THE EVAN TURNER BACKLASH, BACKLASH

There aren’t a whole lot of areas, in sport or otherwise, where the opinion of the casual observer and the studied wisdom of the experts dovetail, so it’s worth noting that entering this season the two occasionally warring factions were in almost perfect agreement on this point: Evan Turner’s awfulness.

The reasoning went like this: he hurt his team directly by being a poor shooter and missing shots, then indirectly because the opposing player tasked with covering him could, secure in the knowledge that if ET hazarded an FGA he’d likely miss it, drift off him and into the lane; shrinking the floor and undermining scoring opportunities for his teammates.

The things Turner did well — like being the best defensive rebounding guard of all-time last season, for starters — were either glossed over by these critics, or explained away as insufficient to offset the harm he did to the Sixers’ offense. There were numbers involved in some of these arguments.

Sometime in early November though, the sentiment swung; slowly at first, then more abruptly. 

Something like a pro-Turner consensus began to emerge.

Corner 3s started dropping and glowing pieces cropped up in well-regarded publications.  Twitter became a ‘twitter with authentic affection for the Buckeye’s idiosyncrasies; the herky-jerk handle, the occasional offensive eruptions, the bizarre stat lines, that voice.  He’s been, along with Holiday and Thad Young, recognized as a key component of the Sixers “promising” triune core.

The snark stopped.  He’s become, if not loved, liked.

I’ve been glad to see it, despite the fact that it doesn’t really make any sense.

Here’s a thought exercise.  Take a gander at the per 48-minute averages of these three players.

 

PTS

TS%

ORB

REB

AST

TO

BLK

STL

PF

Player 1 

20.2

50.4

1.2

9.4

5.3

2.6

0.4

1.1

3.7

Player 2 

17.1

47.8

0.8

10.5

5.0

2.9

0.6

1.1

3.3

Player 3 

15.1

48.4

1.1

8.2

4.2

2.1

0.4

1.3

3.7

Though most of us, assuming they played the same position, would prefer player one to the other two, anyone with a solid read on what these numbers mean would agree that 1.) the difference between the three is marginal and 2.) we’re dealing with sound, well-rounded players here.

These three players are, in ascending order, Evan Turner in ’10-11, ’11-12, and ’12-13.

Contrary to prevailing opinion, though Turner has made modest improvements in his first three seasons —improvements that are exaggerated by the additional floor time he’s been given each year — what’s most remarkable here is his consistency.

Now, his 3-point shooting is much better this season — buoyed by a sudden mastery of the corner 3, where he’s made 14 of the 28 he’s attempted, Turner’s shooting 46% from long range so far, up from 22.4% last year — but this improvement is partially offset by a dip in two-point FG percentage; where he’s shooting 42.6 percent, four percentage points lower than he managed in ’11-12 and nearly a point lower than he shot in his rookie campaign.

It’s not clear either that Turner’s long range game has opened up more space for the other Sixers.

Just taking a cursory look at the numbers, while Thad Young and Jrue Holiday have enjoyed jumps in field goal percentage from last season to this, Spencer Hawes and Lavoy Allen have taken steps backwards and the team as a whole has a True Shooting % of 50.4 — down from 51.1 a season ago, despite the fact that the Association average has risen 0.3 percentage points in this time.*

(*Admittedly, if we really wanted to roll up our sleeves and address this we’d have to compare the field goal percentages of Turner’s teammates when he was on the floor last season with their percentages when he’s on the floor this season, then account for variables like new teammates and the natural increase/decrease we’d expect to see in FG% based on the age of the players alone; i.e. Jrue Holiday is 22 this year and was 21 last year, and 22-year-olds generally shoot better than 21-year-olds. Thing is, this would have taken a lot of time.)

So, while the basic trajectory of the public’s attitude towards Evan Turner has gone something like “terrible, terrible, terrible, GREAT,” there’s no honest interpretation of his numbers that suggests an enormous leap forward, or that justifies the heat he took in seasons past.

Evan Turner isn’t the one that’s changed, we are.

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