Turner’s FIBA play could foreshadow upcoming season

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Myles Turner has had an up and down FIBA World Cup. It might foreshadow how he will play in the regular season and playoffs this year. For me, it showed how he might fare this season, particularly without Thaddeus Young. 

Turner has a game that might best be described as ‘finesse’. Turner is a very good defensive center who understands positioning and gets a lot of blocks, where he actually led the league last season. He also has good touch on his outside shot, where he shot 39% from the three point line and 41% from the field (via basketball reference).

However, for some reason, he did not really play to his strengths in this tournament. It might have been the coaching of Gregg Popovich, where he was dropping in the pick and roll and was not staying at the three point line. It could have been international basketball, where teams have more of a tendency to play zone rather than man, although one would think Turner’s shooting could help bust zones. The play below illustrates his playmaking struggles:

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In this play, Turner short rolls instead of popping or going hard to the rim, and when he catches the ball in the short corner, he goes into a weird post move where he gets nothing but air. Also, something that sticks in my craw about Turner’s game is that most of the time when he is trying to set screens, he does not make contact and just rolls right to the rim. Makes it seem like he is scared to make contact. Slipping the screen (which is what he is doing is called were it to be intentional) only works when you actually make contact from time to time. 

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Here, Turner is just kind of standing right by Kemba Walker’s drive, giving him another defender in Kemba’s immediate vicinity.

 

Another area where Turner struggled was the physicality of the game. Per nba.com, Turner and Nikola Jokic both weigh 250 pounds. I do not know if you have seen Jokic or Turner, but they are not both 250 pounds. Something’s not right here. Anderson Varejao, Turner’s main matchup, was listed as 273 pounds during his NBA career. Rudy Gobert is listed at 245 and, while he is slender, he still appears to have more meat on his bones than Turner does. The strength and ability to bully is the biggest concern when watching Turner to me; while there is nothing wrong with being a finesse big man, finesse is not the best way to go if you’re going to be a rim protector.

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Turner in this video gets shoved out of the way by Cristiano Felicio, allowing the offensive rebound. Felicio played less than eight minutes in this game, and grabbed two offensive rebounds. According to Basketball Reference, the leader in defensive rebound percentage was Hassan Whiteside at 35.88%; Turner managed to grab a measly 22% of defensive rebounds.

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On this possession, Varejao bullies Turner out of his way for an offensive rebound. Varejao just seems to bully Turner far enough under the rim so he can just grab the board and kick it back out to the wing; Varejao bullied Turner through the course of this game.

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Myles Turner is trying to seal Leandro Barbosa in this clip, and fails miserably. Barbosa is listed at 194 pounds, meaning he likely weighs 20 pounds less than that. The fact that Turner could not hold Barbosa behind him is concerning.

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Turner is not in the action in this clip, and that to me seems to be an issue. Smart switches with Turner after a screen, and handles Varejao better than Turner had up to that point. Smart is a rugged defender, and would actually fit quite nicely on the Pacers. 

I know I have gone over the negatives, but I saw some things I liked from Turner in this tournament. 

 

He shot 51% from inside the arc during the tournament, and not all of those shots were layups.

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On this shot, Turner rolls to the short corner, only this time he goes up right when he catches the ball. His touch is soft and he banks the shot in.

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On this play against Serbia, he sets a good hard screen (for once) and finishes a nice floater with some solid touch. In addition to that, he also for the most part has been rolling to the rim or the dunkers spot, allowing Team USA to sometimes get some good ball movement and get the team set up for the three.

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Turner rolls hard, and sets up Jaylen Brown for a potential nice jumpshot, which Brown did not end up shooting. Donovan Mitchell gets the tough rebound and Turner fills the lane correctly, leading to an easy layup. 

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Where Turner shines on defense is his weak side defense, from where he can come over and stuff the daylights out of most shots.

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Here, Varejao gets what he believes to be an easy lane to the basket, until Turner uses his speed and athleticism (and maybe Varejao’s lack thereof) to get back to the ball and block the shot. 

Turner’s defense is where he is most important. If you were to combine Domantas Sabonis offensive feel with the strengths of Turner’s game, you might have one of the best players in the league. Alas, basketball, nor life, works this way. When Oladipo returns, he should have easier touches. However, missing Thaddeus Young might be their crutch this year, because he was able to cover for Sabonis and Turner’s weaknesses on the defensive end. In addition, switching from Bojan Bogdanovic to TJ Warren might hurt how he is set up, seeing as Warren would not know the meaning of passing if you held the definition right in his face. 

This tournament fortified my belief that the Pacers need to trade either Sabonis or Turner. They both are centers, and neither can guard power forwards at this point in their career. My bet is that they trade Sabonis, especially since all of Sabonis’s success last season was against bench players, and he’s far worse defensively. If the FIBA World Cup was any indication, keeping Turner might work out yet.


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