(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Myles Turner was a very interesting prospect out of high school – the rare seven-footer with a combination of the long wingspan to protect the rim and the touch to hit outside shots.
But despite being a heavily touted prospect, Turner only logged 22.2 minutes per game last season due to intense competition for playing time on Texas’s frontcourt.
Turner also wasn’t used in a way that maximized his skill-set. Texas attempted to run a motion offense that emphasized moving the ball from side-to-side to bend the defense but possessions often ended with Isaiah Taylor isolated on the top or one of the big men isolated on the block.
Then on defense, Turner shared a lot of his playing time with Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh, two true centers that forced him away from below the rim – which is where he could have been more impactful.
I think it is fair to say he was drafted 11th by the Pacers on Thursday mostly due to that interest he generated back in high school than based on any sort of development he showed at Texas.
What separates Turner from the average seven-footer is his three-point range and he is likely to be a full time stretch big man in his first couple of years 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 have much lift off the ground but doesn’t need to for a high release point thanks to his seven-foot height and the speed of his release.
Of more significance is the fact that Turner has shown the ability to shoot on the move. He can work out of the pick-and-pop, floating to an open spot and repositioning his body to shoot quickly off the catch. It is quite unfortunate Texas didn’t use him this way as much as it should, especially considering how great a slasher Isaiah Taylor is at the college level.
Turner’s picks can be effective even if he’s a so-so screener who doesn’t disrupt the on-ball defender off his path very much because the threat of his shooting can put the opponent under a great deal off stress as it must make a split-second decision between containing the driver and staying attached to Turner.
He has also proven able to hit shots as the trailer in transition. That is huge for Turner because he does not sprint up the court to fill the lanes in transition fluidly, and making himself an option on the secondary break as he jogs behind the play is how he can add value to a team that attempts to play uptempo.
Nevertheless, as good as the touch on his jump-shot looks, Turner really only hit 27.4 percent of his 62 three-point attempts and 31 percent of his overall jump-shots last season – according to Synergy Sports. Texas didn’t run many plays to get him open, though, and it is likely his percentage improves simply because his looks will now be created by Paul George and George Hill.
Roy Hibbert is not a very mobile big man but Frank Voegel coached him into the league’s best rim protector by leveraging his size close to the basket. The four defenders around him were told to focus on pressing ball-handlers and taking away their ability to go side-to-side, funneling them towards Hbbert’s help-defense.
There is a lot of hope Voegel can do the same for Turner, who is a far more capable shot blocker with drivers running at him than rotating off the weak-side quickly.
Turner is not explosive off the ground and is not a high leaper but can elevate fairly easy for someone with his mobility issues and has a nine-foot-one standing reach to block the goal. He is also smart in individual defense, using his length extremely well to challenge opponents’ attempts on turnaround hooks. According to basketball-reference, Turner blocked 12.3 percent of opponents’ shots in his 755 minutes – which ranked him ninth in all of college basketball.
He becomes a liability on defense if he is forced away from the lane, though. Turner lacks quickness to rotate inside to make plays at the rim in time if he gets too stretched out along the baseline, often getting there a step too late. He struggles to move fluidly in space and is absolutely not an option to pick up guards on switches.
In comparison to the average lottery pick, Turner is a fairly poor athlete. He is not much of an option to score out of the pick-and-roll, as he’s unable to dive down the lane with the sort of speed that can stress the defense and can’t play above the rim as a constant threat for lobs. He also does not have any sort of a floor game to attack closeouts.
With his back to the basket, Turner lacked strength to hold his position on the post against high level competition. Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl Towns, Jr. consistently pushed him off his spot in the game against Kentucky, as Draft Express’ Mike Schimitz detailed in this video, and Stanford’s Stefan Nastic also successfully denied him the ball.
When he caught it below the foul line, Turner looked hesitant to create separation by backing opponents down, often opting for quick turnaround hooks or fadeaway jump-shots. According to Draft Express, 47 percent of his post-ups ended on turnaround jumpers. He shot 47 percent on his post-ups, according to Synergy Sports, but most of those numbers were obtained against low level competition.
Texas played a really tough schedule – Berkeley, Connecticut, Kentucky, Stanford, Kansas twice and Iowa State three times. Turner only had 22 two-point field goals and 19 free-throw attempts on 199 minutes against these opponents.
On the glass, Turner is a very disciplined rebounder – one who looks to box out diligently and can catch the ball at a high point thanks to his seven-foot-four wingspan. Because of that, he made a killing on uncontested rebounds and collected 25 percent of opponents’ misses last season. But Turner struggled badly to muscle his way into inside position against Kentucky’s seven-footers, which raised some concerns regarding his toughness against NBA-level competition.
Turner has the potential of being the rare center who contributes with floor spacing on offense and rim protection on defense. There aren’t many of those out there.
But that can only be the case if he becomes an actual good shooter rather than simply a shooter who looks good and if Voegel can maximize his size and minimize his mobility issues the same way he did with Hibbert’s.
It must also be said Turner has looked for help trying to fix his mobility issues and some clips have circulated of him running far more fluidly than he ever did at Texas, raising the possibility that an improvement in athleticism might actually be on the table.
The risk associated to Turner regards him not developing any sort of power moves in the post. If he cannot keep opponents from going small against him, Turner could become unplayable considering how much a liability he is defending away from the lane.
Indiana’s roster is a bit fluid at the moment. David West has opted out and is not expected to return unless the Pacers overpay. Hibbert has opted in but Larry Bird has suggested the team would like to move on from him and play a bit faster. George has commented on a couple of interviews he expects to play more time as a power forward next season.
The Pacers probably view Turner as the long term option at center but that might not necessarily mean the future starts now. Hibbert will be tough to move, especially if Indiana is reluctant to give him up for free or for a very small return, and Ian Mahinmi is still under contract. Voegel also has a history of not playing rookies right away. It is quite probable we won’t see Turner as part of the rotation in his first year.
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.