When looking back at Evan Turner’s 2012-13 season, I can’t stop thinking about a single quote.
"I stopped focusing on it," he said. "That was it. I stopped focusing on it. I worry about my mid-range [game], my driving and my free throws, and that’s it. Honestly, I don’t shoot threes before games. I don’t practice threes anymore."
There it is, via Gordie Jones, in all of its glory. Turner, a limited shooter coming fresh off a season where he only hit 22 percent from deep on less than one attempt per game, had basically removed the three-point shot from his game. When he (very) surprisingly started this season by making 16 of 36 three pointers in the Sixers’ first 20 games, reporters were naturally curious. "How did you make such a drastic improvement, Evan?"
The above quote was his response. It’s classic Evan Turner in so many ways. The honesty, a sense of defiance, the challenge of a preconceived notion (in this case, that he must have diligently practiced on threes to improve his three-point shot), just a general "WTF" aura, they’re all in there. And the reporters probably expected just a throwaway remark on his improved marksmanship. Then again, maybe they didn’t.
Improvements were scarce in what can mostly be described as a very disappointing season for Turner. The third-year player was still a plus defensive rebounder for the small forward position (and a great one for a shooting guard). As mentioned earlier, he also made the three-point shot, specifically the corner three (basically The Fountain of Youth for improving long-ball shooters), a part of his offensive arsenal.
But even in the areas what might feel like positives, there are qualifiers that can easily downplay any talk of progression. For example, his rebounding, which was the major shining light during an up-and-down sophomore season, dropped from darn near historic levels to only "very good for his position." With the increased minutes Turner took on, this was to be expected, but his greatest attribute still dropped from exceptional to very good.
Going forward, I’m not sure what role Turner is best suited for. He’s an interesting player in that he’s shown the ability to perform at generally the same level (not particularly high, but still) with varying degrees of offensive responsibility. If Turner is given Holiday’s role from this season, he could put something like a 16-6-6 line together, but it seems like the team's offense would falter as a result.
Ironically, the statistics from this year suggest the exact opposite. Even though Turner’s individual offensive numbers were by-and-large worse with Holiday on the bench, the team’s offense was better. So basically in the sense of Evan Turner's game being hard to figure out, these numbers are consistent. The only thing I would be wary of is that many minutes with Holiday on the bench were probably against backups, as both players were in the starting lineup. Nonetheless, the Sixers did perform better offensively in these situations.
With Holiday (per-48): 2114 minutes, 17.1 points, 48.4% ts%, 8.6 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 2.7 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 3.2 personal fouls drawn, 98.9 off rating, 102.8 def rating.
Without Holiday (per-48): 778 minutes, 20.9 points, 46.6% ts%, 8.6 rebounds, 7.9 assists, 4.3 turnovers, 1.2 steals, 3.8 persona fouls drawn, 102.6 off rating, 105.0 def rating.
Above all, Turner is still an extremely inefficient scorer. Finding a source of sustainable offense has been a struggle for him since he started out in the NBA. Despite adding the three-point shot, which regressed to about league average (still a good thing!), Turner relies heavily on a mid-range jumper that he only makes a little more than a third of the time. He also takes a fair share of PUJITs (pull-up jumpers in transition), which isn’t typically good team offense. The PUJITs are most likely the product of often having to work very hard in the halfcourt to free himself for a shot. It probably feels a lot easier to take an open pull-up jumper than to try and shake a defender with a series of crossovers and hesitation moves.
Subjectively, Turner is a frustrating player to watch. The constant over-dribbling, the wasted use of ball screens, the off-ball defensive lapses, they are all problems. But there’s nothing more frustrating then watching him complain for a call on what seems like 80 percent of his missed shots. In fact, I believe his tendency to gripe may be hurting Turner when he actually does draw legitimate contact, maybe significantly.
It’s cliché, but a focus on the little things might help Evan Turner in the long run. Refining his catch and shoot three-pointer (which is doable, as his form is solid, so much improved from two years ago), paying extra attention to defensive rotations, and harnessing that competitive fire for use on the defensive end of the floor, these are things that could make Evan Turner a valuable commodity. Some added strength wouldn’t hurt, either.
In closing, I’ll say that if Turner’s $6.7M option wasn’t picked up in the offseason, I’d probably be in favor of letting him go. A change of scenery seems like it would benefit both parties. But the option was picked up, and I think he’ll be back for at least one more go-around. Hopefully he proves me wrong.
What do you guys think? Would you like to trade him if possible? Or do you think he still has something that he hasn't showed us yet?