Sixers player evaluation: Evan Turner

043013_turner_usa.jpg

Sixers player evaluation: Evan Turner

Evan Turner

Position: Guard

Status: Signed through the 2013-14 season for $6.67 million. Restricted free agent in 2014.

Signature game of 2012-13
Turner’s best statistical game of the season was probably the New Year’s Day victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles. Turner had 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting. He made two of his three attempts from long range, and he added five assists and a season-high 13 rebounds. While he had other games with more points, the Lakers' outing was his most complete performance.

Turner in 2012-13
That might have been his best game, but his true signature game -- the game that most defined Turner -- came on Jan. 30 against the Washington Wizards at home. Here’s our summary from that evening:

Turner -- who scored six points on 27.2 percent shooting from the field -- looked lost for much of the evening. During one painful offensive possession in the first half, he dribbled for almost 24 seconds, got blocked, and then got called for a shot clock violation. You know those basketball training videos they show to kids? That sequence was the opposite.

That was Turner this season -- maddeningly inconsistent (see story). He often tried to do too much, frequently at the team’s expense.

Turner averaged 13.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists -- all of which were career highs. But he also played nine minutes more per game than he ever had before (accounting for the uptick in his numbers), while his 41.9 field goal percentage was the worst of his three-year career. And his player efficiency rating  was only 90th in the NBA.

After the aforementioned Wizards’ game in late January, Turner fell into a funk. He didn’t make a three-pointer for the entire month of February (0 for 13). And over the final 37 games of the season, he shot just 39.7 percent from the field and 30.6 percent from three-point range. He also averaged 2.2 turnovers.

Prospectus
Turner won’t turn 25 until October. He has talent, and he’s signed for at least another season.

The problem isn’t that he can’t play. The problem is that he often appears like he’s trying to prove himself -- as evidenced by the awful over-dribbling fiasco against the Wizards. Turner even admitted that, as a former second overall pick, he believes he should be the most important player on the team (even though he hasn’t performed to that level):

“I feel like what I am asked to do and what I am allowed to do lead to me getting the bulk of the blame in certain situations,” Turner said shortly before the season ended (see story). “It goes along with the status of being the No. 2 overall pick -- the No. 2 pick is supposed to be the franchise tag, but here it is a different situation because I am a role player.”

That’s the biggest issue with Turner. If he accepted his role, if he focused on what he does well -- rebounding, passing in transition, creating defensive matchup problems for smaller guards, etc. -- he could be a huge asset. He doesn’t seem willing to do that, however. Instead, Turner plays (and talks) like a man who won’t be content until he’s treated as the best player on the team, a player worthy of that No. 2 pick. Sadly, Turner doesn’t understand that he isn’t, and might never be, the Sixers’ principal star.

It’s one thing to be ambitious. It’s another when ambition becomes a detriment to your team.

On Evan Turner
“More opportunity, more responsibility will help mold me as a player. Slow and steady.”

-– Evan Turner, Jan. 30, 2013

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons spending his summer getting bigger and better

Ben Simmons repeatedly emphasized at summer league he wanted to work on “everything” leading up to training camp.

As a point-forward who plays multiple positions, he has more than just one role to address this offseason. But what does “everything” entail? With a wide range of responsibilities on the court, Simmons is honing in on specific areas.

“I think just getting in the gym and making sure I’m getting reps up, shooting-wise, dribbling,” Simmons said earlier this week after an appearance at Sixers Camp in Wayne, Pennsylvania. “The weight room as well, making sure I get my strength back and my weight up.”

Shooting
Simmons has been criticized for his reluctance to shoot. During his one season of college ball at LSU, he averaged 19.2 points off 11.7 field goal attempts per game (56 percent made). Over six summer league games (including both Utah and Las Vegas), Simmons took 22 field-goal attempts and shot 32.2 percent. He had less than 10 attempts in four of the games, and attempted 15 in the Sixers’ finale. Simmons attempted one three in summer league action.

While in Utah and Las Vegas, the Sixers encouraged Simmons to be more aggressive. At 6-foot-10, Simmons is able to get to the rim. Once there, many times he passes it off rather than finishing himself. The Sixers don’t expect Simmons to become a 30-point-per-game scorer, but he will be a key part of their offense.

“You always want him to be as good of a shooter as he can be,” Las Vegas summer league head coach Lloyd Pierce said this earlier month. “It’s not going to be his strength. His strength is going to be passing, facilitating, playmaking. That’s going to be an added bonus, whatever the percentage or the number is.”

Dribbling
Simmons averaged 5.5 assists per game during summer league (second on the team by 0.3 dimes to T.J McConnell). Conversely, he committed 3.8 turnovers.

The Sixers signed two point guards this summer, Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez, and McConnell is returning from last season. Head coach Brett Brown said after the draft he does not plan to utilize Simmons as the primary one-guard right away as the 20-year-old learns the league. But early on, Simmons will have the rock in his hands plenty of times given his natural ball-handling abilities, especially when grabbing the rebound and running the fast break.

"I think it's the hardest position to play in the NBA,” Brown previously said. “I think to just give him the ball in that capacity is borderline cruel. He needs to feel NBA basketball. And maybe he evolves there."

Weight room
After college, Simmons put on 20 pounds from his training and entered the draft at 242 pounds. He stood out among the competition in summer league play with his NBA-ready stature. Simmons said he would like to get up to 246 or 247 pounds this offseason.

“Not too heavy,” he said.

With the size of a forward and the skills of a guard, the Sixers will be able to utilize Simmons to create mismatches both in the backcourt and at the hoop.

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

Adjusting to new home, Ben Simmons plays role model at Sixers Camp

WAYNE, Pa. — Three steps. 

That’s all it takes before Ben Simmons is recognized walking through the streets of Philadelphia. 

This year’s No. 1 pick has been in the spotlight long before the Sixers drafted him in June, and now he's experiencing what it's like to be known as an NBA player in his new city. 

“I’ve been enjoying walking around South Street, getting some Ishkabibble's,” Simmons said Tuesday after a special appearance at the Sixers' Camp at Valley Forge Military Academy. 

At 6-foot-10, Simmons towers above most on the court, let alone on the sidewalk. Fans have been eager to welcome him to Philadelphia for a new chapter of the organization after three years of struggle. 

“Positive things,” Simmons said of the comments he receives. “I think a lot of people are excited, so I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Simmons understands the impact a professional athlete can have on young fans, and was excited to be at camp Tuesday.

Growing up in Australia, he never had the opportunity to hear from NBA players when he attended basketball camps. Now that he's in that position, the 20-year-old was glad to provide that memory to the 240 campers. 

“That would mean a lot if I was able to experience that,” Simmons said. 

Simmons demonstrated skill drills, such as passing fundamentals, interacted in a Q&A session and signed autographs for each camper. He also took individual photos for those who traveled internationally, including from Nigeria, Italy and Greece. 

“I’m just like them, but older,” Simmons said. “I’m just trying to be a good role model to them.”

Simmons plans to spend most of the offseason in Philadelphia as he gets settled into the city. He still has to move into his new home, but at least he knows where to get a cheesesteak in the meantime. 

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

NBA Notes: Dion Waiters signs 1-year deal with Heat

Two people with knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that the Miami Heat have agreed to terms on a one-year deal with free agent guard Dion Waiters.

The two sides came to agreement on Monday. Waiters will make $2.9 million. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced the deal.

Waiters averaged 9.8 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, but had several big games in the playoffs. He played particularly well against Dallas and San Antonio in the playoffs before his role was reduced in the seven-game loss to the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals.

Waiters will give the Heat another scorer off the bench (see full story).

Blazers: C.J. McCullom inked to four-year extension
PORTLAND, Ore. -- A person familiar with the deal confirms that guard CJ McCollum has agreed to a four-year, $106 million contract extension with the Portland Trail Blazers.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity on Monday because the deal hadn't been formally announced by the team. It was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

McCollum, who was named the NBA's Most Improved Player, averaged 20.8 points, 3.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists for the Blazers during the regular season. He raised his scoring average by more than 14 points over the previous season.

As the 10th overall pick for the Blazers in the 2013 draft, McCollum bided his time on the bench for his first two seasons. He became a starter in the backcourt with Damian Lillard last season after four of the team's starters departed in the offseason (see full story).

Michael Jordan donates $2 million to ease racial tensions
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Michael Jordan is trying to help ease tension between African-Americans and law enforcement.

The NBA great and Charlotte Hornets owner said Monday he's giving $1 million to the Institute for Community-Police Relations and $1 million to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The aim is to help build trust following several shootings around the country.

Jordan says in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that "as a proud American, a father who lost his own dad in a senseless act of violence, and a black man, I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting and killing of police officers," (see full story).