Can Turner Fill Void Left By Iguodala?
In baseball, the most attractive prospects are those that possess the “five tools” of the sport – the ability to hit for average, the ability to hit for power, elite footspeed, a strong arm, and first-class fielding instincts.
Categorizing the minutiae of the game of basketball, we can compile the wide array of on-court skills into four primary “tools” – scoring, rebounding, passing, and defending. Like in baseball, players who possess all the fundamental skills of the game are few and far between.
For the past two seasons, the Sixers, though, had the curious problem of having two of these rare factotums on their roster.
The similarities between those two players – Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner – are unmistakable. The two Chicago-native swingmen are separated physically by a mere two pounds and one inch, but their similitude on the court is far more impressive.
In terms of offensive style, the two are nearly indistinguishable. Brimming with athletic potential and possessing superior basketball IQs, both spent their entire amateur basketball careers serving as primary ball-handlers for their respective teams. Those years of running the show for high-powered prep and college offenses allowed them to cultivate the diverse offensive games they carry with them to this day.
When the two became teammates in Philadelphia in the summer of 2010, though, it quickly became clear that their individual performances were limited, to an extent, by the redundancy of their skill sets. Both appeared to be most comfortable functioning as primary ball-handler and distributor on the court, but with only so many touches to go around, it became difficult for both to fully thrive while on the floor with one another.
Turner, the newcomer, took the brunt of the hit. He surrendered a hefty chunk of minutes in each of his first two seasons with Philly to sharpshooting guard Jodie Meeks, whose playing style better complimented Iguodala and the other three players in the starting lineup.
The Ohio State-alum averaged 24.5 minutes per NBA game through two seasons; Andre Iguodala, by comparison, logged an average of 35.2 per game in his own rookie and sophomore seasons, despite the fact that the two players had a similar per-minute statistical impact (albeit with greater shooting efficiency from Iguodala than from Turner).
Iguodala, the ninth-overall selection in the 2004 draft, averaged 10.9 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per 36 minutes in his first two seasons. Turner, selected second overall in 2010, paced Iguodala, with 12.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per 36 in his two NBA seasons.
By the end of last season, Turner’s performance on the court had earned him an expanded role. In the 2012 postseason, he logged the third-most minutes on the team – 34.5 per game – and averaged 11.2 points while leading the team in rebounding with an incredible 7.5 per contest from the wing.
Two and a half months later, the Sixers consummated a blockbuster four-team deal on that brought All-Star center Andrew Bynum to Philly and sent Andre Iguodala to Denver; the ambiguity of Evan Turner’s role was immediately dropped.
“In the past, Evan (wasn’t able to play) that many minutes for us, but he’s gotten better in each of his two seasons,” said president of basketball operations Rod Thorn Tuesday. “(This upcoming season), he’s going to get a chance to really show what he can do. He’s really ready to break out this year and be a big part of our team. We’re all expecting big things out of him.”
While Iguodala’s departure will almost certainly result in a more expansive role on the offensive end for Turner, the eight-year veteran’s departure could have an even greater impact upon the 6-7 swingman’s role on the other side of the ball.
Superseding Iguodala’s impact as a playmaker on the offensive end has always been his eagerness and ability to guard the opposing team’s top offensive weapon on a nightly basis. His departure creates a defensive void that head coach Doug Collins must fill by opening night – just over two months away. Evan Turner, a fierce competitor, and no defensive slouch, sees himself stepping into that role immediately.
“I think (I can fill that void),” he said with insouciant poise. “I’ve been blessed with the natural abilities to (play great defense), so those are the types of challenges I want.”
The challenge of serving as primary perimeter defender is not an entirely new one for Turner, who has often served in that role when Iguodala has been off the floor. In a March 25 game against the San Antonio Spurs last season, which the eight-year veteran missed due to left patella tendinitis, Turner was given the assignment of guarding two-time All-Star Manu Ginobili. The results were promising. Ginobili scored just seven points with Turner on the floor, going 3-for-9 from the floor and failing to make a single shot outside the paint.
Now, the third-year man must prove he can have a similar impact on a nightly basis.
He’ll get his first opportunity to do just that on opening night, October 31, when Andre Iguodala returns to Wells Fargo Center as a member of the Denver Nuggets. And with the four games after that featuring a couple of meetings with Carmelo Anthony, one with Paul Pierce, and another with Eric Gordon, Turner will have a lot of proving to do early on.
Posted: 12:14 PM, August 22, 2012