The Indiana Pacers picked Myles Turner 11th overall in the 2015 draft and the near-seven-footer from Texas faired very well through his first NBA season. He got off to a very slow start that included not appearing in any games for almost a month-and-a-half. Then, he caught fire.
Myles Turner got consistent minutes at the start of the calendar year, and he ran with them. His offensive versatility was very impressive, and he was paying dividends on the boards and the defensive end of the ball. Six times he went for 20-plus points, including a career-high 31 against the Golden State Warriors.
It’s a bold prediction to elect Turner the Most Improved Player for next year but has a legitimate chance to bring home the award. The Pacers have severely beefed up their firepower adding Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, but no player–aside from Paul George–on the roster has the collection of tools that Turner has.
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First, there’s his height. He measured 6’11.5 at the NBA Draft Combine, and it showed last year. On the block, he has no issues rising over the top of defenders, and he’s in line to be Indiana’s starting center once the season rolls around. According to Basketball-Reference, Turner converted on 69 percent of his layup attempts–Rookie of the Year Karl-Anthony Towns finished the season at 70 percent.
Turner doesn’t shy away from attacking the cup, either, and he’ll be putting a lot more points on the board with a polished post game. What counteracts his proficiency around the basket is a mid-range jump shot that stretches the defense.
From 16 feet out to the three-point line, Turner knocks down 42.5 percent of his jumpers, a number that’s quite impressive for a guy who attempted 193 shots from that distance; he attempted just 530 shots on the season, so more than one-third came from that area.
When you have a big man who can space the floor like that, one thing it impacts is pick-and-roll/pop plays because the two guys have more room to operate. Turner, who was subpar as the roll man last season, converted on just 41.4 of his shots despite being the roll man on 180 possessions, according to NBA.com.
That can all change this season. The Pacers brought on Jeff Teague to run the offense and now have an All-Star caliber point guard facilitating. Teague’s ability with the basketball needs to be respected by defenses. His blinding quickness can take him to the hoop and his shooting touch can’t be overlooked. More often than not, because Teague is the better player, defenses will prevent him from getting to the hole, opening up the doors for Turner.
Where Turner can help his case, even more, is on the defensive end. During his rookie campaign, Turner evolved into an above-average defender who struggled with discipline; he blocked a decent number of shots but also picked up a lot of fouls–1.4 and 2.6 per night, respectively. The length is there. The athleticism is there. And he’ll be expected to lock down the paint for Indiana because they have no rim protectors.
Don’t get me wrong, it’ll take a lot for Turner to come away with this award, but he has the potential to do it and being given a bigger, more impactful role can only help his chances.
Data courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com
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