Analyzing The Anomalous: Evan Turner vs. Boston
Philadelphia is a cold city, only tolerant of athletes who consistently take advantage of the golden opportunity known as fame and fortune that’s placed at their feet. There is no pity, and certainly no forgiveness. Philadelphia sports fans hold a powerful voice, capable of convincing an underdog he’s so much more before he actually is, while simultaneously crippling a superstar into fearing a trip to his nearest McDonald’s drive-thru. They bankrupt the soul’s of their players by smothering them with support, and when those “heroes” stop producing, there damn well better be a good explanation.
When Philadelphia struck oil with the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft, the expectation was they’d receive a franchise lifting presence. Someone who could lead this basketball team where Andre Iguodala could not, and, dare I utter such blasphemy, pick up where the statue-justifying talent Allen Iverson left off.
Instead, they got Evan Turner. A player who’s not so great at anything, but OK at some stuff, and below average at the rest. His handle is impressive, yet loose. His jumper has yet to leave Ohio. A few days ago, legend had it that Turner’s lack of production had a mysterious explanation. Some didn’t care for the alien excuse, and instead just wanted the 23-year-old gone forever. The frustration Doug Collins, and by extension Philadelphia’s basketball fans, has experienced with Turner lies in his nondescript style. He’s a bench guy who every now and again will hit double figures and offer decent energy, yet barely leave an imprint on the game. Supporters will point to both his youth and the system he was drafted into as legitimate reasons why he’s yet to explode, and to be fair they’re half right. But after watching Turner play, and getting a little feel for the way he operates as the moving part on a team-oriented basketball team, you begin to ask yourself what exactly his ceiling is? Can he ever make an All-Star team? Does he need the ball in his hands to be successful? How does someone drafted second overall in the NBA draft look so ordinary each and every game?
In a way, a lot of perceptions shifted last night. Turner—fresh into the starting lineup after Jodie Meeks decided making shots was no longer something that interested him—slew the Green Celtic Dragon that’s caused so much 76er bloodshed these last four years. It was a remarkable performance for a player who’s so far been solid, if unspectacular in 117 NBA games. But of course, the question Philly fans began asking 10 minutes after the final buzzer was a semi-impressed, Can he do it again? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.
Evan Turner vs. Boston. Philadelphia won 103-71. Turner’s statistics: 36 minutes, 26 points (on 11-19 shooting), 28.9% usage rate, 9 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers.
- Turner only had two assists in this game, but for whatever reason it felt like a lot more. The ball was in his hands A LOT, and more often than not he made a smart decision with it. His first of the game came midway through the first quarter after Ray Allen forced a drive baseline and had his pass tipped into the hands of Elton Brand, who quickly forwarded it to Turner in motion. (Philadelphia’s transition game is like a super-efficient assembly line, where the players know their jobs, and do them. Quickly and like a programmed machine.) The dead sprint was on, and after Turner turned Rondo into a traffic cone with a quick behind the back dribble, all that was left to do was toss a perfect alley-oop to an airborne Andre Iguodala—a player who never seems to land once he’s taken off.
- Nobody on either team played 30 minutes, except for Evan Turner who logged 36. He made 11 field goals which more than doubled the combined production of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
- If you believe early success in a basketball game truly has an affect on how a player does in the next three quarters, this performance probably made you giddy. Turner’s first shot of the game made the score 6-0 Philadelphia, and its acrobatics served as an appetizer to what we were soon to see. Racing down the open court, with a backpedaling, possibly drunk Brandon Bass trying to slow him down, Turner got to the left side of the basket with ease, slowed his body down so that he could absorb Bass’ body contact, and flipped a shot up with his right hand that looked sort of lucky, but one could argue was more calculated than anything. It was the type of shot Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade make in every game they play, only they’ve earned the privilege of a subsequent trip to the free-throw line. Once Turner gets those calls we’ll look at him in a different way.
- On defense, the Sixers took a page from the Lakers’ book on how to guard Rondo, with Turner playing the sagging roamer role normally occupied by Kobe Bryant. Rondo finished the game with five points, and wasn’t able to do what he wanted from start to finish. This was more of a team effort than an individual one (and the game was effectively over at halftime), but Turner should still be commended for his patience and discipline trying to stop one of the game’s five best point guards. His nine rebounds were also the result of him choosing not to focus on Rondo out on the perimeter.
- The effective pick and roll play in transition was stupendous. Noticing indecisiveness on the part of certain Celtics big men (here’s looking at you, Chris Wilcox) Turner looked very comfortable pushing his way into the heart of Boston’s defense, pulling up for jumpers and tossing up floaters with pin point accuracy. If you’re a Sixers fan, these plays felt like a revelation.
- His offense was all over the place in a very good way: scoring in transition, running the pick and roll, posting up smaller defenders, knocking down wide open jumpers. It was a case study in how to keep a team off balance by one-man guerilla warfare. If he builds on this type of excelled versatility with confidence, Chicago could seriously have an issue should the two face off in the postseason.