While talking Boston Celtics offseason on a radio hit with The A.J. & Rich Show on 101.3 ESPN in Vermont a couple weeks ago, the question was brought up of the team possibly signing free-agent swingman Evan Turner.
This was before any solid reports had come out, and a mild rumor had just started making its way around the Internet, as noted by ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
At first thought, I loved the idea. Turner had lingered on the open market for some time while fellow NBA players were signing deals, big and small. Of course, there were reasons for this. Turner hadn't even remotely lived up to expectations after going No. 2 overall in 2010 and had a fairly abysmal showing in a brief stint with the Indiana Pacers last season.
Still, because he had been left unsigned after so many weeks of offseason movement, Turner would be coming cheap. Boston had its mid-level exception available, and as it turned out, it likely won't even need the whole thing to bring him in, per the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett.
Turner has yet to officially sign with the team, but an agreement is in place. President of basketball operations Danny Ainge is waiting to see what happens with a few other moves around the league, hoping to get a taste of another deal or two while trying to clear some roster space and cap room to fit in Turner, according to The Boston Globe's Gary Washburn.
While a signing this small—in terms of money—and this late in the offseason may seem minuscule, Turner should have an opportunity to get his career back on track in Boston. While there are a ton of guards on Boston's roster, there are none who have proved an ability to score at the rate Turner is capable of. This should give him a slight edge on a team that could struggle offensively and has no go-to scorer.
Turner fits the position-less style that second-year head coach Brad Stevens seems to be into. He is a shooting guard by trade but has the size, athleticism and rebounding ability to play small forward.
Through his young NBA career, Turner's greatest attribute has been his abilities as an all-around basketball player. He fills stat sheets a little bit like Gerald Wallace did in his heyday. He can score, rebound and distribute while having the athleticism and length to defend solidly on the perimeter.
Turner is a pure transition scorer, which meshes well with the younger, faster Celtics who have been put together since this rebuild began last summer. Bringing back Avery Bradley, drafting Marcus Smart and James Young and trading for Tyler Zeller are all moves that point to more of a running team. Turner is in line with that and spent much of his time with the Philadelphia 76ers rehearsing for it.
With Wallace now far beyond his prime and Young in need of some serious seasoning with the NBA D-League's Maine Red Claws, Turner could slide right behind Jeff Green to start the season at small forward.
Green is an interesting factor when discussing what Turner can bring to the Celtics. His maddening inconsistencies were still met with 34.2 minutes per game last season because there was largely no other option. Even Wallace saw 24.4 minutes a night until an injury cut his year short.
Stevens had to go with those two for heavy minutes despite maybe wishing he could make a change. He still benched each of them when he felt it absolutely necessary, but on a team with no veteran scoring, he needed Green to make games competitive and losses respectable.
This coming season, Green will have a fair amount more on the line. Before playing lackadaisical defense on a handful of consecutive possessions or putting up a four-point game after exploding the night before, he'll have to think about a hungry player two years his junior who is fighting for his NBA life nightly.
Turner won't have the luxury Green does to mail in certain performances while collecting $9.2 million. Turner will be playing likely on a two-year deal worth just a portion of Boston's $5.3 million mid-level exception, according to Washburn and Bulpett. Green has a player option for $9.2 million next season, so he likely isn't even in a contract year.
Turner has some experience playing with a good point guard who guides a fast-moving offense. Alongside Jrue Holiday, Turner was at his best, filling in all the necessary holes with his all-around game. In 2012, while far from perfect, Turner was a key cog in a 76ers lineup that upended the No. 1 Chicago Bulls and took No. 4 Boston to seven games. In total, Turner has 30 playoff games under his belt—not bad for just a four-year NBA veteran.
He is another piece in the puzzle that should bring Rajon Rondo his first-ever real running team. After being stuck with aging vets, who, yes, were great players, Boston's star point guard will have the opportunity to really move in transition this year. Turner thrives in getting to the basket and finishing there with great control and athleticism.
After four years, the three-point shooting should have improved if it was ever going to. This is the major edge guys like Green and Marcus Thornton will have over Turner when it comes to positional playing time. Turner hit just 50 of his 156 three-point attempts last season.
Still, he averaged 17.4 points per game on 42.8 percent shooting overall in 54 games with the 76ers last season before being dealt away to save long-term money and help Philadelphia dive deeper in the standings. He was able to average that much by being excellent at the rim. Turner hit on 55.1 percent of his 316 attempts from within five feet last season. That number bumps to 56.4 percent from the restricted area, per NBA.com.
He was also 28-of-74, or a respectable 37.8 percent, on corner threes last season.
Upon arriving in Indiana, Turner's situation didn't get better. The Pacers went into an overall funk toward the end of the year, and that can't be blamed on him. He was never totally accepted, as management had sent locker room-favorite Danny Granger away in exchange.
The environment in Boston should be a bit more accepting given how young and inexperienced the majority of the roster will be. Turner will see honest competition in training camp for minutes at the off-guard and small forward positions.
We've seen Stevens work some magic with other players who were afterthoughts in his first year. Kris Humphries and Jerryd Bayless are enjoying new contracts thanks to the opportunities Stevens allowed them to earn in Boston. Jordan Crawford had his 15 minutes of fame by winning the NBA's Player of the Week award last December, when Stevens guided him through a mini-renaissance before he was dealt to make room for a returning Rondo.
He will have some serious, but damaged, talent to work with in Turner this season. The former No. 2 overall pick was made that for a reason. He can play basketball very well in the right situation. The wrong one could have him out of the league in a handful of years instead of giving him the long, prosperous career that was once envisioned.
Even if this team loses a ton of games, Turner will surprise many with bang-for-the-buck resurgence.
We should, you know, hang out some time...
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