How to effectively use Evan Turner

NBA fans and experts lost their minds when the Portland Trail Blazers and Evan Turner reached an agreement on the first day of free agency on a four-year, $70 million deal in 2016. This deal is commonly referred to as one of the worst deals given out that summer. The truth is the second overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft game has been misunderstood most of his career. Turner can be a valuable piece to go with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic if they learn to use him correctly.

Turner never lived up to the expectations of a top two draft pick. He struggled early in his career in Philadelphia and never really fit in. It did not take long for Turner to be labeled as a bust. He found his niche as a role player once he landed in Boston three years ago. Celtics Coach Brad Stevens started to use him as a sixth man to facilitate the offense and add to their defensive depth. His play for the Celtics over those two seasons is what earned him the deal from Portland.

He started out of the gate slowly last season, trying to figure out where exactly he fit. He came off the bench and was often on the court with McCollum and bench unit as a secondary ball handler. He often looked uncomfortable and never could find his groove.

The worst way to use Turner is as a spot-up shooter. On plays where Lillard and McCollum dominate the ball, Turner is parked in the corner. Having him play the role as a spot up shooter is essentially a losing proposition since he’s a career 29.8% three-pointer shooter. Jaylen Brown leaves Turner is wide open in the corner, to help contest McCollum’s shot. If a team is paying him $70 million to be a spot-up shooter, well that’s money down the drain.

Evan Turner will never wow anyone with his athleticism; he has what’s called an old man game! His toolbox lacks speed and explosion but is stocked full with craftiness and a high basketball IQ. Early on it seemed as if the Blazers weren’t utilizing it.

However, you can get your money worth from Turner if he is put in the right spots. He is a good defender, able to switch on bigs like Al Horford and guard players like Isaiah Thomas. He’s also a good off-ball defender, as he meets Marcus Smart at the nail and recovers to contest Thomas’ shot.

Another way to use Turner is to have him facilitate the offense. When he is on the floor with Lillard and McCollum, Portland can run them off of screens like pindowns and flares to get defenses off them and clean looks. He also does a good job of making the dump off pass as the big comes over to help.

The perfect place for him to flourish is in the post with his old man game. He can take advantage of switches and command double teams. According to Synergy this past season his post-ups yield 1.14 points per possession. He is crafty enough to pivot around the defender for baskets as well as find the open man when teams come to double him.

The key to unlocking Turner’s potential for the Blazers is putting him on the floor with Lillard and McCollum more often. That 3-Man Combination was only used for 381 minutes this past season and does not crack the top 20 for the Blazers. Late in January Turner was moved into the starting lineup and he responded by scoring 11 points a night and dropping 4.2 assists before breaking his hand. The Blazers only went 5-4 during that stretch but their offensive rating went from 106.5 prior to the change to 108.4, their defensive rating went from 109.3 down to 105.6. It is a small sample size but it is a positive swing of 5.6 in net rating.

  Wins Losses Off Rating Def Rating Net Rating
Off the Bench 18 26 106.5 109.3 -2.8
As a Starter 5 4 108.4 105.6 2.8

The Evan Turner deal was labeled one of the worst deals given out and depending on how a team uses him, it can be. He’s not a spot-up shooter or someone who is going to give you 23 points a night off the bench. He is a player who does all the small things it takes to win a game in the NBA be it a deflection or just being in the right help position at the right time. He’s a facilitator on offense as either a ball handler or in the post, with good court vision. The Blazers could be better served to play Turner more with Lillard and McCollum, it’ll help them win more games and prove he’s worth every penny.

NBA Notes:

  • Melo to Portland – It seems there is no clear route to get Carmelo Anthony to Houston. If he were willing to waive his no-trade clause to go to Portland, the Blazers could put together a package centered around the aforementioned Evan Turner, Al-Farouq Aminu, and several draft picks to get it done. Melo would definitely be a good gamble for Portland.
  • Lottery Reform – It seems like Lottery Reform is coming but it really doesn’t fully solve the problem. The three worst records in a season will only have a 14 percent chance of getting the number one overall pick. It will help a bit but probably won’t eradicate tanking as a whole.

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