When Myles Turner was coming out of high school, many had him projected to be an excellent college player that would eventually turn into a very high NBA draft pick. A five-star recruit by every reputable scouting service in the land, Turner decided to take his talents to play under Rick Barnes at Texas. Then a ho-hum freshman season unfolded, which made many change their minds on how well (or poorly) Turner would perform as a NBA player.
Using hindsight, it wasn’t that Turner had a horrible freshman season. It was simply that he didn’t live up to our expectations — and hell hath no scorn like not living up to the hype built by others.
In fact, while Turner was a top-five “lock” heading into his freshman year, by the time he was declaring himself early for the draft, Turner’s stock dropped so much that he ended up being the 11th overall pick. That’s not a horrible spot to be selected, but it simply shows how much less people thought of him from one year to another.
Count me in as one of the many puzzled — cough — experts. I had pretty much given up on Turner as pro by the time the Indiana Pacers selected him. Even with knowing that players under Rick Barnes have historically done better after they removed him from the equation, there was little reason to believe Myles Turner would be an impact player.
Well, at the very least, there was little reason to expect Turner to be a valuable player this early in his NBA career.
When the Pacers dumped the remnants of Roy Hibbert, making room for more minutes for Turner, it simply didn’t make sense. Not to a logical person. Not if Indiana wanted to be competent this season with a returning Paul George. How in the world did Larry Bird and company think that a 19-year-old could seriously help fill the void left by Hibbert without a massive drop-off in production?
The sample size is incredibly small. Two games (he didn’t play in the opener at Toronto on Wednesday) isn’t exactly enough proof to declare the Pacers as geniuses or state that Myles Turner is going to be a superhero. However, it seems Turner has logged enough minutes to justify the idea that he’s not a horrible NBA player.
Through two games, Turner is averaging a shade over 20 minutes per night. On top of that, he has been rather productive when on the floor, with 9 points, 4 boards, and 1 block per outing. Again, not “world-beater” types of numbers, but Turner is genuinely a kid — at least to the point that he can’t legally drink alcohol.
He regularly showcases his athleticism during games, but Turner’s performance is noteworthy for a more specific detail: He looks like he belongs — that’s what raises eyebrows. Not only were there questions about Turner’s ability to be a good player, 6-11 projects-as-centers usually take time to become players of consequence in the league. It seems as though the learning curve for Turner is much less steep than it should be… which is a testament to him (and not great for Rick Barnes, by the way).
The downside of all of this is that the Pacers have yet to win a game. If we were to be realistic about the team as a whole — especially if it is relying upon Turner as an every-night impact player — the Pacers are probably far removed from being an Eastern Conference Finals contender. That said, the case for optimism is there.
It isn’t exactly breaking ground to say that Myles Turner appears to be better than awful. I’m still acknowledging that I’m trying to hedge my bets before declaring him as a future All-Star. Regardless, some elements of his game are as appealing as Kate Upton. Many such elements can’t be measured by stats, even though they look promising. Moreover, they won’t really make fans throw their arms in the air in ecstasy and scream about Myles Turner being all that and a bag of chips.
Cautiously, however, there is real reason for Pacers fans to hope that they found their next “star.” First it was Danny Granger, then Paul George (still… maybe?), and another replacement might already be on their roster. These are not luxuries teams have, even if the luxury is only the possibility of such a thing being true.
The season is young. The sample size is small. However, Turner’s game so far has been eye-opening in the best of ways. The hype train will pick up steam as the season continues — especially if he continues to play this way. Now, only imagine how nuts it would be — and how the bet-hedgers would vanish — if Indiana ends up being a solid-to-good team in the East?
Will Myles Turner be a future All-Star? It is way too early to tell. Still, the absence of pessimism is an early sign that he and the Pacers are headed in the right direction. Hope, in the absence of winning, is a beautiful thing. Indiana has at least that for now.