Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
It's been a bit since we wrote a million words on Evan Turner, so here we go.
Against the Boston Celtics (the first time around -- we've agreed to pretend the second game didn't actually happen), Evan Turner had the single most Evan Turner game possible. He started off crazy hot (5-6 for 11 points in the first quarter), then went ice cold and kept shooting contested jumpers (finished 10-26 for the game), and hit the game-winner over Courtney Lee.
The "E" in ET stands for Enigma. (The "T" stands for Thermos or something, I dunno.) I've gone back and forth between loving and hating Evan more times than I can count, because there is such a strange juxtaposition between his skill set and his athleticism. On one hand, he is above-average at enough things on the court to become a second tier star. On the other, he's unathletic. So much so that I can assume this tweet from Jared Sullinger (also unathletic from OSU) the morning after the game-winner is in reference to him.
His athleticism problems don't simply keep him from high flying dunks or crazy defensive plays. He has a very limited ability to get by his defender. That means settling for an awful lot of contested jumpers, usually from 13-19 feet out. It's why he gets blocked so often (9th among guards/wings that qualify) -- he doesn't shoot the ball from a high enough angle that would make up for his length and athleticism deficit.
But now that he's turned himself into a respectable three-point shooter (16-36, 44.4% <-- killing it.) and has been getting to the foul line more, he's setting a career high in TS% with a quite decent .504. For all intents and purposes, his early season has been a success. We know he's capable of better things. it's a matter of honing his distinct talents that will get him to his full potential.
The major defect in Evan's game comes partly from his athleticism issues and partly from his head. He can't get his within the offense.
I should rephrase. He chooses not to get his within the offense. Most of the time at least.
There seems to be a switch in Evan's head that gets flipped when he decides to take it for himself. If you've watched him enough, you can tell when there's no chance he's passing the ball. And while we need Evan to have confidence, we also need him to score the ball within the flow of the offense -- not have him clear everybody out so he can play heroball.
Watch Rajon Rondo on the game-winner from Friday night. Fast forward to about 20 seconds in the video.
Rondo tells Paul Pierce to cover both Dorell Wright and Jason Richardson while he goes and cheats over on Evan. He doesn't get there quickly enough, so Turner gets his shot off mostly unimpeded by Rondo's help D, but he definitely had the right idea. ET was taking that shot. May as well not cover anybody else.
Whether this "fault" (if you call it that) is on Collins is sort of beside the point. Turner does this all the time, especially with Jrue Holiday on the bench. As primary ball-handler, Evan stalls the offense and doesn't use his teammates as much as he could, turning the Sixers into a collection of isolation moves and Thaddeus Young putbacks.
In that Celtics game, Turner re-entered the game with 9:30 left in the 4th quarter. He played the rest of the 4th and all of overtime. During the 14 minutes prior to his game-winning jumper, Evan got himself into 11 isolation or pick-and-roll (where he didn't pass to the roller) situations. He got fouled once. He turned it over once. And he missed nine shots, eight which were jumpers. Nothing had gone in until the big one did.
There's no question that limited personnel is forcing Doug's and, to some extent, Evan's hand with shot selection and "play-calling". But that specific example is worrisome. He doesn't pass the eye test in that regard.
Coming out of OSU, the biggest knock on Evan was his inability to play without the ball in his hands. Now that he's turned himself into a good spot-up shooter (1.14 PPP), he's become better within an offense. He just chooses not to use that offense most of the time when he's running it.
If he doesn't pick his spots better, he'll remain inefficient. Lazy jumpers and over-dribbling can't become his trademark. Jrue suffers from much of the same issues, except he's a better shooter and can shoot over his undersized defenders. Evan doesn't have that luxury. He's got to get to the basket. He's got to use discretion. And he's really got to wrap his head around what he's best at.
Because most of the time, that jumper won't go in and he won't be the hero.