Myles Turner: What He Is, What He Isn’t, What He Could Be

Oct 8, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) guards Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Orlando 97-92. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) guards Orlando Magic center Dewayne Dedmon (3) at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Indiana defeats Orlando 97-92. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

The future of the Indiana Pacers hinges on two factors. The first is the return of Paul George to the pantheon of the NBA’s great two-way players. The second is the development of Myles Turner.

While the Pacers have a roster that should be able to compete for a playoff spot in an improved-yet-still-mediocre Eastern Conference, it is clear that the team is building to peak in the future rather than the present.

Taking that into consideration, it seems worth taking a hard look at what type of player Myles Turner could become by looking at past players with similar skill sets. First, however, let’s look at the skills he currently possesses, the skills he may or may not develop, and his physical limitation.

What He’s Got


Myles Turner is a shotblocker. It’s his gateway skill. If he has a career, the foundation will be laid upon that skill, and he will convert that to becoming a rim protector.

At Texas, Turner blocked 4.7 shots per 40 minutes. Last year, seven of the top 10 shotblockers in the NBA had played college basketball. Here’s how Turner’s numbers stacked up against their freshman seasons.

Myles Turner
Myles Turner /

As you can see, Turner’s college numbers put him in fairly elite company. Of course, there are countless examples of prolific college shotblockers who were complete duds in the NBA, but these numbers combined with his per-game average of 4.3 blocks during summer league show that this is a skill he currently possesses.


There is not nearly as much statistical evidence to demonstrate Turner’s ability as a shooter. He only made 27% of his 3-point attempts during his lone year at Texas. The one statistic I could point to, however, is that 100% of the scouting reports published about him cited his shooting ability as a strength.

His summer league play also bolstered his reputation as a shooter as he made 2 of his 3 attempts from the 3-point line while on his way to posting a 60% shooting mark from the floor overall (with many of those shots coming from mid-range). Then, of course, there’s this from Larry Bird, via Indy Star: “He’s probably the best shooter on the team.”


He’s tall: 6’ 9.75” tall without shoes. His standing reach is 9’4”, which exceeds that of players like Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler, and Andrew Bogut.

Attitude/Work Ethic

This is the other thing that is attested to in 100% of Myles Turner scouting reports. He’s a smart, likable, and hard-working kid who has a strong desire to become an excellent basketball player.

What He Won’t Ever Have

Elite Athleticism

Myles Turner is an average NBA athlete. When we see average NBA-level athleticism from a 6’10”, 240-lb human, it looks pretty spectacular – especially after seven years of watching Roy Hibbert fall down after attempting reverse layups. Turner, though, is not in the Anthony Davis/JaVale McGee freakish athlete category.

Elite Physicality

Turner’s penchant to choose finesse over physicality was a frequent criticism in his scouting reports, so I watched him very closely during Summer League to see how he reacted to physical contact. I was pleased with what I saw.

Turner doesn’t seek out contact or look to physically dominate his opponents often, but he doesn’t seem to shy away from or be bothered by aggressive play. He’s never going to be Charles Oakley or Dale Davis, but I don’t think his game will be limited by an aversion to contact.

Myles Turner
Oct 15, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) blocks a shot against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Austin Daye (15) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /

What He Doesn’t (But May Someday) Have

A Low Post Game

At present, Turner has only one effective move in the post: a turnaround jump shot. While this move is quite advanced for a 19-year-old rookie, he’ll need to add some variety if he’s going to be utilized down low in the NBA. During Summer League his post play was, frankly, painful to watch.

A Pick-and-??? Game

It’s been noted nearly everywhere on the internet that Rick Barnes’ utilized his talented players so poorly at Texas that he no longer has a job. This was certainly the case with Turner. Despite his decent level of athleticism and strong shooting stroke, Turner was almost never used in pick and roll or pick-and-pop situations in college.

During Summer League, however, we saw that he could have some potential in this area as he converted a couple of opportunities of each. His inexperience in this role, however, means that while the future looks fairly bright for this aspect of his game, we can’t say it’s in the bag just yet.

Passing Ability

During Summer League, it quickly became obvious that Turner looks to score every time he gets the ball. Whether this is a function of consistently playing with less-talented players or some residual effect of that atrocious Longhorn offense, I have no idea. Passing, however, didn’t seem to be on his top ten list of “things to do with a Basketball.”

Perimeter Defense

One of the hallmarks of big-man versatility is the ability to switch onto a smaller player and stay in front of them. Turner hasn’t shown the lateral quickness or comfort level to do this. It does look like an ability that he could develop, however, and in an interview with 8p9s he claimed “everybody knows I can block shots, but i feel like I am pretty good at staying in front of people on the perimeter.”

Looking to the Past for a Prototype

To see what Turner could become, I wanted to look to the past to see what types of players had been successful with his two dominant skill sets: shot blocking and shooting.

Using the wonderful “play index” at Basketball Reference, I was quickly able to search for big men who had blocked at least 50 shots and made at least 50 3-pointers during the same season (Barring injury, I think that Turner could realistically hit those numbers this year).

What I quickly discovered was that this is not a common feet. Only 16 players in NBA history have ever had such a season: Rasheed Wallace, Bill Laimbeer, Clifford Robinson, Mehmet Okur, Chris Webber, Jack Sikma, Chris Bosh, Raef LaFrentz, Channing Frye, Boris Diaw, Rod Higgins, Spencer Hawes, Brad Lohaus and Tim Perry. Of these 16 players, 9 made at least one All-Star team. As you can see, this is a rare combination of skills that puts him in some fairly elite company.

So which of these guys gives us a prototype for Myles Turner?

Of these 16 players, only three of them ever demonstrated the above-average to elite shot-blocking ability that Turner possesses: Wallace, Robinson, and LaFrentz. Sheed didn’t put up great shot-blocking numbers throughout his career, but he was an incredibly savvy defender who usually bested foes with positioning, smarts, and technique. He was also a much better perimeter player, both offensively and defensively, than Turner is (and than Turner projects to be even by the wildest projections). Cliff Robinson spent his career shuffling between all 3 front-court positions and, arguably, his best years were spent as a 3/4 hybrid in Portland.

The best fit for Turner may be the peak years of Raef LaFrentz’s career.

At this point, LaFrentz may be more remembered for his expiring contract than his play on the court, but his first few years in Denver were impressive. There is a reason he earned that big contract. After spending much of his rookie year injured, LaFrentz spent the next 3 years blocking at least 180 shots per year while making 36% of his 590 3-point attempts. His strong play was enough to earn him the large contract that became so famous after his play slipped off a few years later. Injuries ultimately derailed LaFrentz’s career, but the beginning of his career does at least give us a statistical measuring stick for a player like Turner.

Some Other Considerations

First, I’d be negligent if I mentioned that even with LaFrentz playing well, his Denver teams never made the playoffs, and it wasn’t because they were totally devoid of talent. Antonio McDyess and Nick Van Exel were at the peaks of their careers in Denver. This means that if we’re using LaFrentz as a prototype, we can legitimately ask if this type of player can succeed.

Second, the en vogue comparison for Myles Turner is LaMarcus Aldridge. I understand this as they have a number of similarities. Certainly the Pacers would be ecstatic if Turner ever reaches Aldridge’s level of skill and success. However, the comparison falls flat when you see that Aldridge does not do the primary thing we expect Turner to do: block shots. He didn’t in college, and he doesn’t in the pros. Aldridge also doesn’t shoot 3s. We don’t know yet for sure that Turner will either, but he seems to have aspirations for putting up deeper shots than LaMarcus, who is deadly from 18 to 20 feet but rarely gets behind the arc.

Third, one thing that the careers of LaFrentz, Robinson, and, to a lesser extent, Wallace show us is that this unique skill set can be difficult for coaches and organizations to come to grips with. While Wallace spent nearly his entire career at the PF spot, he did play a fair bit of center near the end of his career as his athleticism began to wane. LaFrentz thrived playing alongside Antonio McDyess as a C early in his career, but then struggled later in Boston playing as a PF next to Mark Blount. Cliff Robinson spent years trying to find a position before settling in as primarily a SF who played PF in spot duty. Then again, this is 2015 and those players all existed, somewhat as anomalies, in their eras. Teams like the Warriors, Cavs, and especially the Hawks have shown that the game has moved to a place where “big men” shooters are no longer rare.

What Myles Turner Must Do Now

All that being said, what will Myles Turner’s career look like moving forward? No one knows. Here are a few things to think about as we watch Turner develop this year and beyond:

1. Have a Plan

Frank Vogel and, to a lesser extent, Larry Bird can do a lot to help Turner develop. Helping Turner avoid some of the multi-positional confusion many of the aforementioned players had to deal with will go a long way toward expediting his development and allowing him to flourish. The organization needs to (and probably already does) have an idea of the player they want Turner to be in a few years when he’s peaking. Ideally, they would already have Turner on board with this plan as training camp begins.

2. Start Small

If I were making a developmental plan for Myles Turner, I’d first have him focus on refining his strengths and creating game situations for him to utilize them. With a smaller number of things to focus on, he’ll hopefully develop more quickly and see more early success. With success comes confidence, and confidence (in high-caliber people) breeds a desire for greater success.

We also need to remember that Turner was criticized and questioned for the strangeness of his gait during his lone year at Texas. The diagnosis, rather than any concerning medical issue, was a lack of core and leg strength stemming from his abnormally rapid growth spurts as a teen. That being said, a good deal of his focus this year needs to be on getting physically stronger and ready for the rigors of the NBA.

On defense he’d be a rim protector for this season. He needs to learn verticality in the way that Roy Hibbert did. The primary limiting factor on Turner’s playing time this season, other than Vogel’s rotations, will be fouls. He was a foul magnet during Summer League, and I would expect to see much of the same during the regular season. If he can focus on reducing this, however, he’ll be on the floor more to the benefit of both himself and the team.

Offensively, Vogel needs to get him as many uncontested jumpers as possible. No one likes to remember the Jim O’Brien years, but if you think back for just a moment, one of the images that comes to mind is Troy Murphy draining 3-pointers from the top of the key after trailing the play. Turner could easily get these shots after Hill, Ellis, and George push the ball up the court. There are a number of other ways to get him open jumpers as well. This is what Vogel needs to focus on. Don’t ask him to play in the post too much. Don’t ask him to run the offense from the elbow a la David West. Just let the kid shoot and make shots.

3. The Future

As we look into the crystal ball, there are always far more clouds than there is clarity. When projecting a players development, however, I’m always reminded of an adage  our own Tim Donahue wrote a few years ago when we were trying to figure out Roy Hibbert. He said, essentially, that you could never expect a person to be something other than what they were, so if the skills you are hoping to see them develop were outside of who they were as a human being, then all your hopes would be in vain. When applied to Hibbert, this meant that he was never going to develop the kind of steely-eyed consistency that springs from the well of innate confidence and mental toughness, but what does it mean when it’s applied to Turner?

It means that he’s never going to be Anthony Davis or Rasheed Wallace or Bill Walton. All those guys possess attributes he’s not going to develop (respectively: athleticism, natural perimeter skills, and elite court vision). I see absolutely nothing, however, that’s stopping him from becoming a long-term version of peak Raef LaFrentz. Nor do I see anything that’s stopping him from becoming a shot-blocking, 3-point shooting version of LaMarcus Aldridge. In other words, his ceiling is pretty damn high.

Even if he falls short of this, however, even if he never adds a low-post game or learns how to stay in front of guards on switches, he can become a very productive NBA player simply by perfecting the two skills he already has: shot-blocking and shooting.

So if you’re Larry Bird or Frank Vogel or just a casual Pacer’ fan, you’ve got plenty of reasons to feel good about at least one of the hinges that opens the door to the future.

Next: Paul George Throws Down Double-Clutch Reverse Dunk vs. Cavs

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