, with extended minutes on a bad team. He works best as the main ball handler and if Evan Turner is a team’s main ball-handler, that tends not to be a winning NBA team. When Turner’s minutes are chopped down, he becomes a microcosm of himself. He can’t shoot the three (32 percent career percentage from deep), which in turn makes the Pacers 18th ranked three-point shooting that much worse when he is on the floor. With Indiana, Turner is averaging a meek 9.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 22.8 minutes per game. A far cry from his 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the 34.9 minutes per game he averaged playing with Philadelphia.
Per ESPN.com, the Pacers are being outscored by 5.8 points per 48 minutes with Turner on the court. Even though Turner is averaging about a point more than Danny Granger this season, Indiana outscored their opponent by 8.5 points per 48 minutes with Granger on the court. Turns out, the Evan Turner effect is starting to hamper the play of All-Star Paul George, too. The Pacers have been outscored by 21 points during the 78 minutes that Turner and George have shared on the court. Paul George’s shooting decreases to 29 percent with Turner on the court also.
Turner has averaged 7.3 points on 44 percent shooting (12-of-23 shooting) during the Pacers current four-game losing streak. Keep in mind, Turner’s stats appear inflated from a 9-of-12 shooting performance which netted him 22 points. Besides that performance, Turner made 3-of-20 shots in the other three losses for a total of 15 points. But, the offense hasn’t been the only problem for Turner — his defense has been porous as well. In this current four-game skid, the Pacers have given up 106 PPG, a far cry from their first ranked defense that typically gives up 92.2 PPG. The Pacers have had an exorbitant difficult time defending the three during this losing streak — opponents have hit 40-of-86 three’s, which calculates to 47 percent from deep.
The video below shows an example of the type of three-point defense that Turner typically produces — here’s a hint, it isn’t good.
I wanted to chop up some clips from this video to really show how Turner defends the three-point line.
As the play begins, Tony Parker has the ball on the wing. Evan Turner is circled — who is covering Danny Green, one of the better three-point shooters in the league. Tiago Splitter comes to set a back screen on Turner.
To be honest, Splitter set a very lazy screen. Turner simply spun off it and as seen in the above picture, Turner is still with Danny Green as he runs through the paint. Tony Parker still has the ball on the wing. The next picture will show the breakdown of Turner.
As Danny Green starts to run through the paint, Tony Parker begins to penetrate. For some reason, Turner sees this and stays in the paint, leaving Danny Green to roam freely. As seen, Turner (black circle) is stopped in the paint, not facing Green at all, as Green (red circle) is running to the three-point line. Even if Turner wanted to stop him from penetrating, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young were standing in front of their teammate for that reason.
In the final frame, Parker lazily dribbled the ball a step past the three-point line, not threatening the paint at all. As soon as Danny Green gets to the three-point line, Parker throws a pass to him. As you can see, Green couldn’t be more wide open and as he begins to launch up, Turner is just realizing what is going on. Turner never even attempts to close out Green, he just sits as the ball falls through the net.
There are tons of video like this with Turner as the starring role — this is just one example. If ESPN were to be searching for a reason for why the Pacers three-point defense has been horrid in this four-game losing streak, look no further. On the outside, Turner’s stats might look better than Granger — but is a mere point per game worth giving up five plus points on the other side of the ball? As of right now, this experiment is failing horribly. The worst part about it, is that there isn’t a lot of time for Frank Vogel and the Pacers to figure this out. There are less than 20 games in the season and Miami is only one game behind the Pacers for the No. 1 seed in the east. The Pacers made it their goal to take the No. 1 seed and giving it up to Miami would be a terrible sign for the Pacers — who need the home-court advantage more than any other team.
All hope isn’t lost, however, yet a solution needs to be found quick. Whenever Evan Turner is on the floor, Frank Vogel would be smart to let him run the offense and be the main ball-handler. Turner is most effective when he’s getting into the paint and creating opportunities with the ball in his hands. His handles are above-average for a forward and he has the ability to get to the rack. However, there probably isn’t a fix for Turner’s defensive ineptitude, unless he takes more pride in that side of the ball.
One thing is clear — the Pacers are falling and falling fast. Vogel and George can try and calm the media down all they want, but this is a problem. This is the wrong time in the season to start having problems, especially when LeBron James is breathing down Indiana’s back. Evan Turner was supposed to be the piece that would push the Indiana Pacers to greatness. Evan Turner was supposed to dethrone King James and his Game of Thrones. There is still time, but Indiana better figure this thing out quick. As Eddard Stark would say, figuratively — Winter is coming.
Remember this? RT @ChrisPalmerNBA: With Evan Turner on board Pacers will basically be unbeatable now.
— Kyle Neubeck (@NeubeckNBA) March 10, 2014