While he officially remains unsigned, former Philadelphia 76er and Indiana Pacer Evan Turner is set to join the Boston Celtics for the 2014-15 NBA season. The 25-year-old swingman was in the midst of a career year with the struggling 76ers until a mid-season trade sent him to Indiana to try and boost the title aspirations of the Eastern Conference contenders.Things went south for Turner and the Pacers and he wasted no time moving on from Indiana as a free agent this offseason. With a rollercoaster of a season behind him, what can Celtics’ fans expect from Evan Turner this season?
Projecting Turner’s true impact in Boston can be difficult considering his unique skill set and the depth of the Celtics’ backcourt. Turner is a multi-skilled swingman with the ability to play multiple positions, rebounds the ball extremely well, can create for others and scores well in the mid-range.
However, with a ball-dominant guard like Rajon Rondo at point guard and with a lack of real outside shooters on the roster, Turner may find himself adjusting to a new role under coach Brad Stevens.
Last season, Evan Turner was given free reign in Philadelphia and in his 54 appearances was averaging a career high 17.4 points, six rebounds, 3.7 assists and a steal playing 35 minutes per game. He was given the green light offensively on a team obviously tanking for the draft lottery and he will likely never again see the 15.4 shot attempts he was putting up as a 76er in 2013-14.
He was traded to the Pacers in an attempt to boost the second-unit for a team aiming to contend for an NBA title. Turner’s versatility and scoring punch was seen as a huge boost to a team whose bench often struggled but he was never able to gain any traction or make a real impact for Indiana in his 27 games.
He averaged just 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 21 minutes as the Pacers saw their high hopes of a Finals appearance fall short in a tumultuous end of the season.
The fact that Turner struggled to make an impact in a lesser role is a troubling sign, as it is unlikely he ever gets the unlimited opportunities that he did as a 76er. He obviously operates more comfortably with the ball in his hands but will need to adjust to playing more off the ball and locking down defensively to earn minutes in a loaded wing rotation.
His ability to create for others, as well as play either wing position will help him, as he can find court time at a number of positions as he almost certainly comes off the bench to start the season.
Also in Turner’s favor is his ability to stay healthy. In his past three seasons he has played 82 games once and 81 twice, steering clear of injury despite a hefty workload.
Prior to his breakout last season, he had showed consistency between 2011-12 and 2012-13 averaging 13.6 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game. A number of the Celtics’ incumbent starters have suffered through significant time on the sidelines in recent years and Turner could well find himself in line for a big opportunity if someone goes down.
One major issue will be that Turner does not space the floor and the Celtics already struggle shooting from outside. A career .427 shooter, Turner will need to improve as a catch-and-shoot option playing alongside Rondo and a group of talented passing big men in Boston.
Turner has also shot just .326 from 3-point range over the course of his career and the Celtics desperately need outside shooting to improve from last season. While it is unlikely that Evan Turner will ever be a great long-range threat, he needs to improve his consistency from outside 16 feet so players won’t sag off him defensively.
Brad Stevens was able to figure out the best way to maximize Jordan Crawford‘s talent last season before the team dealt him away while acquiring future assets in January. It’s fair to wonder if the Celtics can do the same with Turner. If Turner jump starts his career, maybe Boston will be able to get more than its initial investment before the trade deadline.
Signing for just “part” of the mid-level exception, Evan Turner must view Boston as an opportunity to redeem himself after a poor finish to the 2013-14 season. In fact, Turner’s agent was quoted as saying the 25-year-old viewed the Celtics as his best opportunity and loved the fit with coach Brad Stevens.
While it is unclear exactly how he will be used, it seems as though Turner is confident he will play a big part in the Celtics’ plans this season.
Bradley and Green both command big minutes and rookies like Marcus Smart and James Young, along with the likes of Marcus Thornton and Chris Johnson will push for playing time on the wings, but Turner has proven to be a productive contributor and will be out to prove himself on a young roster. Turner gives Stevens a reliable option to lean on when the enigmatic Jeff Green regularly goes missing in games or Bradley is unable to create offense.
In most games you would expect Turner to be limited to less than 20 minutes of action, but where Green or Bradley is struggling Turner may take over offensively for extended periods.
Another thing to keep an eye on is that if Green, or even Rondo are traded during the season, Evan Turner may be the man next in line to see a huge boost in minutes and responsibility on a largely unproven roster. It’s a huge question mark hanging over the start of the season as to how exactly he will fit, but there is no doubt that Evan Turner is an intriguing addition to a young Celtics’ team and one of the players to watch out for in 2014-15.