Like any streak shooting young guard in the league, Turner struggled to find his niche. Since he didn’t make shots defenders forced him in overdribble isolation situations which led to tough contested shots. I expected him to struggle a little bit but I figured his high IQ and ability to pass the ball and be versatile would help him get through it. He did have some good scoring games spread throughout the year including 20+ scorning nights against the Suns, Warriors, and Celtics respectively.
I think what happens to young players in the league is that they get a little overwhelmed of how defenders guard them and what plays to make. To make it in the NBA you need to be hard nosed and have something else to give besides scoring. In the NBA you have no nights off, you can get your ass kicked on any given night. It’s not like college where you have 7-8 cupcakes on your schedule before conference play starts. You can play a team like the Wizards and have John Wall and Nick Young light you up for 30 points and take one on the chin. I think Evan learned that the hard way of not only how hard it is to score at the NBA level, but how hard it was to guard veterans. Turner had the benefit for playing for one of the best teachers in the game in Doug Collins. What Collins also is, is an old school coach. He’s one of the best teachers in the game and his team’s play shows it. His team had a lot of issues coming into last season and by the end of the year really had him going. This year’s Sixers team will probably baring a tragedy finish in the top 4 in the Eastern Conference.
This post isn’t to beat up on Evan as it will turn positive pretty soon. It’s to have young players understand that they will get their ass handed to them at higher levels. This can be for a junior high player entering high school, a high schooler entering college, and for a college player heading to the pro level (overseas, minor league, and NBA). What differentiates an average player and a very good player is the time in which it takes them to dust themselves off and not to repeat the mistakes they made to get their ass handed to them. Every one will have off nights that is a fact. But what young players have to understand is you need to prepare for games, not just show up. Just because you dominate at your level now doesn’t mean it will be like that when you go up a level. In the NBA studying tape is a must. My client, Kobe Bryant studies more tape than most coaches do when preparing for an opponent. You need to understand how teams guard you, where rotations are coming from, and where the holes will be for your teammates. On the other end of the ball you need to know not only what strengths of your matchup’s to take away, but also the strengths of the rest of the lineup. It’s a transition and atmosphere that a lot of young player’s take for granted. A lot of time preparation and hard work is what keeps players in the NBA year in and year out. I have known Evan a long time working with him throughout his high school career. The things I know of Evan is that he had one of the greatest high school coaches that ever lived in Gene Pingatore of St Joeseph’s High School, played for one of the more well respected AAU Programs in The Illinois Wolves coached by Mike Mullins, and had a great college coach in Thad Matta of Ohio State. What all three coaches did for him his held him accountable on and off of the court. He loves to learn and wants to be held accountable which is rare for a young player.
What I admire about Evan is his ability to attack his weak points in his game. Over the summer he sought out one of the best shooting instructors in the world in Hall Of Famer Herb Magee. He spent a lot of time in the gym working on his weaknesses and the hard work has given him some success. His shooting stroke is noticeably better and even though his long range numbers are down from 31.8% last year to 22.7% this year. The most important thing is that his mid range shooting is much better from last year. On top of that he added a post game to go to. What young guards need to understand is you cant just shoot jump shots or dominate the ball to try to drive it to the rim every night. There are some great coaches that really know how to scout and prepare their teams to shut you down. Some knights you wont be able to go to plan A, there needs to be something else to go to. What makes Evan the player that he is, is his ability to pass the ball. His passing is what separates him from a lot of other shooting guards in the league. He is learning that with his drives defenders will help off his teammates and he can hit open shooters, cutters, and big men rolling to the basket. I think Evan does a very good job with his ability to find open teammates and make easy plays. Another stat that should jump out at you is Turner is the second leading rebounder in the NBA for shooting guards at 5.6 per game. He trails only Kobe Bryant who averages 5.8 but plays 13 minutes more per game. Rebounding is crucial for a wing player. It shows your toughness and activity level, I take rebounding and free throw attempts very seriously when evaluating wing players.
In college or high school when you are the best player on your team sometimes you are forced to make tough plays. That means consistently shoot over double teams and take tough shots to manufacture points for your club. A lot of your offense might be inefficient and just a lot of dominating the ball. If you want to take the next step as a wing player you will need show variety and make plays without dominating the ball. That can be a quick drive draw the held and kick, come off a simple down screen and shoot, or make an extra pass to an open shooter on a ball reversal to you. I think there are a lot of spots on teams for players that can pass at any position from 1-5. If there is one thing that you learn and that’s how to read defenses and make passes. I cant stress that enough.
Evan has shown a lot of improvement in his game. I think he is figuring out that you don’t have to hit homeruns on every play. Making simple plays is what gets you through the night and puts your team in a position to win. His ball handling, passing, and scoring ability allows him to play all three positions. I think the Sixers can play him at shooting guard and then slide him into some backup point guard for Jrue Holiday. If they want they can go small and play Holiday, Williams, Evan, Young, and Brand. But because he can do multiple things there is always a spot in the lineup. You need to develop one skill to get you in a game, but multiple skills can keep you in the game for longer periods of time. With his shooting getting progressively better, his efficiency when he’s on the court improving, and his ability to make plays Evan Turner is slowly developing into a player who can start on a lot of teams in the NBA.
The next phase of his game that he needs to take to the next level is his ability to get to the free throw line. Easy points are essential in a wing player or any player’s development. Evan is only averaging 2.2 free throw attempts a game. For a player who handles the ball a lot and can score in so many ways especially on post ups that number needs to be higher. In comparison here are the top 10 wing players in free throws attempted.
I’m a big believer in having players emulating others. If you look at this list every player besides maybe Danny Granger creates offense off of the dribble on a consistent basis. If you have the ball in your hands and you are asked to create offense you must be able to get to the free throw line. Players that average 2.2 FTA’s a game are mostly spot up shooters who spot up on the perimeter or come off pin downs. The JJ Reddick’s, Ray Allen’s and OJ Mayo’s of the world average in the 2.0’s for attempted free throws because they are players who spot up and come off pin downs a majority of the time. They are rarely asked to get the ball on the perimeter and create shots off of the dribble on their own. Easy points are so important for players. Even if he raised his FTA’s from 2 to 6 that can be an extra 3-3.5 points a game he can add to his team’s total without having to work as hard to get them. Free throw attempts are big for a wing player that isolates or runs pick and roll. You also need to know if your opponent is approaching the bonus so you can draw some cheap fouls on the perimeter to get to the line. I think once he starts getting more experience those numbers will go up.
Evan reminds me a lot of Larry Hughes when he was coming up. Larry was a very versatile scoring wing player. He and Evan were built the same and played the same. He was a player that was very versatile, in his best season with Washington in 04-05 he averaged 22.0 points 6.3 rebounds 4.7 assists and a league leading 2.9 steals a game. I compare him to Evan because he as well struggled with his consistency shooting the basketball, was a very gifted scorer, and was very versatile. Larry also didn’t get to the line a lot in his first couple of years averaging around 3.0 attempts per game and then improved that number into the 6.0’s and 7.0’s attempts a game. I think that Evan Turner has a long career ahead of him. Like every young player he will face his ups and downs and should be a bright star in this league soon. It all depends on how fast he can dust himself off and not make the same mistakes that he made the day before.
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