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Why it is too early to give up on Evan Turner

Evan Turner has been a lightning rod since he arrived to Philly. From day 1 there have been strong camps both for and against the Villain - although recently the pro-camp has shown a bit of weakening and defections. But I think people are premature in jumping off the bandwagon. It is too early to throw in the towel - way too early to put ET in the Doug-house and look to make him some other team's problem. And as a bit of disclosure, I was for drafting ET at #2, on the basis that he was the clear cut 2nd best player in his draft, although that was a bit by default as the draft appeared to be weak. And I have also been a vocal critic of his game - and particularly his lack of efficiency - for quite some time. I do not subscribe to the belief that ET is a victim of circumstance, or that he has not gotten ample opportunity to prove himself. So I've never really been on the ET bandwagon, but have been concerned recently over the growing consensus to pull the plug.

IMO we know who Evan Turner is as a basketball player. On the plus side he has a great handle, is aggressive, has good court vision and is strong on the defensive boards. He is willing to put effort on defense and rarely backs down to a challenge. On the negative side of the ledger, he lacks shooting range and quick release. He struggles against superior athletes and has not shown much ability to finish over or around bigs in traffic. He also appears lost when asked to play off the ball and his emotions are definitely a double edged sword.

So looking at this unusual skill set, the question is in what way he can be a valuable member of a good team. He basically is a guy who has the skills and mentality to get himself to a dangerous part of the floor - but seems to lack the ability to get positive results once he gets there. And to make things worse, he is a net negative if you try to use him in a traditional wing role where he is asked to hit open shots and finish in traffic. In some ways he is the exact opposite of the other Sixers wings, and most NBA wings overall. But that can actually be a really good thing.

Right now ET has actually shown dramatic improvement this pre-season, but it has been completely masked by his inability to finish in traffic. Unlike past seasons, ET is consistently getting into the teeth of the defense. He is not settling for jumpers. He is not passively sitting on the perimeter. He is getting the ball where he needs to go and then getting struck... And I think the answer is as close as that giant guy sitting on the bench. The answer is Bynum - and until Bynum is on the floor it would be foolhardy to give up on ET.

My premise is simple. Have ET do exactly what he is doing but expect different results. My hope (rational or not) is that once Bynum is in the lane, ET's forays will result in dunks and layups instead of blocks and TO's. Put someone in the lane who the defense fears- and all of the sudden the defense can't collapse on ET's drives. And if the defense does collapse, then even better, since ET can either pass the ball or simply put it up on the glass for Bynum and Thad to finish. This does require ET to change what he does when he gets in the lane - but that is not asking much - since the defense itself will change how it approaches drivers once Bynum steps on the floor.

Yes, it is tremendous that the Sixers finally have wings who can shoot. But this does not make ET less important or an afterthought . Part of maximizing shooters and quality bigs is to have someone break down the defense. The opposition can scheme against shooters and cover up the paint if they can stay in their base defensive set. But once you get penetration then the defense breaks down and you can fully deploy your weapons. It's great that Jrue and Maalik can break down their men from the PG position. Its great that Thad can face up his man and blow by him. But that makes it no less valuable for ET to use his handle and aggressive mindset to get in the lane - as long as it ends in a positive result.

Having a wing penetrate is ideal, since you can better maintain floor balance with the PG staying up top. If you solely rely on PG penetration then you are constantly at risk of giving up fast breaks the other way- just look at the Nash led Suns. Great offense, but unless you get the proper wing rotations to cover up the top you are asking for a fast break the other way off of missed shots. Get that same penetration from the wing (ET) then Jrue can stay at the top of the key both as a 3 pt threat and a key defensive stopper to prevent a break out. And right now ET is the one wing the Sixers have who has the handle to consistently break his man down - even if he is the worst finisher of the bunch.

So my argument is NOT that ET is great and has gotten a bum wrap or been unfairly constrained. In fact in many ways ET sort of stinks at some basic wing skills. But, now that the Sixers have both shooters and a big to compliment his driving game, it would be foolhardy to conclude that ET is not valuable simply because his game breaks down when the team has the shooters but not the big. In fact ET could still prove himself to be invaluable if the addition of Bynum opens up the lane to where ET can actually create high percentage offense off of his drives. He might continue to fall on his face - but I think we owe it to ourselves to actually wait for that to happen (with Bynum on the floor) before we close the chapter on the Villain.

So the questions you need to answer are:

  1. Is ET willing and capable to get in the lane as well as defend his position?
  2. Are there enough shooters on the floor to where ET's poor shooting can be masked and his driving and passing ability maximized?
  3. Will the presense of Bynum be enough of a threat to where ET's drives can be productive either by weakening the defense or creating a passing/O-Board option for an easy Bynum finish?
  4. Does ET have the skill and mentality to take advantage of this within the scheme of the offense?

Finding out the answers to this questions should be both interesting and essential. Once Bynum returns it should become readily apparent what the answers are- but until a legit post finisher is on the floor it is premature to conclude that ET cannot dramatically help this team. I think Collins knows this, but I don't think much of the fanbase is onboard.
by tk76 on Oct 23 2012
Tags: Basketball | Evan Turner | Sixers |