Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: #4. What the Hell Do We Do with Evan Turner?

Ten Biggest Questions for the Sixers Off-Season: #4. What the Hell Do We Do with Evan Turner?

After enduring three years of absolutely vexing basketball from their former #2 overall pick, the Philadelphia 76ers are about to reach decision time with Evan Turner. The Extraterrestrial's rookie contract is in its final year next season, meaning that unless they ink him to an extension at some point before November, Turner will become a restricted free agent at season's end. The Sixers will then be able to match any offer sheet ET signs with another team, or have the right to let him walk to another team for nothing.

[10 Biggest Questions: 10. What are we now and where are we going? | 9. Is Thad Young untouchable? | 8. Is Spencer Hawes good enough for our starting Center? | 7. Are any of our mid-level FAs worth re-signing? | 6. What players are worth trading for? | 5. Free agent targets?]

If you've followed this blog with any regularity over Turner's three years, you'll know all about the mixed emotions we feel with any big decision regarding Evan. This decision--possibly the final one the 76ers make regarding their young wing--will be no different. There's nothing we here at the Level would like more than to see Evan turn the corner as a basketball player next season, prove that he can be an extremely valuable starter on a good NBA team, and be an important core player on the Sixers for years and years to come. The amount of personal investment I've put into Turner's success borders on the unhealthy, to have him part with the team at this point would be an extremely unsatisfying resolution.

But you probably don't need me to remind you at this point that Turner hasn't done much to encourage the team to show him any kind of long-term faith. If you look closely enough, you can find minor, gradual improvement in his numbers over the years--his three-point percentage, his assist rate, his scoring volume--but the bottom line is that in three seasons, Turner has still yet to display any efficiency as a scorer, shooting under 45% every season, never getting to the line even three times a game, and annually posting a PER lower than 13. According to the Offensive Win Shares stat, Evan continues to be an outright negative on that side of the ball, his usage rate far too high for a player who needs about 13 shots a game to score about 13 points a game.

As miserable as his scoring numbers are for a guy whose scoring is supposed to be one of his biggest assets, Evan does continue to provide value in other ways. He still finished second on the team last year in assists and third in rebounds, providing a versatility that, especially when combined with his career-best three-point shooting, allowed the Sixers to use him in different roles in different lineups and never lose that much in any one area in the process. ET's still not great at any one thing, which can be distressing at times, but he's above-average in enough different fields that it's hard to see him ever being a complete washout in this league.

Unfortunately for us, Evan still has that #2 pick shine to him, so even though he's not providing the value of an eight-mil-a-year-type player right now, that still might be the kind of contract he gets in the off-season. DeMar DeRozan of the Toronto Raptors is the most frequently cited comp for Evan, a similarly high-touted prospect who also struggled to score efficiently his first few seasons, and without Evan's high rebound or assist rates, but nonetheless commanded a four-year, $38-million extension from the Raps before he would hit free agency this summer. If ET gets that kind of contract in free agency, we can only hope it's not from us, since such a move would essentially strip the team of any remaining cap flexibility moving forward, for a player who doesn't seem particularly likely to take the Sixers to the next level at this point.

This is where getting Sam Hinkie as our new GM should be a difference-maker. As an analytically minded guy, and one with no personal connection to Evan Turner and his first three years as a Sixer, it's borderline-impossible to see him making his first act as Philly's new ship-steerer a four-year, $36 mil ET extension. Advanced stats have always been down on Turner, and during Hinkie's time with the Rockets, maintaining cap space for maneuverability's sake has always been a priority; he's not going to throw a lot of money at ET just to maintain the status quo with a middling asset. The hiring of Hinkie might have been the death knell for Turner's time with the 76ers.

For this upcoming season, though, the Sixers are actually in a pretty good place with ET. They can ride it out with him and see if he can't jump a level or two as a player, maybe mesh better with the team's yet-undetermined new coach or some new player personnel (possibly a re-signed Bynum?), then evaluate his value moving forward at season's end. There's a small chance that if he really improves that much, they'd have to pay more for him at season's end than they would by extending him now--as they certainly would have with Jrue Holiday after his breakout season had DiLeo and co. not extended him at the beginning of last year--but it's a small risk compared to the risk of locking him in for big money now, and at the very least, they'll always have the choice of letting him walk if the price tag is just too high.

Of course, if they don't feel like waiting until the end of the movie with Turner, they could also package him in a trade this off-season. Some team desperate for upside and in love with Turner's college numbers and continued versatility will undoubtedly still value him, and his contract has the benefit of being beefy enough to work as a valuable expiring deal as well, giving any team that acquires him a ripcord should they sour on Evan after a season's time. I'm still enamored with the idea of packaging ET with Spencer Hawes--as the Sixers supposedly did at last year's trade deadline, nearly landing Josh Smith from the Hawks--as the core pieces of a deal, parting ways with their tantalizing flashes of greatness, and getting a more stable contributor of some sort in return. I'd still be an emotional wreck letting ET go, but practically speaking, it might be time.

If I had to guess, though, I'd say Hinkie takes a wait-and-see approach with ET. Maybe he lets Evan play up his trade value with one of his patented early-season hot streaks, then sells high and lets another team deal with his inevitable regression to the mean. Maybe he lets him play out the season with no promises of return, makes him a reasonable offer in the off-season and encourages him to go let another team beat it. Maybe he just wishes him luck and sends him on his way, offering to write a glowing recommendation for his future employer. All are in play for Hinkie and Turner, and all could very conceivably be the smart long-term play for this team.

The one thing he probably won't do is extend him now for too much money out of some irrational insecurity that he'll end up breaking out this season and make him look silly for not having locked him up while he had the chance. That's all we can really ask for right now with our new GM and his inherited frustrating prospect, and that's really not something we could have taken for granted in previous years.

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points apiece and the Brooklyn Nets ended an 11-game losing streak, routing the New Orleans Pelicans 143-114 on Friday night.

Caris Levert added 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting for the Nets, who had seven players in double figures while beating their season high for points by 16. Their 29-point victory was 11 more than their previous largest. They also set season highs for points in the second quarter (37) and points in any quarter with 43 in the third.

Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 22 points and nine rebounds despite leaving in the third quarter with a leg injury. The defeat was a huge comedown for him and the Pelicans a day after he was named a starter for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans (see full story).

Warriors top Rockets to win 6th straight
HOUSTON -- Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to build a huge lead and coast to their sixth straight victory, 125-108 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

In a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference and All-Star starting guards Stephen Curry and James Harden, the Rockets fell short. Houston, which entered the game leading the NBA with 667 3-pointers, was just 7 of 35 behind the arc. Harden went 0 for 5 and Eric Gordon, who entered the game leading the NBA with 160 3s, missed all seven attempts.

Clint Capela had 22 points and Harden added 17 points with 11 assists for the Rockets, who are third in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio (see full story).

Kemba Walker scores 32 to lead Hornets past Raptors
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 113-78 on Friday night.

Walker, who came in averaging 23 points and looking to earn his first All-Star selection, scored 16 points in the pivotal third quarter, including a four-point play as the Hornets outscored the Raptors 33-15 to build a 25-point lead.

Walker didn't play at all in the fourth quarter after the Hornets stretched their lead to 30. He finished with eight assists.

Frank Kaminsky had a solid night off the bench for the second straight game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Kyle Lowry had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points for the Raptors, who have lost two straight (see full story). 

Magic pull away for convincing win over Milwaukee
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Elfrid Payton scored 20 points, Jeff Green added 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and the Orlando Magic snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 on Friday night.

The Magic, returning home from a 1-5 road trip, played with a small lineup for much of the night and it provided the offense they needed with two of their top scorers out. Orlando had six players in double figures, including starters Aaron Gordon (17), Serge Ibaka (13) and Nikola Vucevic (13).

Orlando shot 46 percent from the field while limiting the Bucks to 41 percent.Jabari Parker led Milwaukee with 25 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks dropped their fourth straight game (see full story). 

Social media reacts to Mo Williams' career as a Sixer

Social media reacts to Mo Williams' career as a Sixer

It has been a crazy week for former Sixer Mo Williams.
 
Williams retired after last season, but was kept on the Cleveland Cavilers' roster in case his salary would be needed as part of a trade, and he has now been moving all across the NBA.
 
Williams, and the $2.2 million in payroll, was involved in the trade with the Atlanta Hawks for Kyle Korver, then traded to Denver before being waived. The Sixers then joined in and picked up Williams and waived him after less than an hour as they re-signed Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract (see story)
 
Throughout all of this, social media chimed in on the career Williams had as a Sixer.
 

In 2015, before ultimately choosing the Indianapolis Colts, Frank Gore appeared headed to Philadelphia, so, fans settled the debate over who had a better career in Philly with this poll.