Evan Turner is no longer a Sixer. That's strange for me to say. After the mess of columns written and tweets caps locked and podcasts podcasted, it felt like it'd never happen. Evan would simply linger aimlessly on the fringes of Sixers relevance for the rest of his days. But now that he's been traded to the Indiana Pacers along with Lavoy Allen for the Bird Rights (maybe) of Danny Granger and a late 2015 second-rounder, it's time to look back and see how we got here and where everything went sour.
And it did turn sour. Though not at first. I've always felt especially invested in Turner's success, because not only was he supposed to be our savior after being selected 2nd overall in the 2010 NBA Draft, but because I was there. Living in NYC for the summer, that was the first NBA Draft and Media Day that I covered for Liberty Ballers -- something that, honestly, changed my life and continues to change it.
I met Evan by kismet in an elevator at the Westin two blocks from Times Square both heading up to Media Day the day before the draft. That night, I wrote: "Let's just say I am completely, 100%, no-doubt-about-it-get-this-kid-in-uniform-now sold on Evan Turner."
Evan came out of Ohio State as the best player in the nation and the consensus #2 pick behind John Wall. The idea of taking Derrick Favors or DeMarcus Cousins was floated, but never too seriously considered. So where'd it go bad? It's important to recognize it's not one thing. The Sixers were 27-55 under Eddie Jordan the year prior. If the current regime were in place, they'd tear it down and start over. Alas, 2010 was a different time. A different king.
Not trading Andre Iguodala immediately after drafting Evan played a big part. Hiring an offensively-inept Doug Collins to coach this team played a big part. And certainly, Evan's near-refusal to adjust his game from what worked in college has kept him from becoming the player he could have been.
That player, unfortunately, was not all that great. On last week's podcast, Spike asked me what is one thing Evan does really well. I had trouble answering him. He's a bad shooter, an uninterested defender, and as his defensive rebounding has returned to earth, become just about "capable" at everything else. After three years of being the guy behind the guy -- whether that was Andre or Jrue -- Evan became the team's go-to option this season by default. And while his counting stats are up thanks to Brett Brown's frenetic offense, the only thing he's tangibly improved at is getting to the foul line.
Most guys labelled him a bust out of the gate. Those same guys are now the ones lauding him as a star that will lift Indiana to championship heights. The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle.
Evan's an enigma in every sense of the word. He never became the franchise player people hoped he would be, and some unfairly resent him for that. He's occasionally salty with fans not unlike the guy he was drafted to replace in Iguodala.
My issue with Turner was never that he's not a superstar. That seemed pretty clear off the bat, if we're being honest. The athleticism couldn't carry him far enough and he didn't have the shooting or playmaking ability of Paul Pierce and Brandon Roy to make up for it.
It's that he never accepted himself for what he is. He can be a good spot-up shooter. He can pass well. He can defend, on occasion, smaller guards when he uses his size to his advantage. What he didn't do was play within the flow of an offense. Each Evan play was an isolation, dribble the air out of the ball, clogfest. When he wasn't involved in the play, he was totally detached.
Evan's been on his way out since Sam Hinkie got here. I'm looking forward to seeing what he'll do in Indiana. What he'll get in free agency is very intriguing. I hope he can find a way to become Iguodala-lite and aim for being the 3rd or 4th best player on his teams over the rest of his career -- that's how he'll have to find success. When he doesn't think himself as one of the best perimeter players in the league who always needs the ball in his hands.
Ultimately, we got tired of watching him stop the ball, get his shot blocked, loaf around on defense, and complain to the refs. And while that's the organization's fault and to some extent, the fault of our impatience and expectations, it's impossible to separate the player from the role he's placed in.
Best of luck to Evan going forward. We had good times together. He was never a bad guy. But at the end of the day, the time that he'll be most remembered for is the one that will happen now that he's gone.