(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Texas closed its non-conference schedule on Monday with an 11-point win over Rice at home, featuring one of Myles Turner’s best performances to date. The six-foot-11 freshman scored 16 points on seven shots in 22 minutes, hitting both of his three-point attempts in the process.
Turner hasn’t been particularly impressive against high level competition this season, with non-descript performances against California Berkeley and Connecticut, a struggle against Kentucky and an OK outing against Stanford. But his skill-set remains very appealing and he has done just enough to continue being viewed as a lottery-rated prospect over these first two months of the season.
Turner projects as a floor spacing big man at the pro level. He has a smooth shooting stroke and solid mechanics, flexing his elbows comfortably and keeping the off-arm pointed up on the follow through. Turner doesn’t elevate off the ground much but doesn’t need to for a high release point thanks to his six-foot-11 frame and the speed of his release. He has hit eight of his 20 three-point attempts and entered Monday’s game having hit 42.8 percent of his 42 two-point jump-shots, according to Hoop Math.
His other most intriguing skill is his passing. Turner has flashed a very high basketball IQ, doing little things such as swinging the ball quickly when he catches on the perimeter in non-shooting position to make sure the offense keeps moving. He also tends to post up his man to tie up a rim protector when one of Texas’ guards opts not to enter the ball to the post but rather drive towards the basket.
Turner is an excellent asset for high-low action, proving able to assist a teammate below the rim by flashing to the foul line or from the perimeter after popping off a ball-screen. He’s also flashed the ability to pass out of the low post. I don’t feel like Texas is using his passing ability enough but even as is, Turner has assisted on almost 12 percent of Texas’ scores when he has been on the floor, per Basketball Reference. When he is in the lineup, the team plays at a noticeably faster pace.
Other areas of his offensive game aren’t as developed, though. On the pick-and-roll, Turner is a decent screener who looks to draw contact but can’t dive hard to the front of the rim due to an inability to move fluidly in space. He hasn’t been able to finish strong in traffic or finish through contact.
On the low post, he has struggled establishing deep position against high level competition. Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns, Jr. consistently pushed him off his spot, as Draft Express’ Mike Schimitz detailed in this video. Stefan Nastic also successfully denied him the ball last week. When he has caught it below the foul line, Turner has looked hesitant to create separation by backing opponents down, often opting for quick turnaround hooks or fadeaway jump-shots. He has a lean 240-pound frame in the context of his six-foot-11 height and doesn’t play with much strength, which also makes him unable to push people off the way on the offensive glass.
Although Turner functions well as a floor spacer, he often settles for contested looks in an attempt to get his shot off quickly. His high shooting percentage at the rim (67.7% on 31 shots prior to Monday’s game) is mostly a result of him making a killing against low level opponents. His lack of explosion has held him back against better teams. Although he did get to the foul line fine against California Berkeley, Connecticut, Kentucky and Stanford (15 free throws in four games), Turner was limited to just five two-point baskets in his 82 minutes.
As I mentioned in his offseason profile, Turner looked uncomfortable defending in space in the FIBA Americas U18, so it was expected this was also going to be the case at the college level. Texas has played some zone to maximize the effectiveness of his seven-foot-four wingspan and limit the amount of ground he’s asked to cover. But when they’ve switched to man-to-man, Turner hasn’t looked particularly quick rotating off the weak side to protect the rim, leaving the impression he might be a step too late at the next level.
His 35 blocks are a virtue of his prolificacy blocking shots in individual defense. Turner is a disciplined defender in the post, holding his ground and using his length extremely well to challenge opponents’ finishes.
Turner is very active going after uncontested rebounds, showing decent jumping ability and good instincts tracking the ball off the rim. His long wingspan gives him a big rebounding area as well. But as Mike Schimitz also documented on that video, Turner struggled badly establishing inside position to collect misses against Kentucky’s frontline. He just didn’t look strong enough to fight against that level of athleticism. Turner did much better against Stanford, making sure he boxed out Reid Travis diligently, but that remains a concern with regards to his pro prospects.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.