Rookie Hazing: Notes on Evan Turner's Miserable Summer League

Rookie Hazing: Notes on Evan Turner's Miserable Summer League

Oof. About as excited I was for this week of Sixers Summer League games to begin, that's about how excited I was for it to finally be over, too. That's primarily because Evan Turner, the Sixers' #2 draft pick and one of their best hopes towards redemption next season, struggled mightily the entire week, doing good things on occasion but spending most of the time looking utterly lost.

As previously detailed, in his league debut, Turner had issues finding his shot and spent too much time in foul trouble, but contributed in other ways (rebounding, passing, defense) that allowed him something of a pass for what seemed like a relatively mediocre effort. If you had told me that that was as good as things were gonna get for The Villain this week...well, I kind of wish you had told me, because it could've saved me from (or at least prepared me for) watching some heartbreakingly sub-par play from our much-hyped rook.

For the week, Turner's stats were as follows: 9.4 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.6 TO, 33% shooting from the field. His inability to find his own shot in the first game plagued him through all five games, as he was largely unable to beat defenders off the dribble and found few good spot-up opportunities. The first few games, the excuse being used for him was that Jrue Holiday being the primary ball handler was throwing him off, Turner having been the primary ball-handler for his team for all of last season. Then Jrue sat the next few games with minor injruies, and Evan's play tanked even further, as the team lost its last three games and The Villain rode the bench for the fourth quarter in Thursday's outing.

So what happened? Well, there are many explanations, some more satisfying than others. The one that most apologists appear to be going with is that Turner is out of game shape due to not having seriously played in several months, after essentially being shut down for the draft. This sort of rust could account for Turner's relative lack of game speed, as well as his at-times clumsy ball-handling, and it's also been pointed out that similarly highly-touted rookies like the Jazz's Gordon Hayward and the Nets' Derrick Favors had issues of their own throughout the week, though none quite like those of The Extraterrestrial.

The other primary (and significantly more troubling) explanation is that Turner simply doesn't have the athleticism to do at the NBA level what he was able to do with relative ease in college, and thus isn't able to be nearly the natural playmaker that he was for Ohio State. We all knew this was a worry, as no one ever claimed Turner to have the blinding speed of a John Wall or even a Sherron Collins, but I don't think we expected him to be quite this wooden, either. If he's not going to be able to get by anyone--not just blow by them, but get around them at all--at the very least he's going to have to significantly reinvent his game, a process that could take some time and brings no guarantee of success. (Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook thinks we should be worried about this, though he does allow that many circumstances were not in Turner's favor.) 

To their credit, Turner and Coach Doug Collins seem to be saying all the right things in response to the week's poor performance. "I got my butt kicked--it's the first time in a while I got my butt kicked," he admitted after the League was over. "Now, I'll go back to the laboratory and drawing board and get things
done [...] It happened to me in college. I
just have to go back and work on certain things." Collins, ever the spin-master, claimed the entire process as a positive. "I think this was the best 8 days of Evan's life," said Collins. "He understands the level now that you
have to be at competitively and in shape to play this game [...] He'll go from here, and now he's got form now until the end of September to do what's necessary."

In the end, this is only summer league, and one probably should not read too much into it. It's been pointed out on the Liberty Ballers forums that Jrue was similarly unimpressive in Summer League play last year. whereas by this year he led the entire league in scoring with his 19 a game. Similarly, I've seen it mentioned elsewhere that Warriors then-rookie Stephen Curry (who was dogged by similar speed/athleticism concerns as Turner) was sub-par in his debut as well, before going on to finish second in Rookie of the Year voting. Clearly, a poor week of games in Orlando in July is not nearly a reason to throw in the towel on our beloved rook.

I also don't think we should forget about this entirely, though, and at the very least, we should adjust our expectations accordingly. Even if Turner does end up an All-Star in this league, it might take some time (and a whole lot of practice and lineup mixing-and-matching) before he's able to really find his groove. But the good news is that one thing everyone seems to agree on as a positive with Turner is his high hoops IQ, so we can hope that he'll have the patience and mental werewithal to work with Collins and learn how best to use his skills on the court at the pro level.

This does mean that he probably won't average a 20/5/5 in his rookie season season like I might have hoped he would out of college--hell, he might not even start for the team next year. But we've still got a real player here with Turner, and he's got a long way to go before he can truly convince us otherwise. (Let's, uh, hope he doesn't test us too much on that, though.) 

Link: Sixers Rookie Turner Sees Gain from Pain of Summer League

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

Best of NHL: Ryan White scores in winning debut with Wild

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Mikael Granlund beat two defenders to find open ice and wrap the winning shot around goalie Jonathan Quick just 12 seconds into overtime, giving the Minnesota Wild a 5-4 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Granlund's 20th goal of the season gave goalie Devan Dubnyk his NHL-leading 33rd win and the Wild their 15th comeback victory. They answered all four goals in regulation by the Kings, from Nick Shore, Tanner Pearson, Jake Muzzin and Marian Gaborik.

Jason Zucker's spinning wrist shot midway through the third period tied the game for the Wild, who also had goals from Nino Niederreiter, Jordan Schroeder and Ryan White in his debut. White and Martin Hanzal were acquired in a trade with Arizona the night before (see full recap).

Kucherov's hat trick carries Lightning past Sens
TAMPA, Fla. -- Nikita Kucherov scored three power-play goals in the second period and the Tampa Bay Lightning kept their fading playoff hopes alive with a 5-1 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday night.

Kucherov had the second hat trick of his career and added an assist in the third period. Jonathan Drouin assisted all three of his goals and Victor Hedman assisted on two.

A day after trading goaltender Ben Bishop to Los Angeles and just hours after trading forward Brian Boyle to Toronto, the Lightning improved to 6-1-2 over their past nine games.

The Senators, who won at Florida on Sunday night, are 6-6 over their past 12 games (see full recap).

Galchenyuk lifts Canadiens over Devils in OT
NEWARK, N.J. -- Alex Galchenyuk scored on a power play at 2:54 of overtime and the Montreal Canadiens rallied from a two-goal third-period deficit to beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 on Monday night.

Max Pacioretty scored twice in the final 11:23 of regulation to tie the game and Alexander Radulov added a goal for the Canadiens, who won consecutive games for the first time since early January. Al Montoya had 34 saves for Montreal.

Kyle Palmieri, John Moore and Travis Zajac scored for the Devils, who have lost four straight games (0-2-2), the past two in overtime. Cory Schneider made 29 saves.

Galchenyuk beat Schneider with a shot from between the circles less than a minute after Damon Severson was penalized for hooking (see full recap).