Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner deserves consideration for the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year award, if not to outright win it.
OK, OK, I click-baited you a little bit. I’m not going to spend time trying to convince you outright that Myles Turner should be the NBA Defensive Player of the Year. What I am going to do though is talk about some of the numbers that, to me, show the Indiana Pacers center should gain some votes and consideration in the award.
When people think of the Defensive Player of the Year, right now they tend to look over at Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid. Before that, Draymond Green was in the conversation too but it’s an award usually dominated by bigs.
Turner is a new style big, who stretches the floor and can shoot. Turner leads the league in blocks whilst also shooting over 40 percent from three.
Myles Turner’s block party
We can all agree, Myles Turner is, whilst still just 22 years of age, one of the elite shot blockers in the NBA. He may be the best shot blocker Indianapolis has seen in home town colors. This season Turner leads the league in total blocked shots and blocks per game. And those blocks aren’t flying out of bounds, either. They often end up in the Pacers’ hands.
Having missed five games earlier in the season, Myles is still on track for around 213 in total. This would be one more than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s final year in Milwaukee and one less than Rudy Gobert registered in 2016-17, the first year he was seriously considered for DPOY honors. Gobert missed one game that season so you’d say it would be likely Turner would surpass that total if not for his games missed also.
But continuing to talk about his blocked shots, should we really be looking at totals? Probably not. Let’s take a look at a different area instead.
Myles Turner is directly responsible for 76.7% of the Indiana Pacers’ blocked shots this season whilst he is on the court. The Pacers are averaging 5 blocked shots per game with Turner responsible for 2.7 per game alone.
At present, Turner has blocked nearly half 148 of the blocked shots the Pacers have swatted this season, in second place… Thaddeus Young with 29.
If we were to take a look over at the Gobert, they have Derrick Favors who has contributed 75 blocks as a secondary rim protector but for the Pacers, when Turner is out. That element of their defense is missing almost entirely.
Myles Turner is the key to the Indiana Pacers’ defense
And we can see this come to light even further when we see how often Turner faces shots from under five and under ten feet from the basket.
Despite facing attempts more frequently from both distances than Gobert and even Joel Embiid, Turner’s defensive field goal percentage (DFG%) stands up alongside both. Turner faces almost 10% more frequency from both distances.
So, what does this mean to the overall team defense?
The simplest way to look at how Turner affects the Pacers is to just look at the games he missed.
This season, the Pacers overall Defensive Rating is 104.6, meaning that Indiana will concede 104.6 points per 100 possessions by the opponent. Myles Turner has, as mentioned earlier, missed five games this season before the All-Star break and the Pacers defensive ratings in those five games were:
111.0 vs. San Antonio, 121.3 vs. Toronto, 121.8 vs. Cleveland, 133.3 vs. Boston and 106.0 vs. New York.
There are three games with a plus-120.0 defensive rating over the course of those five games, nearly two-thirds. Over the rest of the entire season, the 53 games Turner has played before the break, that has happened only four times (7.5 percent of the games he played in). Overall, when Turner is on the court this season, the Pacers defense improves to 101.4.
Rebounds matter, but…
“But Myles Turner can’t rebound!”
Yeah, I’ve heard this a lot and it tends to be from the casual everyday fan who reads your basic few stat columns and moves on. Those same people probably would’ve given Andre Drummond a max deal a couple of years ago too.
The problem is, looking purely at these numbers doesn’t show you the types of rebounds a player pulls in. Has the ball just fallen into a player’s hands? Is there even anyone around him to challenge for it?
Myles Turner is averaging 5.7 defensive rebounds per game right now whilst Rudy Gobert is averaging 9.1 per game. But if you look at how many of those rebounds are contested, Rudy Gobert is pulling in 2.5 per game which account for a total of just 27% of his total, whereas Myles grabs 2.3 contended per game for a total of 41% of his defensive rebounds.
This tells us, that although Myles doesn’t grab a lot of rebounds when he does, they’re not just open rebounds falling into his arms.
You also may want to consider that Gobert is playing 3.4 minutes extra per game and when stats are recorded per game rather than per minute, it’s likely that seemingly small differences are actually much more vast than they’d initially appear.
And that concept is one you may want to consider again when you think about another number that the everyday fan doesn’t look for — box outs.
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Myles Turner records 6.3 box outs per game whereas Gobert averages 5.8… in 3.4 minutes extra per game. Turner may not be grabbing all the boards but he’s ensuring he has the position on the floor for the team to get them.
Myles Turner’s overall impact
I see a lot of people thinking Myles Turner doesn’t do enough in a game and it’s probably just because his rebounding numbers aren’t high enough. I’ve heard people at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse this season say how Domantas Sabonis should start instead but Turner is much more than what you’ve been able to see on a stat sheet and I really hope come voting time the people that matter will recognize his contributions to this team.
And I hope you guys reading this will too. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and we had a brief look at that during Turner’s five missed games earlier in the year. Let’s not go back to there.
Let’s appreciate that Turner is here to stay after signing his new deal earlier in the season, which will look like a bargain in the future might I add! And if not this year, in the coming years he will be in the conversation to bring the DPOY to Indiana.