Center Fridays: Myles Turner’s defense


Myles Turner has made steady additions to his game over his three years in the league. His defense this season is his best addition yet.

Myles Turner has always been a good defender, especially for his age. He averaged 2.1 blocks, 7.3 rebounds, and .9 steals as a 20-year-old. For reference, only four players have reached those numbers at age 20 or younger; Turner, Anthony Davis, Kevin Garnett, and Chris Webber.

That’s elite company. Oh, and he’s still improving on that end of the floor.

This year, Myles is a force to be reckoned with. Players attack the basket only to be caught scared by the long-limbed and athletic Turner under the rim. He deters misses at an elite rate and sends shots into the stands so frequently that there’s a club (the Myles high club) named for his rejections.


His defensive field goal percentage this season is 46 percent, which is second on the team. Defensive field goal percentage quantifies the shooting percentage that opponents have while guarded with a certain player as the closest defender. This stat means Myles Turner forces his opponents to shoot 46 percent on shots when he is the closest defender. That’s great on its own, but it is amazing when you consider that he defends more shots at the rim, statically the easiest shot.

Offensive players often think they have an easy shot at the rim. They don’t. Sometimes they get scared to shoot and back off, like Chris Paul does here:

Paul had Darren Collison beat, and he thought he would have an easy layup after he spun. But Turner was there protecting the paint, and CP3 had to fade away, which led to a miss.

Sometimes, guys do challenge Turner at the basket. That is not an advisable idea for a variety of reasons, but frankly, it is just very hard to score on the guy. Jonathan Simmons thought he could score on Myles but, spoiler, he could not:

Not only did he make the shot challenging to make, he snagged the rebound on the miss, too. He’s doing that seven times per game this season, solid numbers for a big who spends as much time away from the basket as Turner does.

The second reason you don’t want to attack Turner at the rim is that you may just get completely embarrassed. Poor Etwuan Moore was probably blushing after being this embarrassed:

A common theme on the basketball court is Turner blocking shots. He is so nimble for his size and he has excellent anticipation skills, meaning he can get up for just about any shot that he is in the vicinity of.

The stats agree. He leads the league in blocked shots with 2.3 per game, an absurdly good figure. His 58 blocks also lead the league, and he’s done that while missing time with a concussion.

We can talk advanced stats, too. His block percentage, 6.5 percent, leads the league for players with over 700 minutes played. Block percentage is exactly what it sounds like, it’s the percentage of blocked two-point shots the player blocked while on the court. Turner dominates that statistical category.

That blends in nicely with his defensive field goal percentage at the rim. When defending shots from six feet and in, Turner only allows his opponents to finish 55.8 percent of the time, and his opponents make that shot 61.8 percent of the time when they are not guarded by Turner. To put it more concisely, Turner makes his opponents shoot six percent worse around the basket than they would against an average player.

His lateral quickness helps him block shots further away from the basket as well. The mighty James Harden thought he had a matchup advantage when Turner got switched on to him, but he found out the hard way he was wrong:

Myles Turner is really doing it all. He’s making it hard to score at the rim, he’s deterring opponents from shooting in space, and he’s blocking literally everyone.

Next: Breaking down the Indiana Pacers early season success by the numbers

Turner, despite already being a great defender, has improved on that end of the floor. The league needs to be put on notice that scoring in the rim in Indiana is a no go.