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

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

Joel Embiid 'shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry'

NEW ORLEANS -- Of all the players Joel Embiid could be compared to, a similarity between a 7-foot-2, 270-something-pound center and a 6-foot-3, 190-pound point guard wouldn’t seem like a match.

That’s exactly what Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry sees, however, when looking at Embiid and reigning MVP Steph Curry.

“He’s different than anybody that’s been in this league in a long, long time,” Gentry said Thursday before the Sixers win over the Pelicans. “He’s a tremendous talent, he really is. I’ve never seen a guy that size, and with that kind of strength, that’s got such a soft touch. He shoots the ball with the touch of like Steph Curry. It’s so soft when it leaves his hand.”

Curry is shooting 48.9 percent from the field and 40.1 percent from three. Embiid is 45.8 percent from the floor is 44.2 percent from long range.

Embiid flashed a big smile and paused to react when hearing of Gentry’s praise. He had been feeling hard on himself after going 0 for 5 beyond the arc against the Pelicans (see story).

“Steph is probably one of the best shooters in the league right now," Embiid said. "So that compliment means a lot."

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”