Let's give the new staff a chance before we write Evan Turner off completely

Let's give the new staff a chance before we write Evan Turner off completely

Jason Wolf of Delaware Online published an article today entitled "76ers' focus on analytics may hurt Evan Turner." The piece focuses on ET's underwhelming stats and general ineffectiveness as a scorer, which stand in fairly stark contrast to the Sixers' obvious new direction, one with a clear tilt in favor of advanced stats and a priority on efficiency. "It appears unlikely that Turner fits into the organization’s long-term plans," Wolf concludes, saying the Sixers will likely let the Extraterrestrial walk as a free agent next off-season, or deal him earlier if he proves tradeable.

Wolf's stance is not an uncommon one, and he very well might be right. The common thought on ET--one shared by Zach Lowe of Grantland, who recently named Evan to his "All-Intriguing Team"--is that he's a mistake of the old administration, and one that GM Sam Hinkie--far more concerned with the discovery of undervalued assets than the redemption of overvalued ones--will look to unload ASAP. If you believe the reports, Hinkie even tried to deal Turner once already, to the Suns on draft night for a mere low first-round pick, and the fact that the Suns may have turned that offer down should give you a sense of Evan's current value around the league.

Here's a thought, though: What if Turner himself is, at the moment, actually undervalued?

Of course, you're not going to find much in his first three seasons' worth of stats that would suggest such a conclusion. Wolf's right--Turner's been woefully inefficient, and according to Basketball-Reference, he's actually been a net negative on offense the last two seasons as far as Win Shares go. He doesn't get to the line enough, shoots too many long twos, and only just started converting threes at an acceptable rate for a wing player--a development which Evan has even admitted was the result of not doing much of anything.

But let's not totally isolate Evan from his circumstances here. ET has played for but one coach over his three-year career--Doug Collins, noted unbeliever i n advanced stats and analytics. (In a quote that haunts the dreams of most Sixers writers, Collins once even said he'd probably "blow his brains out" if he had to worry about that stuff, and called his head and gut his advanced stats.) Collins was infamous for his teams' offensive conservatism, favoring isos and pick-and-pops over attacking the bucket or really pushing the pace in transition, especially last season.

Consequently, it's worth noting that Evan wasn't the only talented player on the Sixers whose stats were never the model of efficiency. For all the praise Jrue Holiday rightly received for his All-Star breakout campaign last year, his advanced stats were hardly elite either--he posted an offensive rating of just 99, and was worth less than 0.6 wins on offense, again according to Basketball-Reference. He shot about four long twos (16-23 feet) a game, and converted less than 39% of them. He only got to the line about three times a game.

For what it's worth, Andre Iguodala also saw his PER and OWS, as well as his three-point and free-throw attempts, shrink in his two years playing for Collins. And Lou Williams, the only guard on the team in recent years whose stats actually held up well to the glare of analytics, was swapped out last season for Nick Young, a poster boy for shooting inefficiency. Clearly, with the given priorities of Collins and the front office that adored him, this was a team that was never going to be a model of efficient offense, almost regardless of personnel.

Meanwhile, it's also worth noting that Evan Turner actually was a fairly efficient scorer in college. He got to the line about six times a game (a good, if not quite elite, rate for a college career) his final two seasons, he shot threes in moderation but converted a decent percentage of them (high 30s), and he shot over 50% from the field. His Junior year at Ohio State--his last before declaring--he posted a LeBron-like PER of 30.0, and an offensive rating of 111.

Now, that's not all to suggest that Evan Turner could have been James Harden by now in the pros if not for Dougie getting his grubby, inefficient little paws on him as a rookie. Turner's struggles to adapt to the pro game, especially in his first few months, were very, very real, and were certainly as much based (and probably even moreso) on his relative lack of athleticism and his mediocre shooting stroke as any way he was being misused in the team's offense. Turner may in fact never be able to become a productive starter in the pros, at least not at anywhere near the level expected of him when he was the #2 overall pick back in 2010.

But isn't it possible that we're all approaching this the wrong way? Maybe instead of looking at the many ways Turner's efficiency woes mean he won't fit in with the new Sixers administration, we should be looking at this as an opportunity for a talented offensive player--and Turner is still that, make no mistake--to finally be given the proper instruction and motivation to use his skills in an efficient way, as preached by two men in Brett Brown and Sam Hinkie who hail from perhaps the two franchises most praised in the entire sport for their ability to maximize player potential and minimize player failings. Isn't it possible that the best is yet to come for ET, and that might be worth something to the Sixers more than trade value?

Turner will still just be 25 years old when the season starts. That's younger even that Jeff Green, another talented but historically inefficient player with high draft pedigree, was last season with the Celtics, when he had something akin to a breakout year (especially in the last few months of the season), posting career highs for the season in PER, field goal and three-point percentage, and points per 36 minutes. Green's breakthrough was also largely attributable to a change in circumstance--in his case, finally getting to play big minutes as a starter and featured offensive player in the wake of injuries to the likes of big-name players like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and occasionally Paul Pierce. Green still has a ways to go in consistency before officially realizing his star potential, but he'll get even more of a chance to prove himself this year, in a Sixers-like rebuilding year for Boston, with Garnett and Pierce now traded and Rondo still out with injury.

Could that be Evan this year? It's certainly not definite, and I probably wouldn't bet money on it--I've been burned by Evan too many times in the past to continue in blind faith--but it's possible, and in my opinion, it's worth finding out. I certainly hope that Brown and Hinkie give Turner a fair and true chance, work with him to help him understand what he needs to do to help the team run more efficiently, and allow him to show that the Doug Collins stink can wash off him enough for him to become a net positive player on offense again. AFter all, that's the advantage of having a season that everyone knows going in is already lost--there's no downside to expending the time and effort to figure this things out.

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

Stay or Go Part 8: Ryan Mathews to Steven Means

In the eighth of our 12-part offseason series examining the future of the Eagles, Reuben Frank and Dave Zangaro give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster in 2017. We go alphabetically — Part 8 is Mathews to Means.

Ryan Mathews
Cap hit: $5M

Roob: The Eagles have to get better, younger, faster, healthier, more durable and more reliable at running back. I love the way Mathews runs when he’s healthy. The guy runs hard and he runs physical and he runs aggressive. Then he always gets hurt. Mathews actually has the third-highest per-carry average among running backs in Eagles history, but they just can’t rely on him anymore. How can you count on a running back who misses significant time every year? Time to move on. Factor in the cap savings — $4 million if the Eagles release him — and it’s a no-brainer.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $4 million in cap room to cut the running back who needed serious neck surgery after his season was ended in the Giants game. Mathews played pretty well in his two seasons with the Eagles, but, as has been the case during his career, health was an issue. And now he’s 29 and will turn 30 early into next season. Time to move on. 

Verdict: GOES

Jordan Matthews
Cap hit: $1.57M

Roob: Matthews is going into Year 4 and I’d still like to see him make a jump and become a 1,200-yard type of receiver. Maybe it will happen with another year under his belt with Carson Wentz. Matthews has the 11th-most catches in NFL history by a player in his first three seasons — 225, or 75 per year — but his 2,673 yards are 50th most. Matthews is as hard a worker and as committed a player as you’ll see. He'll get the most out of his ability. I’d just like to see him take his game up one more level, and I think he will.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: It’s a shame the Eagles don’t have any legitimate threats at their outside receiver positions, because if they did, so much of the burden wouldn’t fall on Matthews. No, he’s not a great receiver, but he’s a very good one who has been solid in his first three years in the league. In his first three seasons, Matthews has 225 catches for 2,673 yards and 19 touchdowns. There have been just 10 receivers in the league to put up those numbers or better: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Demaryius Thomas, Odell Beckham Jr., DeAndre Hopkins, Emmanuel Sanders, Doug Baldwin, Mike Evans, Randall Cobb and Brandon Marshall. Matthews isn’t going anywhere and it’s time to think about an extension. 

Verdict: STAYS

Alex McCalister
Cap hit: $557K

Roob: McCalister, a seventh-round defensive end, spent the year on injured reserve but considering the Eagles’ lack of pass-rush potency, he’ll definitely get a look this summer. McCalister had 17½ sacks at Florida, so he’s got that going for him. Still a long shot.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: This is tough because McCalister was a seventh-round draft pick who was placed on IR with a injury that didn’t appear to be serious. The last year was a redshirt season for the defensive end who has some pass-rush ability but needed to work on packing more muscle onto his frame. Haven’t seen enough to think he sticks. 

Verdict: GOES

Leodis McKelvin
Cap hit: $3.45M

Roob: The Eagles have to do better than McKelvin. He made a few plays, gave up a lot more, and as far as I’m concerned, the Eagles should hang onto Jalen Mills and get rid of all their other corners. Not to mention the $3.2 million in cap savings the Eagles would gain if McKelvin is released. See ya.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: The Eagles can save $3.2 million by cutting McKelvin, which will probably happen. If it doesn’t, it’ll be because the Eagles think his lingering hamstring issue played a big role in his play and because defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz goes to bat for him. Ultimately, I think McKelvin’s days in Philly are over. 

Verdict: GOES

Rodney McLeod
Cap hit: $5.6M

Roob: McLeod played really well most of the season, tailed off the last few weeks, and goes into next year a question mark because of that inconsistency. When he’s right, McLeod is a sure tackler, willing run supporter, big hitter and capable in coverage. But those last few weeks raised some eyebrows. There were times you just wondered what he was doing out there. If the Eagles can have the first-10-games McLeod for a full season, they’re fine. But he has to be consistent. He’ll be here through 2017 but after that is anybody’s guess. Another mixed year will likely spell the end here for McLeod.

Verdict: STAYS

Dave: There were a few plays that showed questionable effort from McLeod this season, which was shocking based on his past. He was an undrafted rookie who worked his way into the league and into a contract with the Eagles. This ended up being a pretty good signing; he had a nice season. He’s under contract through 2020 and the Eagles hope he hasn’t yet fulfilled his potential. He and Malcolm Jenkins should only get better after more time playing together. 

Verdict: STAYS

Steven Means
Cap hit: $690K

Roob: Means, a veteran journeyman defensive end, played only 36 snaps all year. He did pick up one sack against the Vikings, but as far as his future? Most likely, he won’t be back.

Verdict: GOES

Dave: Means did everything in his power last training camp to make the 2016 roster. He flashed every day and in the preseason games. But in 2016, he didn’t get to play very much and was clearly buried on the depth chart behind Connor Barwin, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Marcus Smith. The Eagles need to upgrade at the defensive end spot, which might be bad news for Means if more bodies come in. But for now, he's a good depth piece. 

Verdict: STAYS

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

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USA Today inage

Temple names Keith Gaither wide receivers coach

Temple head coach Geoff Collins on Monday added two new members to his coaching staff.

Keith Gaither will take over as the wide receivers’ coach and Kyle Lane is the new video coordinator. 

Gaither comes to Temple with 21 years of coaching experience. He spent last season as Army's wide receivers coach. Prior to that, he spent time with Tusculum College (1998-99), Thomasville City Schools (2000-04), Winston-Salem State (2005-08), Elon (2009-10) and Ball State (2010-14).

Gaither spent his collegiate career at Elon, where he was a four-year starter and voted all-region at defensive end before graduating in 1997. Collins originally had retained Frisman Jackson from the 2016 staff, but Jackson was hired by the Tennessee Titans. 

Lane is a Temple alum who spent time with Kansas during the 2016 season as its assistant video coordinator.