You have to feel for Indiana Pacers guard Evan Turner. To start the season, he had his stock skyrocketing thanks to the inflated stats he was putting up as one of the lone holdovers for the Philadelphia 76ers. In a contract year, the timing could not have been any better.
But then he was traded to the Pacers, and his poor play happened to coincide with an epic collapse by Indiana. Turner was blamed by some and then removed from the rotation.
Now he is almost certainly going to enter free agency unrestricted, as it would be a shock if Indiana gave the former No. 2 pick the $8.7 million qualifying offer necessary to make him restricted and match any offer.
Truthfully, it would be a surprise if he received much more than the minimum from any team. He's a dreadful defender, a poor outside shooter and possibly a poor locker-room presence.
Turner also seems to realize that his time in Indiana and subsequent benching for a guy like Rasual Butler have hurt his value. Here's what he told Candace Buckner of IndyStar.com:
I really don't know because I'm not a GM," Turner said, answering if he felt his diminished role hurt his free agency. "But at the same time, I think the NBA is kind of a hot streak, obviously. They remember what you did last year, last game and everything like that.
"Clearly, you're judged on, like, your last game, the last couple of months then it probably wasn't ideal for me in regards to (the) contract but at the same time, I think it's known that I can play basketball and everything will work itself out.
Going off the assumption that Turner's time in Indiana is done, here are some alternate landing spots that might help him resurrect his career.
Los Angeles Lakers
If Turner does end up commanding more than just a minimum contract, which would be a bit of a surprise, a team that has no players and can take some fliers on young talent like the Los Angeles Lakers would make some sense.
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak had some success this past offseason with former lottery picks like Xavier Henry and Kendall Marshall, so Turner would seem to fit the bill again so long as the Lakers need bodies on the cheap.
While it's possible Los Angeles lands a max player to go with Kobe Bryant and focuses on adding veterans, it seems more likely that players who are willing to accept one-year deals will come to LA.
Turner should be focusing on opportunity more than long-term financial security, and playing behind Bryant at his age with his injuries means there's a good chance Turner will get serious burn for a team that doesn't have much of an established offensive pecking order behind Bryant.
He has some offensive talent, as Turner has good footwork and the ability to draw fouls off the drive, but it's hard to tell if he's much of an upgrade over Henry (a free agent as well) despite his high draft status.
For Turner, though, the Lakers represent an ideal location due to opportunity and the ability to pay a little more than just the minimum.
New York Knicks
Again, we're looking at places where Turner can get the opportunity to increase his value for next offseason and land a bigger, longer deal at that point. With that in mind, the New York Knicks could certainly be a good fit, particularly if Carmelo Anthony bolts for another team.
With Anthony gone, the Knicks would have a big chunk of offense to replace with virtually no means to do it. Getting a decent scorer like Turner would make some sense at that point, as he could post up and use his size against smaller defenders and keep the offense somewhat intact.
While I'm not saying that Turner could come anywhere close to replicating what Anthony does, he could at least score in similar positions and ways on a significantly lower scale. That has some value, at least, and the Knicks would be wise to use players like Turner that they could either flip for future assets (like Philadelphia did this year) or sign for the long term down the road.
If the Knicks are basically settling in for a lost season without Anthony, bringing in Turner and attempting to restore his value would be a good use of a roster spot. He's worth that cost, at the very least.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have served as a landing spot for former top-five picks who didn't work out (Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic) in the past, so maybe they'll go back to the well once more.
The Wolves don't have any cap space to add talent, so using a minimum salary on a guy like Turner and hoping he's able to fix his jumper could be a worthwhile endeavor. Minnesota's bench was pretty awful last year, and although Turner has plenty of warts, he did show with Philadelphia that he can get points with inferior teammates around him.
Of course, he will give a lot of those points right back, but simply taking the ball out of J.J. Barea's hands when he's not hitting could help Minnesota quite a bit. Having another ball-handler with size wouldn't be the worst thing either.
It would be important to keep the expectations low, but Turner is a pretty good fit for Minnesota's roster and could be a project for Flip Saunders to try and turn around.
This would be a bit of a twist for the Denver Nuggets, who usually trend toward lightning-quick small guards to accentuate the stamina advantage in the mile-high air.
With that being said, Turner could provide a nice contrast to the already existing small guards on the roster like Ty Lawson. Having an additional ball-handler who uses footwork and craft more than anything else to get his points would be a little like having Andre Miller back on the roster. Whether Denver wants that or not, though, is tough to say.
There's always the hope that Turner can carve out a niche offensively and be a change-of-pace guy. Whether that's done by posting smaller guards or turning into more of a distributor, there's still potential for Turner to end up being something different than what we've already seen. That's the beauty of youth.
There's little harm for a team like Denver to swing for the fences while filling out the roster, anyhow. Without any cap space for the next two seasons and with a core that may struggle to reach the playoffs, Denver and Turner could help each other out quite a bit in the best-case scenario without risking a whole lot if it doesn't work out.
Is it too early for Turner to leave the NBA and secure a bigger paycheck elsewhere? Guys like Josh Childress have enjoyed nice careers overseas, and so maybe Turner would find that more amenable if all he's being offered are short-term deals for right around the league minimum.
You would think that the former No. 2 overall pick would get a much bigger deal overseas based on name recognition alone, and truth be told, there's a lot for Turner to gain as a player by going to a competitive league in Europe or elsewhere.
It could be a humbling experience of sorts, as it is for many American basketball players, but it could also teach Turner the importance of moving the ball and defending. He has had his selfish moments in the past, like when he got in a fight with his own teammate before the playoffs, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
On the eve of this Eastern Conference series, the wobbling No. 1 seed punctuated its final playoff preparations in a most self-destructive way: Two Indiana Pacers dragged a cursing, cut Evan Turner out of the Bankers Life Fieldhouse court, untangling him from a practice-floor fistfight with teammate Lance Stephenson.
If Turner could handle the playing time being more spread out overseas than in the U.S., it would go a long way in showing that he's not a selfish player who is worried only about his stats.
Going overseas would most likely be a financial decision more than anything, but if Turner had success and honed his shooting touch, he might find a friendlier free-agent market waiting for him upon his return. It should certainly be an option.