Why Evan Turner Has More Potential Than Derrick Favors

Melcolm RuffinContributor IIJune 29, 2010

Scouts say Derrick Favors has potential. Some say Hassan Whiteside has potential. People even say that Solomon Alabi has potential.

However, for some reason Evan Turner has not been associated with it.

I’m not saying that Favors, Whiteside, and Alabi don’t have NBA potential, but I tend to define upside a little differently than a lot of basketball enthusiasts.

Potential is the possibility that a player will improve. Potential should not be based solely on a player’s age, athleticism, or lack of fundamentals.

Instead I feel a player’s potential depends on their learning curve, coachability, work ethic, and their ability to execute.

With this new definition it is clear that Evan Turner has as much potential as anyone else in the 2010 NBA Draft, especially since he has already proven that he can make large leaps in skill and performance.

Turner has improved dramatically in the past few years. Seemingly overnight he transformed from a relatively unknown player into the consensus National Player of the Year. 

Fans that have followed Turner his entire career know that his rapid progress has been no accident. ET has worked tirelessly to get where he is.

In Westchester, Illinois Turner teamed up with University of Illinois point guard Demetri McCamey to lead the St. Joseph Chargers. St. Joes is known for producing NBA legend Isiah Thomas and also being the focus of the Hoop Dreams documentary.

Turner was relatively unheralded coming out of high school, ranked No. 49 and No. 59 overall by Rivals and Scout.com respectively.

He was rail thin at St. Joes, but managed to put on 20 lbs of muscle (up to 190 lbs) before his first season at Ohio State. His freshman year Turner started for the Buckeyes, but just played his role. His 8.5 point and 4.4 rebounds accounted for just 12 percent of the team’s totals.

His 2.6 assists were 20 percent of the team’s total. That year Turner showed glimpses of greatness. Thad Matta was determined to get the most out of him and Turner responded in a big way.

He really blossomed his sophomore year. Once the Buckeye’s point guard Jamar Butler graduated, it opened the door for Turner to take over and excel as point forward. As the primary ball handler he managed to nearly double his output in every major statistical category.

He scored 17.3 points (26 percent), 7.1 rebounds (23 percent), and handed out four assists (30 percent) while shooting over 50 percent from the floor. Turner stepped out from obscurity his sophomore year, but he decided to return to Ohio State because he knew he still had room for improvement.

This season Turner took another step forward into superstardom.He improved his jump shot and developed a killer instinct. He simply could not be stopped and it didn’t matter whether he was sagged off of, double teamed, or anything.

He could lead his team to a win by scoring 30 points or he could do it by getting  eight to 10 assists; either way his goal was to lead his team to victory (the Buckeyes lost just five games with Turner in the lineup by a combined 20 points).

We are all aware of how dominant Evan Turner was this year, but when we analyze how much he’s improved each year we realize just how amazing his development has been.

I don’t think there was a single preseason mock draft that had him as a top three draft pick. He wasn’t even selected for the Associated Press preseason All-American Team, but he finished the year winning almost every National Player of the Year award there is.

This type of progression is unpredictable, but Turner’s past shows that it is almost second nature to him.

There is no reason to believe that Turner’s development will stop any time soon. He clearly has All-Star potential using NBA Rookie Project’s definition of potential based more on work ethic, coachability, learning curve, and ability to execute.

He has worked incredibly hard to prepare his body for the next level (214 lbs), tighten up his ball handing skills, and expand his offensive repertoire.

At St. Joseph’s high school he learned from Illinois coaching legend Gene Pingatore, and at Ohio State Turner delivered for the very demanding Thad Matta.

He is a very unselfish player that desires winning above personal stats. He is capable of making in-game adjustments. He realizes when to pass, shoot, or if his team needs him to take over in a clutch moment.

Most importantly, throughout his collegiate career his skills and fundamentals have allowed him to execute and perform all of the moves he practiced in the offseason when it really counts.

Few people doubt that Evan Turner is a good player, but analysts and fans rarely say he has superstar potential, but why not? Turner has drastically improved every year, but he’s rarely the center of attention.

The widely accepted definition of potential has led to some of the worst draft picks of all time (the Patrick O’Bryant’s of the NBA), so isn’t it about time we all rethought our definition of upside?