It’s about time!

Something felt naturally wrong about the number two overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft coming off the bench in his second season in the League.  Especially, when there’s a one trick pony starting in his stead – and quite frankly the pony hasn’t even performed his one trick that well.

Though, that all changed last night when Evan Turner replaced Jodie Meeks in the starting lineup.  It was a change that Sixers’ fans have been begging for since the season began.  In fact, Turner’s standout effort vs. the Miami Heat in the 2011 Playoffs had many believing ET should have been anointed a starter from day one this season.  

But, Doug Collins felt he had valid reasons for placing Meeks in the starting five.  Meeks is the only true shooting guard the Sixers have on their roster.  No one else can knock down the 3 ball like he can — when he’s on.  Thus, in theory he could space the floor, open up driving lanes and allow the Sixers to run a smoother and more efficient offense.  At least that was the thinking heading into the season.  

The reality, though, is that the Sixers half court offense has been a struggle all year and Meeks inconsistent nature has not and will not help the cause.  Anyone who has seen Meeks this season would attest that when he gets hot, he is one of the best shooters in the League.  The problem is that his cold streaks are nightmarish.  When he doesn’t hit, he truly doesn’t hit anything, seemingly even if he’s the only man on the court. 

Meeks hasn’t even been the best shooter on the team this year.  He’s shooting a little under 39% from downtown for the season, while Andre Iguodala is shooting a little over 39%. 

Yes, that’s not a misprint.  Andre Iguodala (and his improved jumper) has a better 3-point shooting percentage than Jodie Meeks. 

Meeks who Collins had intended to create space for the rest of the Sixers, has in fact become a waste of space, while Turner continued to rot on the bench in frustration.  We all know Turner will never shoot the lights out, but he provides another dimension to an offense that is built around it’s athleticism.  Specifically, he handles the ball well and can get to the rim for a hoop or to distribute.  As a bonus, he is a much better defender than Meeks.

On Monday night, Coach Collins answered the pleas of Sixers’ fans everywhere when he gave Turner the starting nod.  Perhaps it was the fans’ begs on Twitter asking Collins to “FREE ET” that dictated the change.  It’s more likely that it was Meeks’ dramatically awful game against the Chicago Bulls on Sunday night (In one of the biggest contests of the year.  On national TV no less.) which forced Doug’s hand.  Meeks was a disaster,  going 0-4 from downtown and was 1 for 6 overall.  Including 0-3 on a single trip down the floor.

So, finally ET was “freed”.

It’s too bad that last night Turner either didn’t know it or was pressing too hard.  He was horrible on offense against the Bucks in Milwaukee.  He missed his first 10 attempts, shot 1 for 12 from the field overall and made the loudest case for himself returning on the bench. 

Meanwhile, Meeks got off to a scorching start coming off the bench (11 points in the 1st half) and it seemed he couldn’t miss.  It was a sample of what he could bring to a bench that already boasts the fire power of Lou Williams and Thad Young.  Of course, in the second half and late in the game, when defenders paid attention to him, Meeks went ice cold once again. 

So what does this mean?  Will Turner return to the bench so that Meeks can bring his inconsistent ways back to the starting lineup?

In my opinion, that wouldn’t be the best approach.  Turner’s performance was a just a blip on the radar.  While, Meeks (a.k.a. Capt. Streaky) once again proved that he isn’t reliable and that his one-dimensional play doesn’t warrant the privilege of being an NBA starter.

Though, if Turner wants to keep the starting role for the foreseeable future, performances like last night must be few and far between.

Perhaps, in the end, Turner’s upside is the reason he should be a starter.  He can only grow and get better.  He has the tools to be a complete starter in the NBA, whereas Meeks has maximized what he can be in the League.  Given the minutes and the experience, Turner could potentially bloom into that player many predicted he would be on Draft night 2010 . 

So, does a 1-12 night earn Turner a spot back on the bench?  Yanking a young player with already shaky confidence from the starting lineup after only one game is not the wisest reaction by a coach.  That’s especially true if the young player’s development is key to the future success of your franchise.  Coach Collins has a big decision to make for the Boston game on Wednesday night.  But at least he got the “Evan to the first-five” conversation rolling by giving Turner a chance.

It was about time.

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