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.

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

Best of MLB: Cardinals top Reds on Molina's disputed double in 9th

ST. LOUIS -- Yadier Molina hit a disputed double that drove in the winning run with two outs in the ninth inning Thursday night, sending the St. Louis Cardinals over the Cincinnati Reds 4-3.

The Cardinals began the day one game behind San Francisco for the second NL wild-card spot.

Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk from Blake Wood (6-5). With two outs, Molina's one-hop hit appeared to bounce off a sign above the left-field wall and carom back into play.

Carpenter kept running and scored from first. Reds manager Bryan Price ran after the umpires, who left the field as soon as Carpenter touched the plate.

Price later said umpire crew chief Bill Miller told him that teams have 10 seconds to appeal on a game-ending play, and that the complaint wasn't made in time.

"I'm not blaming the umpires. I'm blaming the system," Price said.

Molina and Jedd Gyorko hit solo homers for the Cardinals.

Seung Hwan Oh (6-3) wound up with the win (see full recap).

Jimenez delivers strong start, Orioles blank Blue Jays 4-0
TORONTO -- Ubaldo Jimenez and two relievers combined on a three-hitter and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-0 on Thursday night, moving into a tie with Toronto in the AL wild card race with three games remaining.

When he started at Toronto on June 12, Jimenez allowed five runs and six hits in 1/3 of an inning, the shortest start of his career.

The right-hander returned Thursday and carved up the Blue Jays. The only hit he allowed was Ezequiel Carrera's single to begin the first. Josh Donaldson followed with a walk but Jimenez retired the next six batters in order.

Devon Travis walked to open the third and advanced on Carrera's sacrifice, but that was the first of 11 consecutive outs for Jimenez, a streak that ended with Edwin Encarnacion's two-out walk in the sixth. Jose Bautista flied out to end the inning.

Jimenez (8-12) allowed one hit in 6 2/3 innings, improving to 3-1 with a 2.31 ERA in five September starts. He walked three and struck out five (see full recap).

Cubs, Pirates play to rare MLB tie
PITTSBURGH -- The Chicago Cubs and Pittsburgh Pirates played a rare major league tie on Thursday night when their game was called off due to rain with scores level at 1-all in the sixth inning.

With the Cubs and Pirates not scheduled to play again this season, officials decided the game would not be made up, since its outcome will not affect postseason positioning. Chicago long ago clinched the National League Central, while Pittsburgh is out of playoff reckoning, sitting third in that division.

So instead of becoming a suspended game, the match was declared a tie -- the first since Houston and Cincinnati went seven innings on June 30, 2005, before rain halted them.

Willson Contreras had two hits and scored for the NL Central champion Cubs, who have already clinched the best record in the majors. Josh Bell hit a sacrifice fly for the Pirates.

The game was called in the top of the sixth after a delay of 1 hour, 23 minutes.

Tim Federowicz hit a sacrifice fly in the Cubs second. Pittsburgh tied it in the third.

Cubs rookie Rob Zastryzny gave up one unearned run in 3 2/3 innings in his first major league start after beginning his career with seven relief appearances (see full recap).

Buxton doubles, triples in Twins' 7-6 victory over Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Byron Buxton tripled, doubled, drove in two runs and scored twice as the Minnesota Twins defeated the Kansas City Royals 7-6 on Thursday night.

After Salvador Perez's pinch-hit RBI single with two outs in the ninth pulled the Royals within a run, Terrance Gore ran for him. With Paulo Orlando, who had four hits to match his career high, hitting, Brandon Kintzler picked Gore off first base.

Gore was initially called safe, but after a 1 minute, 15 second review, the call was reversed to end the game.

Buxton's one-out double triggered a three-run ninth off Kelvin Herrera (2-6). Robbie Grossman, Miguel Sano and Max Kepler contributed run-scoring singles in the ninth.

The Twins won for the first time in 10 games this season at Kauffman Stadium (see full recap).

Canada wins World Cup, rallying to beat Europe 2-1

Canada wins World Cup, rallying to beat Europe 2-1

TORONTO -- Brad Marchand scored a short-handed goal with 43.1 seconds left and Canada beat Team Europe 2-1 on Thursday night to win the World Cup of Hockey.

The Canadians won the best-of-three finals 2-0.

Patrice Bergeron tied it with a power-play goal with 2:53 left in the third, and Marchand won it with a shot from the slot.

Canada has won 16 straight games, including two Olympic gold medals, since losing to the U.S. in the 2010 Olympics.

Carey Price made 32 saves for the Canadians, who started slow before ending the tournament with a furious rally that fired up a once-quiet crowd.

Zdeno Chara scored early for Europe, and Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves for the eight-nation team.

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament with three goals and a World Cup-high 10 points.

After getting that award, he was presented with a silver World Cup of Hockey trophy and he skated with it around the ice just months after hosting the Stanley Cup for the second time in his career.

He set up the tying goal, passing the puck off the boards to Brent Burns, whose shot just inside the blue line was redirected by Bergeron's raised stick.

Crosby was stewing after each of the first two periods.

When the game was over, he was sporting an ear-to-ear smile.

The Canadians closed the game in impressive fashion after a lackluster start.

In front of an unenthusiastic crowd and a lot of empty seats in the home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Canadians started flat and the Europeans made them pay for their apparent apathy.

Unlike the last two times Canada trailed briefly to the U.S. and Russia, it could not come back against Europe quickly.

It looked as if it wasn't going to be Canada's night when John Tavares had a wide-open net to shoot into, but hit the right post from the bottom of the right circle. Earlier in the same shift, the New York Islanders forward missed the net on a one-timer opportunity.

Canada averaged 4.4 goals over the first five games of the tournament, giving Price plenty of support. It didn't score as much in the final game of the tournament, but two goals were enough to win thanks to Price.

Chara, a Slovakian and Boston Bruins defenseman, scored from the left circle with a wrist shot through traffic two teammates created in front of the net off a short, soft pass from Andrej Sekera in the slot.

Crosby was part of a scrum at the end of the first period in which his helmet was knocked off near Europe's net at the end of the first period. After the horn sounded to end the second, Crosby lingered on the ice to shot at Swiss defenseman Roman Josi.

Crosby was clearly frustrated, playing with a pair of Boston Bruins, Marchand and Bergeron, who had combined for 22 points through the first five games.

Europe outshot the Canadians 12-8 after the first period and 27-21 after the second.

The Canadians had three power plays over the first two periods and failed to take advantage, falling to 2 for 17 with an extra skater. On one of their power plays, they needed Price to make stops on breakaways.

Canada had a man advantage again early in the third period, but only got one shot on Halak, a Slovak and Islanders standout, on the possibly pivotal power play.

Crosby had a chance to score with 7-plus minutes left, but Halak kicked the shot away with his right skate.

Europe seemed as if it had a chance to score late when Drew Doughty was called for high-sticking with just under 2 minutes left, but Canada was the team that took advantage when Marchand got the puck into open space and beat Halak with a shot to win the first World Cup since 2004.