Myles Turner is already one of Indiana’s best players… at age 19.
Top overall pick Karl-Anthony Towns has been everything he was cracked up to be. That mysterious 7‘3 European kid whom nobody seemed to have any concrete evidence about, but who was said to have as high a ceiling as Dirk Nowitzki—and who was booed on draft night—has been an absolute revelation for the New York Knicks. Even guys taken in the middle of the first round have been outdoing themselves. One of those guys is Myles Turner.
Turner, a 6‘11 center from the University of Texas, was the 11th overall pick by the Indiana Pacers, a team that had just underperformed massively following a season ending injury to it’s star, Paul George. It’s center, Roy Hibbert, had equally underachieved. Despite keeping up his moniker as a great rim protector, Hibbert plateaued offensively, and the fans in Indy became disenchanted with him.
Enter Turner, whose most noteworthy basketball skills coming out of college were shot blocking and a feathery midrange jumper—just the skills necessary to replace Hibbert. Indiana traded Hibbert, but didn’t quite hand the reigns to Turner yet.
In front of him stood veteran big men Lavoy Allen, Jordan Hill, and Ian Mahinmi. He suffered an injury that kept him out for six weeks, but, since then, his minutes have slowly grown, until, finally, he started his first NBA game on Jan. 28.
Turner, on the year, averages 9.8 points on 54 percent, 4.7 rebounds, and a block and half per game. But in his last 10 games, six of which he has started, his averages have ballooned to 15.2 points, 6.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game. In his six starts, the team has gone 4-2. He owns the team’s second-best win shares per 48 stat at .156 ws/48, better even than George.
One thing that you notice about Turner when you watch him play is that he doesn’t look like a rookie. He was gifted an NBA ready body, and his 6‘11, 243 lbs. frame is etched with smooth muscle. When he plays, he plays with fearlessness—he’s not afraid to shoot his shot and has shown savvy both in the post and in midrange. Additionally, he takes care of the basketball, something rookies are oft thought not to do well, as evidenced by his low turnovers per game and turnover percentage numbers.
A lot of Turner’s points come from dump-offs from driving guards like Monta Ellis or from bigs who pass out of a double team. However, Turner has shown that he can be effective in both pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations. His proclivity for midrange jumpers (40 percent of his shots are from 16 feet out to the three-point line, per Basketball Reference) show two things: first, that Turner will catch his defender off guard by shooting immediately once he gets the ball from midrange. With his long arms and high release, even the best defenders will have a tough time blocking that shot, even if he gave them enough time to do so.
Second, and more importantly, Turner’s 44 percent shooting from midrange—slightly above average—is an indicator that he’ll one day be able to stretch out to the three-point line, adding even more versatility to his game. General Manager Larry Bird said in an interview shortly after Turner’s first start that he may be the best shooter on the team.
There are aspects of his offensive game that need polishing though. His 64 percent free throw shooting is less than ideal, and he doesn’t yet have the kind of passing you want to see out of a guy with as much talent as he does. He doesn’t have to be a Gasol-like (either one) passing big, but to average only half an assist a game and not even a full assist per 36 minutes shows that the 19-year-old has more to work on.
Defensively, Turner is already great. According to NBAsavant, Turner allows only 50.8 percent shooting at the rim, almost nine percentage points worse than league average, and 33 percent in the paint, seven percentage points below league average.
As mentioned earlier, Turner blocks a shot and half per game, but per 36 minutes that number jumps to 2.7, complicit with his production form the last ten games. Also, his 6.1 block percentage ranks third in the league behind only shot gobblers Hassan Whiteside and Rudy “Stifle Tower” “French Rejection” Gobert. Again, those long arms and strong build account for his excellent shot blocking ability.
(On an unrelated note, is there anything better about a Pacers broadcast than when Quinn Buckner, the Pacers’ color commentary guy, says “Smothered Chicken!?” The answer is “No.”)
Somehow, though, despite Turner’s solid production, he wasn’t invited to the Rising Stars Challenge. The kid is a monster and brimming with talent that’s already made itself apparent on the floor this season. It’s a shame that he will be denied a chance to showcase himself against the best rookies and sophomores in the game, but, with Turner’s quiet confidence, he’ll continue to be one of the Pacers’ finest players and a force to reckon with in years to come.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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