2016 Awards Series Sixth Man of the Year: Evan Turner
It’s awards season at Celtics.com! We’re handing out six awards over the next few weeks as we roll through this year’s Celtics.com Awards Series. We may not have trophies or acceptance speeches, but we do have some top-flight Celtics performances to outline. Here we go...
BOSTON – There’s typically a noticeable drop-off in play from an NBA team’s starting unit to its second unit. That was hardly the case for the Boston Celtics, however, as they possessed the highest-scoring bench in the Eastern Conference, largely thanks to the play of glue guy Evan Turner.
C’s coach Brad Stevens often referred to Turner as the team’s “jack-of-all-trades,” and rightfully so. The sixth-year swingman served as the second unit’s primary scorer, rebounder and facilitator. He averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, making him the only player in the league to post such numbers while playing fewer than 30 minutes per contest.
Turner dazzled with his ball handling, was deadly from the midrange, and provided clutch scoring down the stretch, time and time again. He was also extremely durable, missing just one game all season – his first absence due to injury since the 2011-12 campaign.
For all that Turner offered, he deservedly earned the title as Boston’s Sixth Man of the Year for the 2015-16 season.
After starting 57 games for the Celtics during his first season with the team, Turner took on what appeared to be a diminished role by transitioning to the bench. The 27-year-old veteran made just a dozen spot starts, but he did not utter a complaint, embracing the change with an open mind.
Despite the role change, Turner’s playing time actually increased slightly from 27.6 minutes per game to 28.0 minutes per game. He showed great improvements with his shooting, posting career highs in field goal percentage (45.6 percent) and free throw percentage (82.7 percent).
Turner also proved that he could adjust to his weaknesses mid-season. His biggest struggle throughout the first half of the campaign was 3-point shooting – he shot just 14.5 percent (9-for-62) before the All-Star break, which was the worst percentage in the NBA among players who had attempted at least 50 3-pointers.
ET completely flipped that switch after the break, hitting 52.4 percent (11-for-21) of his treys over his final 26 games of the season – the third best post-All-Star mark in the league among players who attempted at least 20.
It wasn’t just Turner’s scoring that helped Boston, however; he proved to be reliable on the glass and as a ball handler. In fact, he was the only player in the league to notch at least 350 rebounds and 350 assists while committing fewer than 170 turnovers.
Turner also finished in the top 10 in a number of key categories among NBA reserves. According to Basketball-Reference.com, among players who played in at least 65 games while starting fewer than 15, he finished first in assists (347), fifth in steals (80), eighth in rebounds (397) and 10th in points (854).
With all of that being noted, it wasn’t surprising that Turner was one of the top vote-getters in this season’s NBA Sixth Man of the Year polling. He finished fifth behind winner Jamal Crawford, Andre Iguodala, Enes Kanter and Will Barton.
In Boston, though, he was the unrivaled choice for the award, as his jack-of-all-trades persona perfectly exemplified the sixth man role.