What made Evan Turner such a successful college player was his ability to create a shot for himself or others. At times the primary point-man, Turner could dazzle opponents with his moves, getting by them to finish at the rim, creating space for himself, or finding open teammates for easy shots. He could do it all. Alas, much of his game was predicated on being able to blow past his defenders. He didn’t always do this with athleticism – as this Draft Express post indicates, he got by much of the time with sweet dribble moves. And in college he took five shots at the rim per game, with the assistance of his handle.
As seen in the preseason opener against the Wizards, he still has those dribble moves. He showed them off at times last season when he had the opportunity, which wasn’t as often as I personally would have liked. But he didn’t get to the rim much. Not at all.
According to the now-resurrected NBA StatsCube (aka crack for hoop addicts), Turner made 125 attempts at the rim. Divide that by the 78 games he played in… and you get just 1.6 times per game. If you translate it to minutes played (since he played more in college, though with a longer shot clock you theoretically get less opportunities there, but whatever), it still comes out to about less than half of his college attempts every game. He took nearly three times as many mid-range jumpers as shots at the rim, and made only 38% of those. Add in his virtually nonexistent three point range, and you get just an overall ugly offensive picture. 42% overall, low true shooting percentage, few free throws – he didn’t get to the rim much, after all – and other generally bad things.
So Turner needs to get to the rim more, then, to improve his shooting percentages. While the new jumper has better form and should help him in the in-between game, his bread-and-butter has always been getting to the rim. The questions are how does he do it, and how does it benefit the Sixers?
The main reason for questioning, instead of a definitive answer, is because there are a lot of Sixers who “need” the ball to be at their best. With only 48 minutes and about 4 of these guys on the perimeter (Andre Iguodala, Turner, Lou Williams, and Jrue Holiday), how does this work? It’s a valid question, and one I’m honestly not prepared to answer fully. My likely solution would be to move Jrue off the ball primarily, giving it to Iguodala to work with the first unit, while Turner acts as the de facto point guard on the second unit with Lou. The idea would be to maximize the talents of the people on the court at any given unit. Holiday and Lou Williams can be more effective off the ball than Iguodala and Turner, in my opinion, as they are better shooters and aren’t the greatest game managers.
Turner, at his best, creates ample opportunities for himself and his teammates. With a half court offense that struggled to create effective scoring chances, and should continue to struggle to some degree, he could be a godsend. Right now, the Sixers have a dominant creator (Iguodala) and scorer (Lou, I guess), but not someone who can truly do both. If, as a member of the second unit, Turner can do this, the Sixers will be very, very dangerous. But it all starts with an ambition to drive: it all depends on whether he can get into the interior of the defense, instead of taking shots he’s not great at making.