The mere mention of Evan Turner’s name is enough to get a rise out of most Sixers fans. Philadelphia drafted Turner with the second overall pick in the 2010 Draft, and the city thought it was getting a franchise changing player. When you draft the Naismith Player of The Year in the top five, high expectations usually follow. Unfortunately, Turner’s tenure in Philadelphia has been filled with issues.
Turner received spotty minutes during his first two seasons, which made it hard to evaluate his skill set. As minutes opened up in the wake of last offseason’s major moves, the world got a look at Evan Turner, for better or worse. His game was erratic to the point that many were left to wonder whether ET was the hoops version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Moments of point-forward brilliance were mixed with over-dribbling and bricked jump shots.
Turner is about to enter the final year of his rookie contract, and the Sixers will have to decide whether they want to invest in the mercurial forward. Leading the charge will be new GM Sam Hinkie, the analytic disciple of Rockets executive Darryl Morey.
One of the principal philosophies of analytics is placing proper value on assets, be they players, picks, or staff. The Rockets are in position to add another star next to James Harden next season because of their focus on shedding salary and acquiring high value assets at all costs. An example of this would be their deadline trade of Marcus Morris, a more polished player, for recent top five pick Thomas Robinson, focusing on future results rather than the present.
It seems unlikely, then, that a Hinkie-led regime would bring back such a wildly inconsistent player at a higher salary. According to Basketball Reference’s player comparison tool, Turner’s closest career comparison to this point is Darrell Walker, a forgettable guard from the 80’s. Despite improving his three point stroke considerably this past season, Turner sputtered to a 12.1 PER, almost 3 points below the league average.
His future sounds bleak, but there are those in the NBA who still believe in Turner’s play-making talent. The Inquirer’s John Mitchell reported that the Sixers were on the verge of acquiring Atlanta’s Josh Smith for Turner and center Spencer Hawes at the trade deadline. This indicates that there are people who still see untapped potential in ET, a scenario that someone like Hinkie might take advantage of.
For now, Turner will remain with the team as the new front office evaluates what they have from top to bottom. But under the leadership of a man who promised at his opening presser to, “do whatever is necessary to build a championship caliber team,” it seems obvious that the Sixers will let him go rather than pay him more money, leaving one of the other 30 franchises to figure out who the real Evan Turner is.