It's time to take a look at my player-by-player predictions from the preseason and compare the numbers with what actually happened on the floor. We'll break down the entire roster to see how far off I was (or wasn't). Up first is Evan Turner.
Here's the prediction I wrote way back in August (prior to the Willie Green trade). And now a look at the stats:
There's no way to sugarcoat this, Turner was a tremendous disappointment in his rookie season. You can point to how long it took him to adjust at every level. You can talk about how he didn't play his natural position or role, but no matter how you slice it, more was expected of him. And really, more should've been expected of him. We aren't talking about a raw 18-year-old, we're talking about a 22-year-old who played three years of college ball. Turner proved to be a very good rebounder and he took excellent care of the ball in his rookie season, two big positives. In pretty much every other area of the game, he fell short, sometimes significantly.
If you want something to hang your hat on, Turner played very well in the playoffs, and showed defensive chops he didn't show with any kind of consistency in the regular season. His defense was especially encouraging because he was checking the two toughest wings in the league, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
If you look back at this season and see Turner as anything but a disappointment, you aren't being honest with yourself. That doesn't mean he's a bust. That doesn't mean he won't amount to anything in the league. That doesn't even mean he's going to have a poor sophomore season, plenty of All Stars have had middling rookie years. But you had to expect more than this from him in his rookie season.
Looking forward, I can't say I'm overly optimistic. I think Turner has two skills that are elite or near that level for a guy of his size/position. He's a tenacious rebounder, often taking boards away from fours and fives in the paint. He's aggressive on the glass, and shows great anticipation and technique. He also has a tremendous handle. He made a behind-the-back dribble against the Heat in tight quarters to spring a break that only one or two other guys in the league could've made, and none of them are even close to his size. For Turner to ever become a legit number one scoring option, though, he's going to have to fix his jumper to the point where it's a weapon. I don't mean he needs to become an average shooter to keep defenses honest, I mean he needs to be a deadly jump shooter with range out past the three-point line. If he can't do that, I don't think he's going to be able to use his handle to produce enough. The most disappointing thing about Turner's rookie season was his low free throw rate. He doesn't have the athleticism or burst to blow by guys off the dribble when they're giving him space because they don't respect his jumper. And if Andre Iguodala's career has taught us anything, it's that fixing a jumper is never a given, especially a jumper with such funky mechanics.
The worrisome thing about Turner's struggles, for me, is that I don't think it was so much an adjustment to the pace of the NBA game or the athleticism and length of the defenders. If he was consistently underestimating the defense, his turnovers would've been much higher. I think the book was out on Turner early, and it wasn't a very difficult book to begin with. Invite him to shoot jumpers, give him space to cut off his drives. For the most part, if his jumper wasn't falling he wasn't going to be a factor on the offensive end. Until the jumper does start falling, I don't think the book is going to change much.
Your thoughts on Turner's rookie campaign in the comments.