This is a question I've had to contemplate to myself all season. Is Evan Turner the solution at small forward for the future of the Philadelphia 76ers or is he better used as trade bait for somebody who is?
He's as consistently versatile as a forward comes, but as inconsistent shooting the ball as one comes as well.
He's scored over 20 or more points in 14 of the 76ers' 63 games, but also scored 10 or less in 16 contests.
He's the team's best wing defender and has the third most rebounds, second most assists and third most steals on the team as well.
If he could score more efficiently, the Sixers using him as a building block for the future would be a no-brainer. Yet, it seems as if Turner has fallen into the sell-high category due to his ongoing inconsistencies shooting the basketball.
An eight-game stretch late in January into early February is the perfect example of what I'm speaking of. Turner was on fire in the first four games, only to come up cold in the final four.
During the first four games he had 18 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a close loss to the San Antonio Spurs on January 21; he had 23 points, six rebounds and seven assists in a close loss the following night to the Milwaukee Bucks; he had 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in a win over the New York Knicks on January 26 and he had 27 points, three rebounds and seven assists in another close loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on January 28.
These are incredible numbers that any team would be glad to have out of their small forward. More importantly was that he shot the ball very consistently during the first four games as well. Turner shot 36-of-66 (55 percent) from the field during that span, which is 13 percent higher than his season average (42 percent).
Than came the Evan Turner disappearing act that everyone is all too familiar with in the final four games of the stretch.
In the final four games he had six points, four rebounds and three assists in a win over the Washington Wizards on January 30; he had eight points, six rebounds and six assists in a February 1 win to the Sacramento Kings; he had four points, seven rebounds and five assists in a win over the Orlando Magic on February 4 and he had two points, nine rebounds and four assists in a loss to the Indiana Pacers on February 6.
During the final four games, Turner shot just 9-of-35 (26 percent) from the field and made every 76ers fan collectively throw their remotes at the television screen.
Turner is the human version of a box of chocolates, you truly never know what you're going to get. This has made the frustration level amongst fans rightfully rise to its tipping point.
One 76ers fan even tweeted a similar saying to Sixers commentator Malik Rose during this same stretch of games I'm talking about.
My feeling and the feeling amongst most 76ers fans is that Turner needs to be traded. The 76ers were supposedly offered and turned down a deal involving Turner and Spencer Hawes for the Atlanta Hawks' Josh Smith at the trade deadline, which left many fans outraged. For as versatile as Turner is, he's too much of an offensive liability. I had mentioned in a previous article three moves the 76ers should've pursued involving Turner at the trade deadline, but to no avail.
The 76ers are in serious need of both a consistent scorer and a physical big man. They have some options in the NBA draft when it comes to a scorer, whether it's UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad, Georgetown's Otto Porter or Indiana's Victor Oladipo, but when it comes to a big man there's only a few options available in free agency and virtually none in the draft.
The best-case scenario is that center Andrew Bynum returns with a clean bill of health next season for the 76ers, but at this point Bynum is even afraid to answer that question.
That leaves the 76ers with yet another season of frontcourt questions, unless they're able to use Turner in a trade this offseason. They won't be able to get a player as elite as Bynum in free agency (unless they can somehow lure Dwight Howard away from the Los Angeles Lakers), but they might be able to get a buyer in teams like the Sacramento Kings for center DeMarcus Cousins or the Detroit Pistons for center Greg Monroe.
Obviously, the 76ers would have to throw in some more pieces to make the trades work, but using the ESPN NBA trade machine (although you can't add in draft picks) you can see that there are scenarios that work.
Trade for Cousins: Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes for DeMarcus Cousins and John Salmons
The 76ers would take on Salmons' bad contract, but in return get one of the best young big men in the game. The most hurtful thing about this is that the 76ers could've drafted Cousins with the No. 2 pick back in 2010 that they used to take Turner, but the Kings have just about had it with Cousins and the organization seems close enough to moving on.
Trade for Monroe: Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen for Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko
The Pistons are a mess right now and things aren't getting better very soon. Trading away Monroe would hurt, but not when you have Andre Drummond waiting in the wings to take his place. Turner would be very useful as a versatile wing for the Pistons, since the teams trade of Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies in January.
Allen would also be a step up over Jerebko. Jerebko's numbers have fallen since he entered the league in 2009 while Allen's have risen since his rookie year last season. Their contracts are similar, but Allen's is only two years as opposed to the three years of Jerebko.
Ultimately both teams fill two need positions while adding replaceable players to match salaries.
Many argue that the best days for Turner are ahead, but I'm not buying it. The 76ers should sell Turner high to avoid future disappointment. It all depends on how the Andrew Bynum situation develops, but right now the No. 1 thing the 76ers can do to make the team immediately better is to use Turner as trade bait for a legitimate young big man.