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Despite Numbers, Evan Turner Has Shown Improvement During Playoffs


The 2012 NBA Playoffs have been a mixed bag for Evan Turner. Many have thrown around high praise for The Villain, and a lot of the times it feels like he's the Sixers best player when he's on the floor, yet, from a pure numbers standpoint, his production has been downright awful.

24 guards have played at least 30 minutes per game in these Playoffs. Only two – Ramon Sessions and J.R. Smith – have a lower PER than Evan Turner (10.0), and J.R. Smith is the only player with a lower true shooting percentage. From a conventional numbers standpoint, only Smith and Jason Kidd have a lower field goal percentage than Turner, and Turner is the only qualified guard without a made three-pointer. Points per game: Turner ranks 21st of 24.

Turner's only appeared in 10 games, and played 343 minutes in these Playoffs, opposed to 65 and 1,713 in the regular season. It's unlikely much has changed since then, but the numbers suggest Turner's approach is evolving – much like Jrue Holiday.

My two biggest gripes with Turner's play during the regular season were his low free throw rate and low 'shots at rim' to 'shots from 16-23' feet ratio. His free throw rate ruing the regular season was 0.18 – well below the 0.29 average for guards who play at least 30 minutes per game. His shots at the rim/shots from 16-23 feet ratio was 0.64 (average among guards who play 30+ minutes was 1.06).

It's common knowledge that the long two pointer is the worst shot in basketball. Conversely, shots at the rim, are the most efficient shots in basketball. Plus, the more a player attacks the rim, the more free throws he is likely to accumulate. Free points are good.

It's no coincidence that Turner was much less efficient than the average NBA player during the regular season – he settled for the least efficient shots. Something's changed in the Playoffs.

Turner's previously anemic free throw rate (0.18) has sky-rocketed to 0.34, and his rim shot/long two ratio has more-than-doubled, to 1.42. He's been significantly more aggressive attacking the basket.

So, if Turner's approach has changed for the better, why is his production even worse than it was during the regular season?

I like to think of it as the basketball equivalent to BABIP – an advanced baseball stat that suggests whether a player has been lucky or unlucky. Here are Turner's shooting percentages, broken down by shot location: 49% (at rim), 19% (3-9 feet), 48% (10-15 feet), 21% (16-23 feet) and 0% (three point). All of his percentages are significantly lower than his season averages, along with the average percentages of an NBA guard – except his mid-range shot. Therefore, I'd expect Turner's percentages to increase across the board, as the Playoffs progress.

The Sixers may not play in enough Playoff games for Turner's percentages to improve, but I will say, if the new-found approach from Turner – and Jrue Holdiay – carry over to next year's regular season, it may indicate future success.

Conclusions, neither positive nor negative, should ever be made based on small sample sizes, but I like what I've seen from Turner (and Holiday) in the 2012 Playoffs – not to mention they've played against the two best defenses in the NBA.

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