If there’s been one distressing outcome of the Indiana Pacers’ season — besides a turnover kingdom — it’s the lack of offensive contribution off the bench.
Trading for Luis Scola was thought to be the piece that brought Indiana over the top in terms of packing enough punch to dethrone the Miami Heat. We quickly were exposed to the fact that Scola’s post-up effectiveness is non-existent and he only thrives in pick-and-pop and pick-and-roll situations.
After missing the first 25 games of the season, Danny Granger became the guy that the front office (as well as fans) banked on to improve a bottom five bench, statistically.
Granger surely wasn’t ineffective, scoring in double figures in 12 of his 29 games played this season. However, he wasn’t possessing the “go-to guy” role that was attached to his name before the left knee injury in 2012. Witnessing Granger’s evolution into a catch-and-shoot role since returning has made it incredibly tough to remember his 18.7 point per game scoring average just two seasons ago.
President Larry Bird and general manager Kevin Pritchard believed a “win now” ideology was the proper fit for 2013-14. Looking at their options, the Pacers executed a move to obtain small forward Evan Turner and send Granger to Philadelphia, where he’s unlikely to remain.
The bold move by Indiana has ensured themselves of a better second unit, with the 25-year-old Turner set to receive “the same minutes as Danny Granger,” according to head coach Frank Vogel. When everyone is ready to go and Andrew Bynum is back in physical shape, the bench lineup we’ll likely see on the court the most will be comprised of Bynum, Turner, Lance Stephenson, Luis Scola, and C.J. Watson.
Vogel favors keeping Stephenson on the hardwood during the second period, despite starting. Stephenson takes pride in being the “energy guy” for Indiana and never fails to supply it when the offense becomes stale in the second. In the first three games returning from the All-Star break (vs. Atlanta, at Minnesota, at Milwaukee), Stephenson averaged 11.3 minutes in the second quarter. Without his improved ability to create plays off the dribble, the Pacers would struggle to execute anything with the second unit bunch.
A new, interesting situation is about to strike Indiana starting Tuesday.
Turner, who led the 15-40 76ers in scoring (17.4 points per game) before his departure, will be playing side-by-side with Stephenson, a guy that many believes illustrates some of the same skills. As significant as Stephenson has been to Indiana’s East-leading record, there’s reason to believe Turner’s experience with a large offensive load will make them more formidable …. especially come April, May and June.
While scouts and even hardcore NBA fans will tell you Turner’s ball-handling ability as a forward is superb, a common misconception that goes along with his name is that Turner has fell too much in love with jump shots. Watching him play, it’s blatantly obvious that it’s become his favorite facet of the game.
However, he has proven that he can play with the same attacking nature that Stephenson does each night, in terms of penetrating to the basket.
In his 54 games played this season, Turner has registered 323 drives to the interior. For the statistical approach, a “drive” is considered any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop with the player eventually dribbling within 10 feet. In essence, it’s a player beginning a play from the perimeter and penetrating the ball into the paint.
A great portion of Philadelphia’s offense — ranked 16th in the league — generated off Turner and their guards attacking frontcourts. Whether it be kicking out to perimeter shooters or finishing strong in the middle, Turner has done majority of his damage near the bucket. Of the 356 made field goals for Turner this season, 179 (50.2 percent) have came from inside 10 feet of the basket. Turner exemplifies a skill-set and mentality that people rarely give him credit for, mainly due to his lower efficiency from the field. Playing with a group that will make sure he doesn’t need to hoist up 15.5 shots per night, Turner’s efficiency is going to improve. Being a part of a new atmosphere — a winning atmosphere — will have a positive effect on his morale, as well as discipline to pick his shots more carefully.
Opposed to Turner’s 300-plus “drives” this season, Stephenson has led the Pacers’ roster with 217. Stephenson has made it a priority this season to move without the ball and, when he does control the rock in some of those “good Lance, bad Lance” situations, to score right in the heart of the defense. Of Stephenson’s 300 made field goals, 205 (68.3 percent) have been from less than 10 feet from the rim, which has resulted in a substantial increase in efficiency to 49.8 percent from the floor. Even with hiring a shooting coach this offseason, Stephenson has dedicated his time on the floor to fighting for the best possible looks.
With two strong, athletic and rich ball handlers on the court for his second unit, Vogel has to feel as if most of that offensive void was filled with this trade deadline deal. One downside to Turner’s presence could be the perimeter game, something that is an ultimate killer in today’s league. Turner has never been a high-volume guy from beyond 3-point range, shooting just 1.4 outside shots per game for his four-year career. This was an area that Granger was beginning to reincorporate into his game before being traded, shooting 36 percent from deep in February and becoming the spot-up shooter Indiana looked for on the wings and corners.
From a spectator’s opinion, the one monumental area that could make or break the results of Turner’s impact is the mid-range game. Widely considered the most inefficient shot in the sport, mid-range opportunities are Turner’s bread and butter. Turner has attempted 306 shots from the mid-range area this season, out-weighing all other areas that make up his 831 total shot attempts. Needless to say, the key will be performing consistently with this offense Indiana likes to run. While they also tend to force a lot of mid-range looks by their opponents, the Pacers love to shoot from the area as well — ranking ninth in the league in mid-range attempts per game (24.7).
Evan Turner’s 2013-14 Shot Chart (54 games):
Adding someone with Turner’s arsenal can do wonders for Vogel’s bunch, considering how many title contending teams are choosing to defend their opposition in this modern era of basketball. Forcing contested, or semi-contested mid-range jumpers are a common trend between the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors, who all rank in the top 10 in terms of “forced mid-range shots” per game. All of the above are capable of aggravating Indiana and none are ruled out of being their potential playoff/Finals opponents. Having three confident shooters from that territory — Turner, Paul George and David West — is only going to boost the Pacers’ chances to wreak havoc.
Stephenson doesn’t thrive off the mid-range game, with only 17.6 percent of his attempted field goals coming from the area. In that sense, Indiana gained versatility in terms of scoring by picking up Turner, who seems to be a bigger version of Stephenson, that does many of the same things …. and more.
Intrigued by how this Lance and Evan Turner pairing is going to work. A lot of redundant skill(s) between the two.
— Brandon Curry (@ByBrandonCurry) February 23, 2014
With Watson and Stephenson still making up the backcourt off the bench, Turner will experience a small bit of culture shock during his first few weeks with the Pacers. If there is any doubting that, it’s probably best to pull out some film of the 76ers. Rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been the media focal point, but Turner still accumulated a fairly high usage rating of 24.1 percent. To put that in perspective, Paul George’s usage rating has been 28.5 percent this season, in a year that propelled his name up to Most Valuable Player discussions. Turner learning to accept a vastly smaller role right off the bat will be tough, but getting back into the playoffs has to make up for the reduced stardom.
A collision course is ahead of us, and it features the inevitable Indiana-Miami matchup in late May. Evaluating what they had and the team’s recent struggles, I believe Pacers’ management considered the fact that Miami’s bench was likely still stronger — averaging 30.4 points per contest (17th) — and realized a move wasn’t just necessary, but imperative. Indiana has taken slow, gradual building steps since 2010 (LeBron James‘ arrival in South Beach) and it was finally time for a leap before last week’s trade deadline.
The Pacers will host the Los Angeles Lakers (19-37) on Tuesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. It will mark the debut of Turner and newly acquired center Lavoy Allen, depending on if Vogel decides to place Allen in the rotation just yet. Los Angeles is coming off a home loss to the Brooklyn Nets and have lost five of their last six games. Kent Bazemore and MarShon Brooks have been energizing additions since coming over from Golden State, with Bazemore averaging 16.0 points and Brooks with 10.5 points in their first two games in purple and gold.
What a perfect defense for Turner to show off against in front of his new home crowd.
Shane Young is an NBA credentialed writer for ESPN TrueHoops’ 8pt9secs and HoopsHabit.com. For all Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, or general NBA coverage, follow @YoungNBA and @HoopsHabit on Twitter.
*All statistical support credited to NBA.com/stats