Former Longhorn Myles Turner is now only days away from beginning his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers during the Orlando Summer League, which kicks off July 4, and Pacers fans are surely excited to see what they’ve gotten with their 11th overall pick.
During his lone season at Texas, Turner displayed on numerous occasions the tremendous potential he had, from his ability to stretch the floor, dominate on the boards and defend the rim better than anyone else in the entire Big 12 with 2.6 rejections per game. But just as often as Turner gave us glimpses of how special he can be on both ends of the court were instances of discomfort with the system he played in under Rick Barnes, lapses in confidence and an overall apparent rawness to his game, especially on the offensive end.
Turner’s athleticism and unorthodox running style were both causes for concern, but issues he’s actively addressing and making progress towards, and he’ll need to in order to survive at the highest level of basketball in the world.
Once the Pacers took a gamble on the high-upside big man from Texas, I looked over their current roster situation and where Turner may fit in from day one as a big man that can certainly contribute on both ends of the floor, while still needing some time and development before he’ll become a true force.
Of the six active big bodies on the Pacers roster, five are free agents heading into this offseason. Starting power forward David West already opted out of his contract and reports suggest he’ll head to New York to join the Knicks. West’s backups Luis Scola and Lavoy Allen are both unrestricted free agents, as well. The mammoth man in the middle, Roy Hibbert, opted in to the final year of his contract, but reports surfaced that the Pacers would look to move Hibbert and his $15.5 million contract. The only lock for next year’s roster down low, outside of Turner, appears to be Ian Mahinmi, who doesn’t become a free agent until next year.
Although unlikely, it is possible that Indiana returns only one of six post presences on their current roster. Depending on who returns and who heads elsewhere, there could be an opportunity for Turner to jump into a some significant minutes right out of the gates, and potentially even start before too long.
But by no means am I an expert on the Pacers, their coaching scheme and how they develop and integrate young players into their system, so I reached out to someone that is. In an email exchange with Shane Young, an Indiana Pacers columnist for Hoops Habit and 8points9seconds, I asked how Turner could fit into the Pacers current roster and when he may be able to compete for a starting role, as well as how Turner’s opportunities may adjust if Indiana shifts towards the small ball formula with Paul George running some stretch-four.
Turner will fit right into the starting core if both West and Hibbert are gone, simply because the amount of options for Indiana is quite low. Plus, if you think about it, the best way to groom a new player and actually get results out of a young guy is to actually give him minutes. As you could tell from Turner's freshman season at Texas, the kid struggled with his confidence level and could rarely get into a stretch of great, consecutive games. Rick Barnes wasn't the best coach for him, but Frank Vogel surely is.
Vogel understands that big men who are hindered by their slow speed -- like Hibbert and Turner -- make it hard to love them right away. That's why he encouraged Hibbert to grow into a defensive mammoth, and I think he'll try to get the same type of mentality out of Turner. I was never a huge fan of Mahinmi, but he was just as good as Hibbert on defense -- people just never knew about it. Therefore, I think Turner will learn a lot of the same tricks and techniques that Mahinmi, Hibbert, and Vogel will try to ingrain in his head.
If the Pacers are still in the same mindset of playing smaller next year, it could help Turner in some cases. If he does come out and shock a lot of people with tremendous play, I could be very intrigued with lineups such as George Hill, C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey, Paul George, and then Myles Turner. Just to experiment, since you would have three terrific defenders (Hill, George, Stuckey) and then quite a bit of floor spacing, too.
Turner shot 3.3 shots from long-range per 40 minutes at Texas, so it's not like he always stepped out and made a difference. But, that's one thing Vogel needs to quit being stubborn with, and try to allow. For years, I said that David West should actually step out and extend his range to help the Pacers' offense. He never did, mainly because that's not the way Vogel liked to play. If Turner has the shot (I believe he's a decent shooter but not consistent), he has to be given a few attempts just to prove what he can do.
I hope Turner doesn't get demoralized offensively like Hibbert eventually did. But, this kid seems too valuable to let that happen. He already has more confidence than Roy ever did.
At Texas, Barnes struggled in getting his team to have good floor spacing, ball movement and ultimately, getting the ball into the hands on the best players consistently. As a result, among other things, Turner was never able to contribute consistently and become the imposing college star many expected him to be entering Austin. There’s no question that talent to do that in the NBA is there with some work on his mechanics, consistency and fluidity. Whether he’s able to do that with the Pacers remains to be seen, but it seems Turner walked into an ideal situation where he should see considerable minutes – and likely at both paint positions – even from the very early stages of his rookie season.