Remember the 2010 NBA Draft? You know, the one whose rookie class Blake Griffin overshadowed when he came back from a knee injury to dominate the league's highlight reels with the Los Angeles Clippers?
The class of 2010 is looking to take The Association by storm in 2012-13.
John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe, Paul George and perhaps even Avery Bradley and Eric Bledsoe are all fixing to break out.
So is Evan Turner, who happened to be the second player taken in that draft, strange as it may seem in retrospect. To this point, the Philadelphia 76ers' wing has been a forgotten man due to his own failure to live up to lofty expectations.
To Turner's credit, his numbers improved noticeably during his sophomore season as he shifted into a steadier spot in the Sixers' starting lineup. And, in his defense, Turner was forced to play out of position at shooting guard while Andre Iguodala, a long-time franchise cornerstone with a skill set similar to Evan's, was entrenched at small forward.
he'll have no shortage of competition to whom to lose them.
Turner will be pushed at the position by Thaddeus Young, who's already made perfectly clear his desire to return to starting duty in Philly this season. At the very least, Young will be the Sixers' sixth man in the wake of Lou Williams' departure, and will see plenty of time at both forward spots as a result.
Nick Young and Dorell Wright, both of whom the Sixers signed this summer, should see plenty of playing time on the wing as well, thanks to their respective abilities to light it up from the perimeter.
Turner, on the other hand, is no marksman. His three-point (.318 to .224) and free-throw percentages (.808 to .676) both declined considerably in Year 2, and the frequency of his attempts in each were below-average for his position, be it shooting guard or small forward.
What Turner lacks in shooting accuracy he more than makes up for with the rest of his game. He's a versatile young wing who's capable of playing any of the three spots on the perimeter and has even been known to slide down to power forward when the Sixers go small.
With Lou Williams off to Atlanta and Jrue Holiday still learning the ropes at this point, the task will fall to Turner to run the team from time to time, a task to which he should be well-suited.
He's a solid ball-handler for his position, one who isn't afraid to probe through the mid-range and set up his teammates for easy shots. According to DraftExpress, Turner turned in a positive pure point rating and ranked among the top-15 small forwards in that regard—an impressive feat for a guy who played so sparingly up top.
Sixers coach Doug Collins won't hesitate to expand Turner's role in that regard this coming season. As he told Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com earlier this month:
"With losing Lou, we are going to have to have a guy who can handle the ball with that second unit...I could sub for Jrue early in the game with another perimeter guy and let Evan play out the quarter and then come back with Jrue as the point guard with our second unit and let Evan rest. I think what you will see is Jrue and Evan playing point guard with the second unit based on night to night."
The more Turner has the ball in his hands, the more opportunity he'll have to show off those scintillating skills that made him such a high draft pick out of Ohio State two years ago.
All-Star center Andrew Bynum's presence in the post should make assists easier to come by for the Sixers' ball-handlers, Turner included. He'll free up more space on the floor for them to operate in by virtue of attracting additional defensive attention.
That should mean more open shots and easy drives to the hoop for Turner in what was a rather restricted (if not restrictive) Sixers offense last season.
As promising as playing the point may be for Turner, his ascension to small forward in Iggy's absence will ultimately determine how brightly his star shines in Year 3 and beyond. He posted his highest player efficiency rating at the "three" last season, per 82games.com.
Which isn't all that surprising considering that's his most natural position. Size-wise, at 6'7", Turner is an ideal fit on the wing, and the fact that he can operate with the ball in his hands makes him all the more dangerous offensively.
But where Turner figures to be most valuable (for now, anyway) is on the defensive end. He's a good (but not great) athlete, who pesters his opponents on the perimeter with his tenacious competitive streak. Whether Turner can effectively guard the likes of Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and LeBron James on a nightly basis remains to be seen, though at this point he's probably the Sixers' best bet to do so.
Turner will be busy crashing the boards when he's not guarding the NBA's best defenders.
He was tops among all wings in that department last season, with a defensive rebound rate (22.8, per Hoopdata) that bested the likes of Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert. If Turner continues to wipe the defensive glass as well as he has in the past, he'll be a threat to average a double-double on the wing.
That sort of productivity should catch the attention of the basketball world, especially if Turner's efforts help propel Philly to new heights in 2012-13. His improvement won't matter much if his numbers are wasted on a subpar Sixers squad.
That being said, there's some serious potential for prosperity on the parts of Turner and the Sixers in the season to come. Bynum should be a stud in the middle now that he'll finally be the focal point of an offense, and Holiday should thrive as the primary point guard opposite the big fella.
But the Sixers will still need someone on the wing who can slash to the bucket and fill up the stat sheet. Evan Turner, with his mass of as-yet-untapped talent, looks like the best bet to do just that.
And to show that he can rep the star power of the 2010 draft class in the City of Brotherly Love.
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