Alpha dog: Myles Turner becomes Pacers’ secret weapon on offense

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

As the Indiana Pacers prepare for half of another season without Victor Oladipo, we need to figure out who will now lead the offense. Perhaps Myles Turner has what it takes to be the most important player on both ends for Indy.

For the Indiana Pacers, it is time for Myles Turner to make “the leap.”

Turner’s development over his first four season have come more in skips and hops than leaps, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that he’s truly ready to propel himself into stardom. He appeared in 28 games during the months of February through April after Victor Oladipo‘s season ending injury. In that time frame, he averaged a shade over 13 points per game while playing in an offense that the Boston Celtics exposed in the first round of the playoffs as broken.

He should have more opportunities to torch opponents in the Pacers’ revamped offense. Turner thrives as a pick-and-pop threat, and new acquisitions Malcolm Brogdon, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren all range from average to good screen operators. He may benefit by playing heavy minutes next to Domantas Sabonis and his nifty passing game. Sabonis was good for 2.9 assists per game last year – a fine number for a big man.

Of course, the play-ability of lineups featuring Turner and Sabonis is the biggest question of the Pacers off-season. Just because the Pacers are deploying two behemoths doesn’t mean they will automatically suffer spacing issues, however. Sabonis’ insertion into the starting lineup may push Turner to roam the perimeter and develop even further as a stretch-5.

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Myles hit catch and shoot threes at a 37.3% clip last season, and should continue to feast on those opportunities while orbiting Sabonis post-ups. As dangerous as that pairing may be running Sabonis-to-Turner kick outs, the duo may become even more potent if Turner can learn to slide to the basket for some crafty back door cuts.

Sabonis’ combination of a soft jumper and physical post play will attract a lot of attention from opposing defenses when he sets up shop at the elbows, allowing Turner and others to lurk on the baseline and benefit from his court vision.

Further indication of Turner’s upside can be found by looking at his strong 3 point shooting numbers after Oladipo’s injury. Turner canned 48.5% of his 3 point attempts in February and bounced back from a somewhat clanky 29.1% in March to hit 66.7% from 3 in April.

He also averaged 3 plus attempts from beyond the arc in February and March, a frequency that he had only once surpassed in his entire career. Turner is clearly becoming more confident and competent as a marksman. It is easy to forget that although he has played 280 NBA games and is entering his 5th season, Turner is just 23 years old and still developing his tools.

To get an idea of what Myles’ eventual impact could look like, imagine a more dynamic version of Brook Lopez of the Milwaukee Bucks. Lopez scored 12.5 points per game last season and attempted over 6.3 threes per game. He was widely praised for providing critical spacing for Bucks’ non-shooters Giannis Antetokounmpo and Eric Bledsoe. Despite garnering more attention than Turner, Lopez was less efficient: he shot 36.5% from three compared to Turner’s 38.8%.

In fact, Turner has posted better three point percentages than Lopez in each of the last three seasons (albeit with less volume). If Turner is featured more prominently as a stretch-5 in the new look offense, he could conceivably push his way towards 20 points per game simply by taking and making more shots that are worth more points.

Taking more shots may be the single biggest step for Turner to take to grow from his current state as a fine scorer to progressing into one of the most versatile high octane scoring frontcourt players in the league. Myles has never attempted more than 10.7 shots per game in a single season.

Karl-Anthony Towns, the elite scoring big man for the Minnesota Timberwolves, averages 15.8 shots per game over the course of his career. Anthony Davis of the Lakers has attempted 17.2 shots per game. Kristaps Porzingis, the Mavericks’ budding star, has taken 14.8 shots per contest.

The Pacers should look to find Turner about five more shots each night out if he is to develop into a 20-ish point per game scorer. He should have every opportunity to do so given that out of Indiana’s other 4 projected starters, 2 two have averaged double digit shot attempts per game over the course of their career. Malcolm Brogdon pulls 10.1 times per night, and T.J. Warren fires up 12. Neither of those figures are even mildly ball-hoggy.

Next. Where will the Pacers finish in the East?. dark

It is exciting to imagine Victor Oladipo returning to partner with a floor spacing pick-and-pop juggernaut. It is even more exciting that the Indiana Pacers have that player under contract for the next 4 seasons. The opportunity has come, the blueprint is in place, and the time for Myles Turner to grow into an Alpha Dog is now.