Boston Celtics Have Nothing to Lose by Gambling on Evan Turner's Future

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Boston Celtics Have Nothing to Lose by Gambling on Evan Turner's Future
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Late free-agency transactions don't get any safer than the Boston Celtics signing Evan Turner.

After splitting last season with the Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers, the former No. 2 pick is joining Beantown's movement, according the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett:

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today confirmed the good news:

Yes, this is good news. Landing Turner doesn't vault the Celtics back into contention. It admittedly doesn't mean much of anything immediately.

Then again, it doesn't have to.

 

The Risk

Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Turner's arrival is off-putting at first glance.

The Celtics don't have a clear need for him. All they have succeeded in doing is adding another body to their crowded perimeter rotation, like Celtics Hub's Brian Robb says:

Even after trimming the roster down, Boston’s swingman depth is a bit too crowded right now. You have Avery Bradley, Marcus Thornton, Evan Turner, Gerald Wallace, and Jeff Green (and probably Marcus Smart) all fighting for minutes at the 2/3 spot. There won’t be nearly enough playing time to go around to keep all of these guys happy. More moves are likely coming.

More moves are, in fact, coming. They have to be. But not immediately. That's not what Turner's arrival is about. 

Nor is it about latching on to a player, who, unlike many of his teammates, is the ideal fit. Turner is a questionable fit at best in Boston. 

Most understand that his "success" with the Sixers last season was the byproduct of a middling player being featured on a tanktastic team. His 17.4 points, six rebounds and 3.7 assists per game were wedded to conditions and doubt—baggage that followed Turner to Indiana. 

When he joined the Pacers, he was unable to make memorable contributions in just over 21 minutes a night, averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists. There was nothing to love about his stay in Indy, which, from the moment he arrived, held the "temporary" label.

And while the culture in Boston isn't as frail or pressure-packed, Turner doesn't make the Celtics better per se. There will be times when he, Rajon Rondo, Marcus Smart and Jeff Green play together and make all your worst floor-spacing nightmares come true.

Bricks will be laid. Mansions built. Rims abused.

Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Turner isn't an ideal Rondo running mate.

Aside from converting only 32.1 percent of his three-pointers, Turner drilled just 38.6 percent of his shots between 10 and 24 feet last year, according to NBA.com. He is neither an efficient scorer nor a player with extensive range, and the Celtics already have plenty of those.

Forget about using him as an off-ball scorer, either. Less than half of his buckets have come off assists since 2011-12, and he shot 38.4 percent within spot-up situations for 2013-14, per Synergy Sports (subscription required).

Little about what Turner does is guaranteed. Even less about what he's capable of doing is known, hence why it took him three weeks to find a new team. 

Interested clubs were even hoping to land Turner at an obnoxiously steep discount, per Grantland's Zach Lowe:

All of which—from the shaky production to the infirm skill set to the lack of suitors—would make Turner a risk-ridden acquisition. 

Except he signed with the Celtics.

 

Erasing the Risk

Brian Babineau/Getty Images
Ainge and the Celtics aren't really gambling on Turner.

Boston can take this risk, because, under the current circumstances, Turner isn't a risk at all.

Signing for "part" of the Celtics' mid-level exception means Turner took a pay cut from the $6.7 million he earned last season. Whatever the number is, it will fall below $5 million. That's incredible for a talent like Turner, whose opaque development is worth a flier (or six) at that price.

Likewise, he's worth a roll of the dice when Boston doesn't have any chips to wager.

The Celtics won't be contending for a championship next year. Danny Ainge has them in all-out rebuilding mode, giving them the luxury of patience and the opportunity to subscribe to the unconventional. 

“This is an exciting time of the year, an exciting time for our franchise,” he said in May, per BasketballInsiders.com's Jessica Camerato.

Time can be spent evaluating prospects and incongruous combinations. They can see if Rondo and Smart—two ball-dominant, jump-shot-challenged guards—are capable of coexisting. They can throw a defensive specialist like Avery Bradley $32 million in hopes of him developing into a consistent offensive threat.

They can see where Marcus Thornton's expiring contract fits into all this.

They can sign Turner.

They can embrace moves that don't make too much on-court sense, because, right now, they don't have to make sense.

 

Where's the Downside?

Let's not pretend Turner is receiving a fair shake.

Is Evan Turner an unnecessary risk for the Celtics?

Submit Vote vote to see results

Philly was stuck in the throes of mediocrity or awfulness while he was there, little of which is on him. Indiana didn't give him much of an opportunity to prove he could contribute on a contender, in part because the Pacers weren't true contenders. Mostly because he wasn't used properly.

“I think he was probably the most undervalued free agent on the market," Turner's agent, David Falk, told Bulpett. "Evan was in a dramatically different situation the day before the deadline than he was when he finished the year. He didn’t get a lot of playing time in Indiana unfortunately."

For all his follies and foibles, Turner is still someone with enough potential to warrant second looks.

That's what the Celtics are giving him. And he's allowing them to look for cheap. And, per Bulpett, they're only looking for a short period of time:

Turner’s representative, David Falk, acknowledged the agreement last night. Terms were not confirmed, but sources say Turner will have the opportunity to cash in when the NBA’s salary cap rises significantly, as expected in 2016.

Worst-case scenario, the Celtics have a bust on on their hands—a cheap, affordable bust who won't crimp their financial flexibility for years to come.

Best-case scenario, they—a team of patience—have a surprise fit on their hands. Or, equally likely, someone who boosts his value so much, he becomes one of the NBA's most coveted trade assets.

Where is the downside? Where is the risk? 

Try to find it, and you won't.

There is none.

 

*Stats via NBA.com unless otherwise cited. 

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