Nothing should stop Myles Turner from showcasing his talents for the Indiana Pacers this season. The question is just how good is he?
Myles Turner played in the shadow of Paul George the last two seasons as any hope of recapturing the magic of the Blue Collar, Gold Swagger era of the Indiana Pacers faded. The team wasn’t ready to accept it, but the Paul George era was coming to an end as well.
Now that George is gone — and even with the addition of Victor Oladipo — this is Myles’ team now. He doesn’t need to defer to the team’s franchise player anymore because he is now the face that runs the place. Indiana’s future is heavily determined by Turner’s play and he no longer can take a back seat to anyone.
Despite Turner arguably being one of the NBA’s top 50 players, His role with the team last season felt more like a supporting cast member than a star. On offense, he was the third option for the Pacers more often than not. Part of that comes with playing in the frontcourt but compared to some of his peers he was in the middle or back of the pack in field goal attempts and usage.
This year, that won’t be the case (or at least it shouldn’t) as he and Oladipo are the point of the spear for Indiana both on the attack and on defense. While they’ll need each other to get the best out of themselves, there should be no question that Turner is the face of Pacers.
We don’t know what exactly we’ll get from Turner as his role increases offensively, but what do we know about his game that we can love and hate?
Love: Myles Turner’s defense is top-notch
By almost any metric, Myles Turner’s defense is already elite. His 2.1 blocks a game ranks only behind Anthony Davis (2.2) and Rudy Gobert (2.6). His rim defense is in trending in the right direction as opponents’ field goal percentages dove below 50% last season.
Along with the stats, we saw him make one of the most disrespectful blocks in NBA history when he snatched the ball out of Tarik Black’s hands in mid-air. Black was even contorting his body into the perfect pose for posterization before Turner ruined the Los Angeles Lakers center’s night.
However, there are some concerns with Turner’s defense. His lack of top-level athleticism finds him chasing shooters occasionally when they spread the floor and his lack of bulk makes him susceptible to being posted up by bigger centers. However, he often finds ways to make up for those deficiencies by playing smartly in the first place.
Adding bulk to his frame may help him handle his defensive duties better, but even if he doesn’t pack on muscle he already is the cornerstone of the Pacers defense.
Hate: Physicality must improve
As mentioned above, Turner isn’t the biggest center in the league and his enemies in the paint exploited that when given the chance.
Karl-Anthony Towns gouged the Pacers for a total of 70 points in his two meetings with Indiana. DeMarcus Cousins dropped 51 against the Pacers in two games against the Pacers while Hassan Whiteside averaged 24.7 points in his three games outings.
If you aren’t picking up on the trend here, those are just a few examples of bigger and more physical centers in the league taking advantage of the situation. Turner isn’t helpless against them, but he is more of a toll booth than a roadblock when facing the biggest of the NBA’s bigs, especially if they have a strong post game.
But even when Turner isn’t taking them on directly there are other ways his smaller frame works against him.
His 7.3 rebounds a game rank 19th in the NBA among centers and that number isn’t because of a lack of opportunity. His 13% rebounding percentage ranks 34th while the NBA’s top players grab closer to 20% of the available rebounds. There is considerable distance between him and the top as Andre Drummond leads the way at 25.2%.
The problem for Turner on rebounds is two-fold: The physicality and his habit of staying in place once the ball goes up for a shot. Myles might improve his rebounding numbers simply by keeping his feet moving more, but he isn’t going to muscle him out when he gets there either.
Packing on some muscle — which isn’t easy to do — would allow Turner to box out more while also giving him more confidence in these physical situations. It also can serve him well when he attacks on offense as it would make him more capable at both clearing room and taking contact from his opponents.
What’s next for Myles Turner?
A bigger role awaits Myles Turner going forward, but the third-year center needs to polish a few areas of his game. Along with finishing better when he rolls to the basket, Turner needs to clean up his shot.
As a spot up shooter, he is somewhat average and his 34.8% 3-point shooting percentage would be more intimidating if he averaged more than 1.4 a game last season. This isn’t to say he is a bad shooter as much as it is to say his shooting range hasn’t gotten to a level that truly strikes fear into opponents.
Nate McMillan needs to run more plays through Turner this season and allow the center to shoot more than he did a season ago.
This year, however, he shouldn’t be passing up as many open opportunities to keep the ball moving to the likes of Jeff Teague, George, and C.J. Miles. Many more of Indiana’s pick and roll situations can morph into pick and pops if Turner’s shot improves slightly.
Criticisms aside, it can’t be overlooked that Turner is very efficient offensively even if he wasn’t given as many chances as he deserved. Nate McMillan needs to run more plays through Turner this season and allow the center to shoot more than he did a season ago. There might be a small drop in efficiency, but Turner has room to spare in that regard before his offense becomes a negative for Indiana.
Regardless of the evolution of his offense, Indiana can rely on Turner’s defense as he takes over as the team’s leader. A slight improvement on either end pushes Myles closer to his first All-Star team and brings Turner closer to stardom in the NBA.
It is expected that Turner steps up his game this season, the question is just how big that leap will be.