Myles Turner’s Skill Development Part I: Passing

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 19: Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers looks for a pass against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on March 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 19: Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers looks for a pass against Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of the Los Angeles Clippers during the first half at Staples Center on March 19, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images) /

Myles Turner’s evolution as a modern center isn’t done. If he can add more to his passing game, the Indiana Pacers will be better for it.

The game of basketball is ever evolving long gone are the days of the stagnant offense, behemoth big men who dominate the post and long twos being the bread and butter of almost every great perimeter player. Modern basketball is fast, fluid, frenetic and fun.

Coaches have replaced the lumbering giants of old with spacing and shooting. Pace and space is the name of the game.

Of all facets of the game of basketball, the roles of big men may have changed the most. Slow, post-centric big men have gone out of fashion for more offensively skilled big men: Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns are radically different from Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Though, they are just as dominant, in their own modern ways. We have seen these slow bigs become ineffectual in the playoffs; the best teams can even neutralize big men like Clint Capela.

For the bulk of the 2018-19 season, the Indiana Pacers’ best player was a big man. No, not Ike Anigbogu, nor Kyle O’Quinn, not even T.J. Leaf. The Pacers’ best player was Elston, aw crap, I mean Myles Turner.

Turner took a massive leap in 2019, mostly on the defensive end. His rim protection elevated to another level and his newfound agility turned him into a defensive monster, zipping all over the court and mucking up opposing offenses.

On offense, Turner finally became an above average three-point shooter, something so many had expected since the Pacers drafted him. Excluding the first two months of the season, Turner shot a scorching 47 percent from deep. Aside from a poor March, Turner couldn’t miss for most of the season.

However, the most interesting development of the season for Turner was his skill development, specifically, his creation. The ability to pass, dribble and shoot off of the dribble take big man offense to the next level.

Throughout the season, Nate McMillan criminally underfeatured Turner in Indiana’s offense. Turner spent most of his time on offense in the pick and pop and in the post. I believe there’s more to his game. There were enough flashes of passing and dribbling goodness to believe there’s another stage to Turner’s offensive game and that’s what I want to show today.

On part one of the Turner skill development saga, we’ll take a look at Turner’s passing in the 2018-19 season, what he did well and where he can improve.

Myles Turner’s passing game

Passing is one of the most underappreciated skills in the game of basketball. Efficiency drives winning and it is difficult to be efficient without great passing. Take Draymond Green, who brings immense offensive value with his passing, despite not being an excellent scorer. When you combine passing prowess with scoring greatness, you get Nikola Jokic, a truly unique offensive superweapon.

Looking at the numbers, one wouldn’t think much of Turner’s passing. 1.6 assists per game don’t exactly jump off the page. However, Turner didn’t get much of an opportunity to play make within Indiana’s offense.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

When he did, the results were often positive. As a passer, Turner still has plenty of room to grow; he’s no Domantas Sabonis, after all. As a passer, Turner relies far too much on feel. When things go well, Turner’s passing looks fantastic because of how quick his decision making is. Though, Turner’s passes are often rushed: he doesn’t read the defense before passing, rather, he goes completely off feel. This leads to some boneheaded turnovers and errant passes.

Take this first clip, with Myles in the post late in the shot clock. The Magic send a late clock double, one of the best strategies to stymie a post-up. It takes an excellent passer to finagle their way out of a late-clock double and Myles is not a great passer.

Turner feels Leaf cutting and immediately looks to get the ball to him. He fails to account for Jonathan Isaac standing in the middle and he easily picks off the pass. These clips are full of rushed reads leading to errant passes when Myles doesn’t take his time to read the defense:

When Turner’s lightning quick decisions work out, the results are fantastic. I have belabored the importance of short roll creation countless times and I’m doing it again for the sake of the piece. The ability to make good decisions four on three when the defense traps pick and roll ballhandler is invaluable.

It’s a skill Domantas Sabonis excelled at and something Turner flashed proficiency at. Myles flashed the ability to hit shooters on target after collapsing the defense from the middle on the short roll:

He also showed chops hitting the big man in the dunker spot off of the short roll:

Playing on the perimeter, Turner’s chemistry with Domas Sabonis and Thad Young shone through all season. He did an excellent job finding them in the post, hitting high-low passes from all over the court:

Let’s take a moment to appreciate my third favorite Myles play of the season (one and two coming in the next piece) and his best pass of the year. This read shows off Myles’ high-level IQ as a passer. Catching the ball on the pop, Turner spots Young sealing off Russell Westbrook. Predictably, he looks inside to feed the mismatch.

Reading the play, Jerami Grant sees Myles dangle the ball out in front of him and jumps to steal a pass inside. Turner is three steps ahead, though, as he bazookas the ball to the vacant corner, bamboozling Grant and putting three points on the board:

Myles’ handle improved quite a bit this season. When combined with his passing and shooting, the Pacers’ offense greatly opened up. When defenses committed to taking away his shooting, Turner put the ball on the floor and created advantages attacking closeouts.

Turner’s speed and agility make him more effective here than other great shooting bigs, say, Brook Lopez. He beats Aron Baynes middle, displaying excellent body control to avoid the charge and assisting the Young layup:

No closeout to attack, Turner beats Dewayne Dedmon straight off of the bounce. Drawing two defenders, he jumps in the air, ostensibly looking to finish, but wraps the ball to Young for the bunny:

Turner’s passing and handling often did not operate in unison, leading to some ugly missed reads and turnovers. Getting the pass in transition, it looks like Turner glances at Wes Matthews, but doesn’t pull the trigger for whatever reason. Instead, he is rushed, off balance and misses the layup:

Again, Turner has a cutting Darren Collison with a bit more patience and control. However, he’s not looking to pass, loses his balance and ends up traveling.

Next season, I want to see Myles Turner making more plays. Feed him the ball on the perimeter and in the short roll. There’s going to be more turnovers and dumb decisions, but that’s an inevitable part of growth.

Next. The Pacers see a future point guard in Aaron Holiday. dark

As this piece looked to prove, there’s a good passer trapped within Myles Turner’s body. It is up to Turner, Nate McMillan and the rest of the Pacers to help unleash him.