Myles Turner has arrived… plan accordingly

It is official. After last nights game, Myles Turner has arrived for the Indiana Pacers.

Pacers center Myles Turner has been the source of much scrutiny over his young NBA career.  The term “bust” was being thrown around, with even some Pacers fans calling for him to be traded for assets.

I have long been a major defender of Turner on Pacers Twitter and beyond, but I have to admit my concern after the first 12-15 games of the new season.  He did not record a double-digit rebound game until the 16th contest against the Atlanta Hawks.

My concern, yet genuine hope for Turner came in the form of an article I wrote just before the Pacers match-up with the Utah Jazz on November 19th.  Since the publishing of that article, Turner has seemingly taken off and has arguably been the Pacers best player in that time.  That timeline also coincides with Victor Oladipo‘s injury, forcing Turner into a larger role in the Pacers offense.  In those ten games since, Turner has averaged nearly 14 points, nine rebounds, and 3.3 blocks.  Those numbers have swelled even more in the month of December (15.4/10.8/3.6, four double-doubles in his last seven games).

What’s changed? Could it be an adjustment of usage or did it finally come together for Turner?

Well…it’s actually a little of both.

Necessity

When your only All-Star from last season goes down with an “indefinite” knee injury, someone has to step up.  Bojan Bogdanovic has certainly filled much of the scoring role Oladipo left behind, but Turner has been just as important to the Pacers offense staying afloat.  With Collison at the guard helm, both he and Turner needed to work on communication.  It has paid off dividends for both of them, as Collison seems to be returning to coming back to his old self.  The two reportedly watched game film together extensively to look for more opportunities to create scoring opportunities.  Simply put, the Pacers needed the next man up and Turner answered the call.

Volume

I added this stat to my last Turner article, but I’ll update it. The Pacers are 69-52 (.570 win percentage) when Myles Turner gets ten or more shot attempts in a game.  They are 60-50 (54.5%) when he gets less than ten.  This season, that record is 10-4 with ten or more attempts.  The Pacers are a better team when Turner is involved with the offense.  Turner is averaging two more attempts per game in December than he did in November, with his percentage hovering around 49 percent from the floor.  There has been a conscious effort to get him the ball and he is executing with those opportunities.

Confidence

I have never in my life seen Myles Turner get into another player’s head the way he worked on Bradley Beal against the Wizards.  After a hard foul in which both players ended up on the floor, Turner came to the defense of Darren Collison, getting Beal to back off.  He’s starting to realize his potential and is finally believing it.  His final block of the game with three and a half minutes left against the Wizards led to a run for the Pacers to put it away for good.  He knows his presence on defense and has been more and more aggressive around the rim.

Offensively, he’s no longer settling for the first pass and is ready to shoot during the appropriate times.  Against the Suns, this led to a go-ahead three pointer in the final minute of the game.  The hesitation is starting to fade, and as good of a jump-shooter as he is it was only a matter of time.

Rebounding

The biggest criticism of Turner has been his lack of rebounding, given his size.  The point has not been lost on him as some of his own teammates referred to him as “soft” last season.  Strangely enough, he has actually out-rebounded Domantas Sabonis in the month of December. Granted, Sabonis plays fewer minutes and has dealt with sickness, but it’s a fair comparison to the best rebounder on the team (yes, you can love both centers).

The double-double is often the casual fan’s way to measure center effectiveness, but there is a lot to be said about the influx of boards Turner has been pulling down.  He has been in double-figure rebounds in six of his last 11 games after not having a single one in his first 15. That is terrific.

Defense

It’s no secret that Turner is an effective defensive presence, but it’s his aggressiveness that moves him from presence to menace.  His roughly 2.8 blocks per game are just third to Anthony Davis and Hassan Whiteside.  What sets him apart from other SWAT team members comes from his new ability to stretch out to the perimeter to guard, even on a mismatch.

Case and point, take a look at him guard on a drive from the corner on Suns’ guard Devin Booker.  His hard work from the summer is showing on the defensive end where he is a top of the league force.  Collison said after the Wizards game that he believes Turner is “the best defensive big man in the game”.  It’s getting harder and harder to argue that.  It’s only a matter of time until we see his name in DPOY conversations.

Hair?

Hey, if he’s going to drop 26/12/5 every night as he did against the Wizards, I might consider changing my hair into the dread-bun too.

Next: Why the Pacers should try to trade Darren Collison

Myles Turner has arrived and the Pacers have another weapon to work with.  Even the strongest Turner haters have been absolutely silent over the last several games.  Turner’s Twitter bio says “S/O to everyone who said I couldn’t”.  I hope one of these days he switches that to “everyone who remembered I could”.  Check your narrative, the Pacers have a rising star.