Photo via AP
Much of the Blazers hot start has been attributed to their consistent and potent bench performance. While others point to the signings of Seth Curry and Nik Stauskas, and others look to the improvements of Zach Collins, arguably the most important piece of the puzzle has been the renaissance of Evan Turner. No longer miscast as a spot up shooter sharing touches with Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum, Turner has control and leadership of the second unit. So why has it taken so long for Turner to fall into this role?
Much of this has to do with personnel. Probably under pressure to start a large contract, Terry Stotts tried to transform Turner into a spot up shooter much like he did with Al-Farouq Aminu in the year prior. Once he realized that this was not going to work, he tried to include Turner as a secondary ball handler while either CJ or Dame was on the bench. Due to a combination of injury and inconsistency, Turner never was able to settle into his role. Additionally, when the team tried to plug him in as the second unit leader, he still had to share the ball with Shabazz Napier.
After two years of failed experimentation, Stotts and General Manager Neil Olshey seemed to understand that Turner was set in his role and could not be changed as a player. I am not saying Turner is in any way selfish, stubborn, or lacking the motivation to improve. Sometimes, players need to be in certain roles to produce at their highest level. In 2015-16, his last year with the Celtics, Brad Stevens used Turner as his backup point guard, which led to his most efficient season yet. In around 29 minutes per game, Turner averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists every game, leading a shooting filled lineup.
Turner is at his most effective when surrounded by shooters. This allows him to penetrate and hit his favorite mid range jumper, or dish to open shooters and cutters. The current second unit allows him to do so, from Curry, Stauskas, Collins, and even Meyers Leonard and Jake Layman, when Moe Harkless presumably returns from injury. While I am not saying that Turner will ever get to the production that justifies his contract, at least he is finally playing a brand of basketball that is best for both himself and the team.
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