Evan Turner was the Sixers' best three-point shooter last year (36.5 percent), but will he be on the roster next season? (USA Today Images)
Draft night was interesting -- because of what happened and what didn’t, because of who went and who stayed.
There was a sense that Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie would tinker with the roster that evening. But if people expected a shoe to drop, they couldn’t have anticipated it would be Jrue Holiday’s neon variety.
It was a bold and surprising development. After Holiday and a second-round pick were bundled off to New Orleans for Nerlens Noel and a top-five protected first-rounder in next year’s draft, it became apparent that Hinkie would completely remake the team and that no one, not even a 23-year-old All-Star, was untouchable.
For a while, it felt inevitable that Evan Turner would be the next to go. If Holiday commanded two first-rounders in return, the right price for Turner would surely be much lower (a new T-shirt cannon, perhaps) -- making it easier, in theory, to offload the former No. 2 overall pick on someone else. And yet Turner remains. So what, exactly, do the Sixers think of him?
“With change comes opportunity,” Hinkie told CSNPhilly.com this week. (Despite what some people might believe, Hinkie hasn’t gone to ground.) “Our team and our roster is very different than last year with a different composition of players, likely a different system, definitely different players on the floor. This could well be an opportunity where Evan thrives. I hope our standards will be a place where hard work and competitiveness are rewarded and valued. Evan has those in spades.”
There were rumors following the draft that the Sixers almost traded Turner. According to people inside the organization, however, the Sixers fielded calls about Turner but “nothing came close” to getting done -- on draft night or since then.
Turner remains an unknown (see story). He'll make $6.67 million this season. Next offseason he'll be a restricted free agent (qualifying offer $8.71 million).
In his third season, Turner averaged career highs in points per game (13.3), rebounds (6.3) and assists (4.3). But he also averaged nine minutes more per game -- accounting, perhaps, for the uptick in his numbers. Meanwhile, his field goal percentage dipped to 41.9 (the worst of his three-year career), his player efficiency rating was 90th in the NBA, and he averaged 2.3 turnovers (0.7 more per outing than ever before).
There was also the not-so-small matter of his late-season shooting from distance. Turner made 36.5 percent of his shots from three-point range last year, which was a career best. Except, as the season continued, his form failed him. Turner didn’t make a three-pointer in February. As in the entire month. He was 0 for 13 during that unkind stretch. And over the final 37 games of the season, Turner hit only 30.6 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. That is a disquieting trend for a player who’s had questions about his shooting ability since entering the NBA.
(A quick and disturbing aside: Of the players currently on the roster, Turner was, statistically, the best three-point shooter last year. Hard to comprehend. Probably best not to think about that too long or you’ll jellify your brain.)
All of that means the Sixers should and will trade Turner, right? Maybe.
It’s the maybe part that frustrates the black-and-white, good-and-bad, keep-him-or-boot-him culture we’ve long fostered in Philly. While the rest of us enjoy dealing in absolutes -- to be unambiguous, trading Turner makes the most sense to me -- Hinkie prefers operating in the gray area where options are open and a player like Turner (who won’t turn 25 until October) might have value if he develops in town rather than some other NBA outpost.
Again, it’s hard to imagine Turner suddenly blossoming after watching his slow growth over the first three seasons. But while it might be clear to you (and me) that the Sixers should move Turner, Hinkie doesn’t seem certain to act one way or the other. He will listen, plot and go from there. It is how he works. So what if the Sixers surprise us -- as they did by moving Holiday -- and keep Turner around?
There’s an opinion within the Sixers’ organization that Turner was done a disservice by Doug Collins, the way he coached, and his system. None of it was a good fit for Turner. But did Turner struggle at times because of his environment or his skill set? And if the Sixers keep Turner and he doesn’t improve, won’t that hurt his trade value?
“His trade value could go down,” one league insider admitted. "But that’s hard to imagine.”