The Boston Celtics continued to fill out their roster on Wednesday by signing former No.2 overall pick Evan Turner. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald first reported the signing, which appears to be for part of the Celtics’ mid-level exception.
Turner, a 6’7” swingman capable of playing multiple positions, was the second overall selection in the 2010 NBA Draft and has career averages of 11.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.7 steals in 29 minutes per game. Turner had been in the midst of a career year with the Philadelphia 76ers last season until a trade to the Indiana Pacers derailed his season and his hopes of securing a large contract in free-agency.
Celtics finishing deal for FA Evan Turner, sources tell Herald. He will get a portion of their mid-level exception.
— Steve Bulpett (@SteveBHoop) July 21, 2014
At 25 years old, Evan Turner joins a young Celtics’ team looking to improve dramatically from last season’s 25-57 record and will fight with a group of players in a growingly deep guard/wing rotation. While the 76ers struggled to one of the worst records in the NBA last season, Turner was having himself a career year to the tune of 17.4 points, 6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal per game starting all of his 54 appearances.
A mid-season trade to the Indiana Pacers, who were then regarded as an NBA championship contender appeared to be a positive move for Turner who was viewed as a huge piece for a Pacers bench that often struggled for production. However he never really gained any traction in Indiana, averaging 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists playing just 21 minutes per game.
Turner struggled to adjust to his new role and the coaching staff could not find a way to best utilize his unique skill set. Despite the loss of Lance Stephenson in free agency, the Pacers declined to make Turner the qualifying offer and allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent.
It appears that the Celtics were not the only team in the hunt for Turner, but the young swingman and his agent felt that Boston was the best situation for him to succeed. Turner’s agent David Falk told Steve Bulpett that Coach Brad Stevens was also a big factor in his client’s decision to sign with the Celtics.
“There are teams that offered him one-year deals. There are teams that offered him multi-year deals,” Turner’s representative, David Falk, told the Herald. “But I think the deal here is secondary to the environment.
“Boston all along has been probably our No. 1 destination. I felt what Evan needed was to kind of replicate the relationship that he had with coach Brett Brown in Philadelphia, which I think worked out tremendously well for him. We were really looking mostly for an environment more than geography. Brad has known Evan since high school, and we think that the very personal that college coaches have with their players is more in line with what we experienced with Brett.”
Turner was an exceptional NCAA athlete and carved out an outstanding three-year career at Ohio State. In his junior year Turner averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and six assists and was awarded the AP Player of the Year Award, the John R. Wooden Award and the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year Award.
After being selected with the second overall pick by the 76ers, Turner has been productive but has also struggled to live up to the hype of his high selection and the excellence of his collegiate career.
Turner now joins a roster loaded with depth at the guard position and on the wings. He will have to fight to earn minutes with a number of young players trying to impress and veterans who will expect playing time.
Turner’s ability to handle the ball, create for teammates and rebound are great for his position, but he will need to learn to play off the ball more, as he was often the primary ball handler in Philadelphia. Turner will battle for minutes with the likes of rookies Marcus Smart and James Young, veteran forwards Jeff Green and Gerald Wallace, along with Marcus Thornton and Avery Bradley, who can all play the 2 or the 3.
It will also be a change to play with a ball-dominant point guard like Rajon Rondo and Turner will need to improve his shooting if he is to be effective alongside Rondo offensively.
The one glaring hole in Turner’s game has been his shooting ability and he has, at times forced the issue trying to be a scorer. He has shot just .427 from the field for his career along with .326 from 3-point range.
He has improved at the free throw line throughout his career, and knocked down .829 from the line on 4.2 attempts last season as a 76er. Turner is active, albeit not overly effective, on the defensive end and will need to buy in on D to beat out some of the younger, hungry prospects on the Celtics’ roster.
At just 25 years old and likely signed somewhere in the $2million to $4 million range, Turner presents a low-risk, high-reward gamble for general manager Danny Ainge and the Celtics. If he can reclaim some of the form he showed early last season, Turner could become another valuable trade piece in an ever-growing bag of assets for Ainge.
He could also play his way into a big role on the team and allow the likes of Green, Wallace, Thornton or others to be moved in the hunt for a rim-protecting big man. While the addition of Evan Turner may be an ideal fit, there is the potential for a big payoff for a small investment.