For the Pacers to have a big season Myles Turner needs to make the “Leap”

This season is a huge one for Myles Turner. after he didn’t meet the ‘he’s-going-to-make-a-leap’ expectations placed on him last season, it is make or break time this season. Player development is never a linear growth; it is more like a stock that will go up and down. This isn’t to say that Turner had a bad –– his minutes, points and rebounds dipped a bit, but he shot a career high from three –– his growth chart just plateaued. For the Pacers to vault into the upper echelon of the East, they are going to need this to be Turner’s leap year.

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Just by comparing Turner’s stat line of the last two seasons it would seem he took a step back. However, his per 36 numbers are nearly identical but not taking a leap forward is considered taking a step back nowadays.

Per 36 Points Rebounds Blocks Assist
2016-17 16.6 8.3 2.4 1.5
2017-18 16.2 8.2 2.3 1.7

Turner himself was not satisfied with his play last season. “I took a look at myself in the mirror last season and I was pudgy” he told ESPN (Myles Turner is using yoga to reshape his body and his NBA career). An offseason spent challenging himself by changing his diet and practicing Vinyasa yoga led to a startling body transformation.

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Offensively, Turner has all the skills: His expanded range out to three that has made him an even deadlier in pick-and-pop situations. He pops after setting a ball screen 70 percent of the time, averaging 1.013 points per possession on 44 percent shooting. Pairing him with Victor Oladipo in pick-and-rolls will give defenses problems because they have to stop Oladipo first and then recover to Turner.

Defensively, Turner is an outstanding shot blocker, averaging around 2 blocks his last two seasons, which is third in the league in that span. Where he can improve is his defensive awareness when he is on the weak side. He provides a textbook example of helping when Bojan Bogdanovic fronts Kevin Love in the below clip. He is aware from the start of the play, and arrives right as the ball arrives. Myles does a great job of staying vertical and not committing a foul and allowing the Pacers to get the stop.

There are still times when Turner falls asleep on the weak side. Here he is guarding JR Smith in the corner, but he’s also responsible for rotating over on the LeBron James roll. He needs to be there about a second earlier to discourage the pass to James. Instead he hesitates, arrives late, and gets baptized by LeBron.

In another example, he makes the same mistake again. He is late to rotate to a rolling James, and gives up prime real estate in the paint that opened the door to LeBron getting the offensive rebound. The play results in him picking up a foul and sending James to the line.

Hopefully Turner  lighter weight and newfound flexibility from yoga  will improve his ability to defend on the perimeter. He switches on to LeBron, but he’s too upright and heavy-footed, which allows LeBron to blow right by him for a layup. Even when he is guarding a big man like Brook Lopez, who has never been accused of being fleet of foot, he can’t stay in front and prevent the easy score at the rim.

The Pacers are in need of a consistent second option on offense. This past season they were too reliant on Oladipo to carry them on that end. Oladipo averaged 23.1 points per game, nearly nine more points than the next closest Pacer, Bogdanovic at 14.3. Turner has all the skills a team would want in a modern big: He is able to stretch the floor with his shooting, has a solid post game, and can be a force defensively for the Pacers if he can put it all together. This season is big for the Pacers, but an even bigger one for Myles Turner who is heading into restricted free agency next summer.

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