A few weeks ago when the NBA Draft Lottery was held in New Jersey, the Philadelphia 76ers organization prayed for a miracle. Of course, there prayers were answered and they were awarded with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft.
Tonight, the 76ers wisely selected the mature, silky smooth and do-it-all junior guard/forward Evan Turner out of The Ohio State University. Some experts believe that Turner is too eerily similar to what the Sixers already encompass in starting shooting guard Andre Iguodala and that the two cannot co-exist together, but nothing could be further from the truth. When Iguodala declared after his sophomore season from the University of Arizona (2004), he was labeled an athlete, was a complimentary role player for the Wildcats and did not possess the ball handling skills that Turner beholds in his repertoire.
Additionally, Turner’s resume is far more accomplished than Iguodala in these early stages of his career. Just this past season, Turner earned First Team All-American honors, Big Ten Player of the Year and the Big Ten Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. Furthermore, he did all this as the “go-to” guy and has handled the pressure that came with it. Even though Turner missed numerous games with a broken vertebra in his back, he still managed to win the Associated Press, Naismith and Wooden awards for Player of the Year in college basketball. In fact, Turner is widely considered to be the most NBA-ready prospect coming out of his draft class and should be an early favorite for rookie of the year.
Turner showcased his versatility and elite talent as he played three positions for the Buckeyes well respected head coach Thad Matta. If new 76ers head coach Doug Collins wishes he could employ his ultra-talented draft pick at the point due to his amazing ability to drop dimes and can facilitate an offense. As a junior, Turner dished out an astonishing 6 assists per game while contributing just under 21 points per game. Plus, Turner’s 6-foot-6 frame will enable him to dominate smaller point guards and eventually learn to post them up for easy baskets.
On the other hand, Collins has the ability to slide him into the small forward role due to that same 6-foot-6 frame and his knack for anticipating the ball (1.7 steal per game in 2009-2010). However, if Turner expects to play significant minutes at the small forward position, he needs improve his three point shooting.
Ultimately, Turner is best suited to play shooting guard due to his excellent mid-range game. In his final season with the Buckeyes, he shot 51.9 percent from the field, which was an improvement from his sophomore and freshman years where he shot 50.3 and 47 percent respectively. Also, with the ball in his hand, he is a legitimate threat to take the ball to the rack, make the difficult shot and be a game changer. Once Turner fully learns the nuances moving without the ball, he certainly will take off and become a perennial All-Star caliber player.
While the majority experts are extremely high on Turner, the coaching staff still has lots of work to do to help him develop into a prolific basketball player. One place the coaches could start is in the weight room. In order for Turner to take his game to the next level and be an elite player, he must add muscle to his 214-pound frame. Once the team starts him on an off-season workout regiment the bulk will come. Ultimately, adding a few pounds of muscle is vital for him, especially if he expects his 9.2 rebounds per game in college to translate to the NBA. In addition, beefing up should reduce and prevent nagging injuries as well.
Another part of his game that Collins will surely harp on him about is ball security. Each season at Ohio State saw his turnovers per game increase. As a freshman, he averaged only 2.7 turnovers a game. By the time he left for the NBA, Turner was averaging 4.4 a game. If he expects to be mentioned in the same breathe as Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, it’s essential for him to learn to protect the ball.
One aspect of Turner’s skill set that does mirror Iguodala is his three-point shooting. In college, Turner was able to get to the basket with ease or pull up for an uncontested mid-range jumper based on his superior talent. In the pros, he is not always going to be the most talented player on the court. Therefore, it is critical for him to be able to hit shots from downtown to keep defenses honest. While Turner shot 36.4 percent as a junior and 44 percent as a sophomore from the three-point line, he only attempted 80 three-point shots.
All in all, the 76ers hit the jackpot by landing a player with Turner’s capability and pedigree. With Turner now in the fold, the Sixers have one of the best collections of young talent in the NBA. Imagining him, Iguodala and Jrue Holliday all on the court at the same time is remarkable. The 76ers will finally give opponents fits and headaches on offense due to their size and length. Plus, the Sixers also have Marreese Speights, Spencer Hawes, Louis Williams and Thad Young in the mix. All are young role players that will mature and grow together over the next couple of years to become solid contributors.
More importantly, Turner changes the culture of a struggling franchise. He provides a glimmer of hope that did not exist at the end of the 76ers’ 27-55 season. If Turner can develop into a superstar, the Sixers can rejuvenate their fan base and become relevant in the basketball world again.
Over the past couple of years, the Sixers counted on Iguodala to emerge as the “go-to” player like Allen Iverson had done before him. Nevertheless, he never panned out to be that premiere guy (at least offensively) and the team struggled to stay out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
With the acquisition of Turner, Iguodala can once again thrive as a second option like he did with Iverson. In actuality, Iguodala and Turner could turn out to be the poor man’s version of Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan for the Sixers.
If Turner lives up to the lofty expectations place on his shoulders by the city of Philadelphia and becomes the Brandon Roy type of player that NBA analysts compare him to (or Grant Hill according to Collins) then Sixers could become the beast of the east instead of a cellar dwellers.