I think we can all agree the Celtics won’t be raising banner 18 in the immediate future, and more likely than not the 2014-15 NBA season will result in another lottery pick come June, regardless of how ardently Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley & Co. argue the contrary. It’s been a year since Danny Ainge traded Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets, launching the process of stockpiling draft picks and cap-friendly contracts. Since the Celtics failed to cash in those commodities in exchange for fireworks this summer, this season’s preview will have a Wyc Grousbeck theme, focusing on the hodgepodge of C’s pieces in a series we’ll call Asset Management. Next up: Evan Turner.
Evan Turner isn’t this good.
At least, he hasn’t been, not at the NBA level. Through four preseason games with the Celtics, though, Turner is producing at a level we haven’t seen since his Ohio State days, and there’s reason to believe he can maintain that success.
His performance on the 76ers and briefly the Pacers hasn’t proved worthy of the No. 2 pick in 2010. The averages of 13.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists from 2011-13 aren’t so bad, but he’s never posted a true shooting percentage better than 50 percent and submitted a PER (12.4) worse than the C’s top seven rotation players last season. Likewise, his assist-to-turnover ratio (1.39) ranked among the league’s worst for guards who dominated the ball as much as he did in 2013-14. By few measures has Turner been a productive basketball player.
All of which seems strange for a 6-foot-7, 205-pound consensus collegiate player of the year who was considered by DraftExpress “a dynamic shot-creator” and “one of the best perimeter stoppers in the draft” after three seasons on the Buckeyes. What happened to the guy who ranked among the 10 most efficient college players in 2009-10?
Turner has fired several shots at the Sixers since arriving in Boston — from former coach Doug Collins overexerting players to the front office overhauling a roster that he helped reach the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Offensively, Turner struggled in a Collins system that slowed the pace. On the opposite end, though, the 76ers ranked third in points allowed per possession with Turner playing 26.4 minutes a night just two seasons ago. As Brett Brown pushed the pace to the league’s fastest in his first season at Philadelphia’s helm, the entire roster struggled to keep up on either end. Although, Turner owned the best on/off numbers (+4.4) of the pathetic bunch.
Things only got worse in Indiana, where he played all of four minutes in the Eastern Conference finals.
“Evan seemed like he had to get into the flow of the game before he really got it going,” Pacers president Larry Bird told reporters at season’s end. “I’m a firm believer. I love his game because he can do a little bit of everything. Whatever happens, wherever he’s at next year, if he plays 30-35 minutes he’s going to average 17 points.”
Considering nobody on the Celtics scored more than 16.9 points per game last season, that’s encouraging.
He thrived most in Thad Matta’s floor spacing system. Ohio State shot 39.0 percent on 19.1 3-pointers per game in 2009-10, offering Turner more opportunities to do what he does best. While the 25-year-old rated as a below-average shooter last year from everywhere but the left corner, his ability to get into the paint prevented even worse percentages. Turner attempted 38.9 percent of his 1,021 shots at the rim in 2013-14, making 51.4 percent of them.
Interestingly, Celtics coach Brad Stevens counts Matta among his biggest basketball influences, having earned his first coaching gig on Matta’s Butler staff in 2000-01. In this preseason, the C’s have shot 40.2 percent on 26.8 triples per game, respectively ranking fourth and fifth during the NBA’s limited 2014-15 sample size. That style of play has led to a 55.2 true shooting percentage, 19.1 PER and 1.89 assist-to-turnover ratio for Turner — numbers the Celtics would welcome in the former No. 2 pick’s expanded role this season, particularly at a price tag of $3.3 million.
Then again, Evan Turner isn’t this good, right?
Asset Rating: B
This has been another edition of Asset Management. Check out more Celtics player valuations below.
ASSET MANAGEMENT: Avery Bradley | Jeff Green | Kelly Olynyk | Marcus Smart | Jared Sullinger | Marcus Thornton | James Young | Tyler Zeller