Evan Turner, the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft, was recently the only top-five pick in his class to not be named to the Rookie/Sophomore game during All-Star Weekend.
In many Sixers' fans minds, that only confirmed their worst fear heading into the season: Turner is a bust.
After Turner went through a rough outing in the NBA Summer League this past summer, a shocking number of Sixers fans already appeared poised to give up on his NBA prospects. (Keep in mind, Stephen Curry also struggled in his first Summer League.)
And one look at his current season stat line doesn't help subside those fears.
Where to even begin? The 12 starts in 49 games? The fact he's averaging less than 25 minutes per game? The 41.2 shooting percentage? Or the fact he's shooting exactly 25 percent from downtown?
His 7.4-point, 4.4-rebound, 2.2-assist per game averages certainly don't jump off the page like Blake Griffin's nightly double-doubles, do they?
According to John Hollinger, Turner's PER through February 9 was a 10.34. The league average is a 15.
With all of that said…it's still far too early to give up on Turner. Not only as an "average" player, but as a possible NBA star.
Before you dismiss Turner's potential, look at these three rookie years from former and current NBA players:
Did the 76ers make a mistake drafting Evan Turner with the No. 2 pick?
Player A: 6 starts in 71 games, 15.5 MIN, 41.7 FG%, 37.5 3FG%, 81.9 FT%, 0.7 STL, 0.3 BLK, 1.6 TO, 7.6 PTS, 1.9 REB, 1.3 AST
Player B: 1 start in 82 games, 22.4 MIN, 48.8 FG%, 35.5 3FG%, 80.1 FT%, 0.6 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.2 TO, 10.0 PTS, 2.4 REB, 1.6 AST
Player C: 3 starts in 82 games, 17.2 MIN, 45.1 FG%, 25.0 3FG%, 72.8 FT%, 1.3 STL, 0.4 BLK, 1.5 STL, 1.5 TO, 7.7 STL, 2.9 REB, 1.9 AST
What if I told you that Player A, B and C were Kobe Bryant, Reggie Miller and Clyde Drexler, respectively? Well, Turner's averaging more minutes, rebounds and assists than any of those three did during their rookie seasons.
Bryant, Miller and Drexler didn't have such awful careers despite some unimpressive rookie stats, did they?
Kobe Bryant career stats (thru 2/9/11): 925 starts in 1,073 games, 36.5 MIN, 45.5 FG%, 33.9 3FG%, 83.8 FT%, 1.5 STL, 0.5 BLK, 2.9 TO, 25.3 PTS, 5.3 REB, 4.7 AST
Reggie Miller career stats: 1,304 starts in 1,389 games, 34.3 MIN, 47.1 FG%, 39.5 3FG%, 88.8 FT%, 1.1 STL, 0.2 BLK, 1.7 TO, 18.2 PTS, 3.0 REB, 3.0 AST
Clyde Drexler career stats: 950 starts in 1,086 games, 34.6 MIN, 47.2 FG%, 31.8 3FG%, 78.8 FT%, 2.0 STL, 0.7 BLK, 2.7 TO, 20.4 PTS, 6.2 REB, 5.6 AST
Now, I'm not saying that Turner's guaranteed to develop into someone on the level of Bryant, Miller and Drexler.
Plenty of college stars in the past haven't panned out in the NBA. No matter how dominant Turner was during his junior year at Ohio State, the NBA is a totally different beast.
That said, Sixers fans do have a few reasons for optimism in Turner's case.
First and foremost: The Spike Lee corollary. As Lee recently said in an interview with ESPN New York, "What Michael Jordan did every summer was work on a facet of his game…Some guys come in the league and that's who they are and they’re not going to get better."
In this case, Lee was referring to Landry Fields, suggesting that the Knicks' scrappy second-round pick won't get satisfied with his rookie year success. But, judging from Doug Collins' remarks about Turner, Lee could have just as easily been referencing the Sixers' rookie.
"For Evan, his mind gets clouded,” Collins explained during this year's preseason. “He starts thinking and he is so hard on himself that he gets frustrated."
If one of a player's biggest problems is being too hard on himself, get that player on my team, ASAP. Sure, Turner's still overthinking the game at times instead of just letting himself flow naturally. But he's also still a rookie—it's not like he's the first rookie who didn't adapt to the NBA in the first few months of his career.
Fact is, one glance at Turner's college stats should prove that it might have been us fans who set our immediate expectations for him a bit too high. Turner jumped from 8.5-point, 4.4-rebound and 2.6-assist averages his freshman year (shockingly similar to his stats this year, no?) to 20.4-point, 9.2-rebound and 6.0-assist averages when he was player of the year as a junior.
Will Evan Turner be a bust?
Who's to say such statistical leaps aren't in Turner's NBA future?
One of the most encouraging factors in Turner's struggles this year has been how he hasn't given up on other facets of the game just because his jumper isn't falling. Instead, he's already proving that he'll be one of the best rebounding shooting guards in the league for years to come, averaging 6.5 rebounds per 36 minutes.
How many top draft picks would be too discouraged by their poor shooting start to focus on other aspects of his game?
Then again, Turner's toughness is one of the factors that made him such an attractive NBA prospect in the first place.
“I’m not giving up hope,” Turner said in an interview with Yahoo! Sports back in December. “I know I can still play. I look back at my freshman year, and it took time for me to get warmed up, to get going…I think that guy is still there. I think, as time goes on, I’ll get better. You can’t rush that kind of stuff. I understand that.”
If Turner's not giving up hope for himself, there's no reason Sixers fans should.