Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Evan Turner Problem

When you look at the big picture, it's not really a surprise that someone on the Pacers got in a fight with Evan Turner on the eve of the playoffs. Turner is a guy who never lived up to the expectations of being a No. 2 overall pick in Philadelphia and when he came to Indiana at the deadline, the Pacers almost immediately started losing. They are 15-14 since acquiring Turner for Danny Granger.

Of course, not all of the problems in Indiana are Turner's fault, but my guess is a lot more of them are than you might think. He has plenty of talent, but his skill-set - a ball-dominant wing who can't score efficiently, can't stretch the floor and can't play D - is not conducive to winning basketball. In the Pacers Game 2 victory over the Hawks, he played 11 minutes and took 1 shot.

What value is Turner bringing to the floor? When he's in the game, he's taking the ball out of the hands of Paul George and Lance Stephenson and operating as a sieve on defense. The defense doesn't have to respect his three-point shot - he's taken only 24 in Indiana - so the ball naturally winds up on his hands. He can't do enough with the ball to justify how often he stops it.

Before he came, Lance was the player who ran the second unit, scoring and setting up the Pacers reserves. It was the only chance he got to dominate the ball in the Indiana offense, since he had to play as a secondary role to George and David West on the first unit. If you let Lance play with a spread floor, which he rarely got to do as a starter, it's very hard to stop him.

The conflict between Lance and Turner was almost inevitable. They are both young wing players trying to make their way in the NBA and playing for a contract next season. They both need the ball in their hands and there isn't enough shots or touches to go around for both in Indiana. As a small-market team that has already given max contracts to George and Roy Hibbert, the Pacers can't afford both this off-season.

When they acquired Turner, my immediate thought was they were getting insurance for Lance. Because he was the No. 2 overall pick in 2010 and Lance was No. 40, Turner is an RFA instead of a UFA. When you look at his career in total, it's hard to see there being too many suitors for Turner this off-season, which would allow the Pacers to sign him to a cost-effective deal to be a third or fourth option.

This is almost certainly something that has gone through the head of Lance and his agents and it's exactly the kind of dynamic that can ruin a team. More importantly, though, just playing Turner 20-25 minutes a night is killing the Pacers, since he is holding the ball, not spreading the floor and not playing D. If they want to make a run in the playoffs, they are going need to bench him for guys who can shoot 3's and play defense.

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