The Microscope is your recurring look at the NBA's small-scale developments—the rotational curiosities, skill showcases, coaching decisions, notable performances and changes in approach that make the league go 'round.
Evan Turner and the case of some absurd rebounding numbers.
When you watch Evan Turner play basketball, the Brandon Roy callbacks are painfully obvious. The smoothness of his handle, the lull of his crossover, the quiet bursts of speed — Turner has Roy's game written all over him, stylistically speaking, even if he hasn't boasted the consistency nor the magnitude of Roy's early performances.
That said, while Turner may not score or assist at Roy's once elite level, he manages to do both rather serviceably while adding another element of stat-sheet dominance that Roy rarely touched: rebounding. Turner dropped a smooth 26 points against the Miami Heat on Tuesday night, but buried beneath his scoring efficiency were eight rebounds — no small feat considering the rebounding effectiveness of Miami's wing players.
But in truth, those eight boards were right in line with Turner's routine; he's averaging exactly 8.0 rebounds per 36 minutes over the course of this season, and although the impressive per-game rebounding totals have spiked as a result of an increase in minutes, Turner's appropriated marks have been fairly stunning all year.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, Turner has posted a rebound rate unique among swingmen not named LeBron James in spite of his inconsistent role over the course of this season. The Sixers may have dropped off a bit in the past few months, but they've continued to evolve through the play of Turner, among others. By pushing another versatile player into an even bigger role as the season has progressed, Philly has managed to extend its shelf life and build on a brand of balanced complexity.
Jason Maxiell, still in defiance of upward trajectories.
There was a time in the not-so-distant past when Detroit's Jason Maxiell looked like a player on the rise. It may have been a bit presumptuous to think that he had the gleam of stardom in his bursts of scoring and rebounding in limited minutes, but there's little question that Maxiell looked ready to stretch his legs in a larger role.
That role came, but the success very much didn't; despite the fact that the Pistons have been hurting for quality interior players over the last several seasons, Maxiell could never prove his value beyond 20 minutes a night. The buzz quieted, the ferocious dunks became a bit more infrequent and Maxiell was all but forgotten on a Pistons team with much greater troubles.
Yet even without making any leaps or jumps into particular relevancy, Maxiell still manages to remind us how useful he could be in the right context. In a Tuesday night game against the Orlando Magic, Maxiell was every bit as potent as the Pistons could have reasonably asked him to be. He still played a mere 24 minutes of game action, but within that relatively small sample he brought highly efficient scoring and competitive rebounding, increasing his totals to 15 points and seven boards in no-time flat.
Maxiell isn't likely to be all that much more productive than he is today, but in an appropriate role he could be a valuable contributor. He'll likely be a team's energetic fourth big, but his success from this point on will be guided almost solely by appropriate expectations.
The unbearable lightness of being Johan Petro.
Not only is Johan Petro starting (by way of injuries, but still) and playing notable minutes for the New Jersey Nets, but he's doing so during a period of particular success and somehow put together a 12 point, seven rebound, four assist, two-block outing against the Sacramento Kings over the weekend. That performance itself doesn't mean anything; Petro is still as marginal a player as one can find, a status made all the more depressing by his (relatively) lofty salary.
But there's still some specific value in accepting these random instances of success when they come, even if they aren't indicative of anything sustainable. As observers of the game, we spend every day trying to assign meaning to the events that unfold on the hardwood. Every shot, every defensive lapse and every injury has to be indicative of something, but in Petro's dance with competence we're free from assignment. In these oddly productive showings, Petro — who isn't overrated or underrated, praised or reviled, controversial or riveting — is free to merely be, and by extension, so are we.