Evan Turner, Delayed Initiator

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Ways the Sixers and The Villain could improve when Jrue is off the floor.

It was only one game, a game the Sixers are frankly going to lose nine out of ten times, but as always, there were both good and bad (or if you’re an optimist, teachable) moments in the blowout loss against Oklahoma City.

As we all know, the Sixers only have two ball-handlers even capable of steering an NBA offense for more than a possession or two. One is the starting point guard and unfortunately, the other one is the starting small forward (weird team, huh?). So obviously Doug Collins has to stagger Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner’s minutes if the team has any chance of staying competitive, even though this exercise defeats the main long-term goal of evaluating how these two players develop on the court together. But hey, it is what it is.

Above is video of two plays early in last night's second quarter when Holiday was on the bench and Turner was running things. Again, it was only one game, but against OKC the Sixers were decent when Holiday was on the floor (105 ORtg) and really bad when Turner was on the floor (55 ORtg), a crazy contrast considering they spent a decent amount of their time playing together. And these numbers were actually pretty indicative of their play, with Jrue having moments of brilliance and Turner struggling the whole game. Did I mention it was only one game?

The video shows two plays of Turner-led offense last night that I didn’t like. And the concerning aspect from these plays is that from time to time, Turner simply takes too long getting the Sixers into their sets. I wouldn’t even call this a trend, because it’s more appropriately characterized as an occasional bad habit. But Turner taking too long is starting to happen enough to where it has become a nuisance. I call this phenomenon being a "delayed initiator," because I like big words.

The first play is an example of Turner directing traffic 30-plus feet away from the basket for way too long, something that I'd estimate happens once or twice a game on average. For six seconds on this possession, he dribbles the ball in place 35 feet from the basket, where nobody on the planet is a threat from. For almost half of the shot clock, the Thunder are basically resting.

When the screen comes with 12 seconds left, Turner is still 30 feet from the hoop, and because of this, Russell Westbrook can easily go under the screen and recover to cut him off. If well-contested, the shot is still a pretty decent look, but I find it hard to think this is sustainable NBA offense. Holding the ball cuts the amount of time the Sixers have to manufacture an open shot in half, and on this play, nobody touches the ball but Turner. It’s also a contested fadeaway two pointer, that I would guess the Thunder are fine giving up. Basically, this shot comes down to Turner being hot or not, and if he isn't, there's no Plan B.

On the second play, Turner seems guiltier of poor execution than anything. This screen (which in his defense, is poorly set by Lavoy) I see something that is often present in his game, a willingness to dribble East-West on a screen and as a result, get nowhere threatening. Fair or not, the Sixers are relying on Turner to get them a good shot out of this pick and roll, and when he mistakenly picks up his dribble and throws the ball to Jason Richardson in the corner, he fails.

Using ball screens better is another way Turner can speed up the process as an initiator. His Synergy numbers as a P&R ball handler aren’t good (.66 PPP) and that only takes into account when he shoots or turns the ball over. The times that he (and the team, too, because this isn’t close to being all his fault) wastes a pick and roll don’t get placed on his ledger – The one in the video ended up in the Dorell Wright post-up(!) category– aren’t charted for him when in reality, the wasted pick and roll is the biggest part of the problem.

In summation, Evan Turner has done some really nice things this year. Namely, he skyrocketed his proficiency from behind the arc in addition to continuing to rebound at a rate much higher than his size says he should. It’s also not his fault Andrew Bynum hasn’t played a game yet. From what I can tell on 82Games (who doesn’t list him as the PG when Jrue is out of the game, GRRRR), the team has been decent when he’s running the show, but there is room for improvement. Cutting out the couple of possessions a game where he’s initiating 30-feet from the hoop in addition to gaining more of an attacking mindset coming off of ball screens would be a start.

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