Philadelphia 76ers: Breaking Down the Evan Turner/Doug Collins Saga

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Philadelphia 76ers: Breaking Down the Evan Turner/Doug Collins Saga
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

It doesn't make any sense.

Anyone who has ever watched Philadelphia 76ers swingman Evan Turner play basketball realizes that he is a far more active and engaged player when he initiates the offense. But despite his brief success running the point early last month, Turner is largely relegated to running off of screens—a role more suited to a shooting guard.

The strangest part of it all is that 76ers head coach Doug Collins is well aware of Turner's strengths, yet doesn't appear all that inclined to install Turner as his primary playmaker.

"When he has the ball in his hands, he's a totally different player," said Collins after Turner scored a career-high 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds against the Boston Celtics on March 7. "Evan is a point guard. At the end of the day, he's a point guard."

So while Turner's own coach considers him a "point guard," Jrue Holiday will be the one leading the 76ers offense for the foreseeable future.

Again, it doesn't make any sense.

For a year-and-a-half, 76ers fans were fed the company line that Jodie Meeks was a better starting option than Turner in the backcourt due to his ability to stretch the floor. Since opposing teams had to respect Meeks' ability from beyond the arc, his mere presence allowed the other 76ers wing players to operate more freely in the half-court set.

The inherent problem with that theory is that when Meeks' shot isn't falling, his value to the team is relatively minimal. And while Turner's jump shot pales in comparison to that of Meeks, he's much more versatile on offense and is a far superior defender.

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

On March 5, Collins realized the error of his ways and finally relented, starting Turner alongside Holiday in the backcourt. Over the next five games, Turner averaged 17.8 points and 10.6 rebounds as Philadelphia knocked off the Celtics, the Utah Jazz and the New York Knicks in succession.

But less than two weeks after the experiment began, Turner's minutes were reduced as he returned to more of a classic shooting guard role, and the 76ers promptly lost their next three games. Following an 82-79 defeat to the Knicks on March 21, Collins strangely insinuated that Turner needed to rebound the ball more if he (Turner) wanted to initiate the offense.

The 6'7" guard/forward isn't ever going to be the type of player who routinely dishes out double-digit assists, but allowing him to bring the ball up the court puts the team's three best players in better position to be effective.

Holiday will not only be relieved of the burden of running the point, but his natural scoring instincts will finally be put to good use. Iguodala is a jack-of-all-trades forward who can share the playmaking duties with Turner while filling up the stat sheet (as he typically does).

In three of the first four games in which Turner was the primary ball-handler, the 76ers scored over 100 points. In their 10 contests since, Philadelphia has only broken the century mark twice.

Turner is frequently the target for Collins' ire on the basketball court, so perhaps this is nothing more than the 76ers head coach taking the tough-love approach with his 23-year-old prodigy. Then again, both men have a track record of being stubborn individuals—maybe the two of them are simply unable to co-exist.

Collins has done wonders with this team over the past two seasons, and Turner is a potential star-level talent—it would be a shame if the 76ers had to rid itself of either of them before the rift between the two threatens the entire team.

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