Myles Turner 2016 Season Review

Pacers rookie Myles Turner reflects on his first season in the NBA.

Myles Turner 2016 Review Playlist

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Myles Turner 2016 Season Review

Pacers rookie Myles Turner reflects on his first season in the NBA.
May 27, 2016  |  03:26

Myles Turner 2015-16 Season Highlights

Take a look back at some of the top plays from Myles Turner's spectacular 2015-16 rookie season.
May 19, 2016  |  02:29

Player Review 2016: Myles Turner

by Mark Montieth Writer

Age: 20
Years pro: 1
Status: Has another year remaining on his rookie contract, then two more seasons with a team option.
Key stats: Started 30 of the 60 games in which he played. Averaged 10.3 points in less than 23 minutes per game, shooting 50 percent from the field. Also averaged 10.3 points in the playoffs, along with 3.3 blocked shots.

Fill in the blank: Myles Turner was the best rookie the Pacers have had since …

It's a tough one to answer because there are variables such as playing time, the number of scoring opportunities afforded by the team's talent level and roster makeup, and non-scoring contributions. But this much is certain: Turner, the 11th pick in last year's draft, is one of the better rookies the franchise has had in at least 25 years, and perhaps the most promising.

The 20-year-old averaged 10.3 points on 50 percent shooting and 5.5 rebounds while playing less than 23 minutes per game in his first trip around the NBA. He missed 21 games because of injury and started only 30, but still had one of the most intriguing seasons a Pacer rookie has had.

If you go strictly by scoring, no franchise rookie has done as well since Rik Smits, who averaged 11.7 points in the 1988-89 season. Smits played a couple of more minutes per game than Turner, and had a slightly bigger role in the offense.

GALLERY: Myles Turner's Season in Photos »

Turner, it could be argued, was more impressive than Reggie Miller, who averaged 10 points off the bench as a rookie, and certainly accomplished more than the likes of Jonathan Bender, Jamaal Tinsley, Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George.

Where he goes from here will be fascinating to watch. Did we mention he's only 20 years old?

Turner pulled off the rare feat of averaging more points as an NBA rookie than in his final year of college basketball (10.1), which for him was his freshman season at Texas. Pacers fans who followed his rookie season would find it hard to believe he scored just two points in his only NCAA tournament game, a loss to Butler in which he played off the bench.

PLAYER REVIEWS: Read More Season Recaps »

He showed his potential in a memorable pre-draft workout on the Bankers Life Fieldhouse practice court, outplaying four-year collegian and national Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky, who was drafted ninth by Charlotte. He opened eyes in Summer League play by averaging 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks in 29 minutes per game. Then he caused some serious commotion in the regular season.

Turner rode waves, floating from backup to the injured list to backup to starter to backup and back to starter again at the end of the season. He had six games of 20 or more points, seven games of 10 or more rebounds, and became the first Pacer rookie to score 30 or more points since Tinsley in 2002. (Miller, by the way, scored an appropriate 31 in his 78th game as a rookie.)

Turner, though, had plenty of moments when he looked like a rookie. Plenty of moments when he looked like a teenager, too, which he was until Feb. 24.

Turner showed promise off the bench at the start of the season, reaching 10 points a couple of times after sitting out the opener by coach's decision. A fractured left thumb in his eighth game at Boston on Nov. 11, however, forced him to sit out the next 21 games.

He averaged 5.8 points and 12.3 minutes over the first 10 games upon his return, and then came the breakthrough. He opened a four-game road trip in Denver on Jan. 17 with 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting. He followed two nights later at Phoenix with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Three nights later, at Golden State, he scored 31 against the defending champions while hitting 12-of-17 shots. He finished the trip the following night in Sacramento with 11 points.

DRAFT CENTRAL: The Latest Pacers News On The 2016 Draft »

The next game was back at Bankers Life against the Clippers, and he put on a show for the hometown fans, too, with 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting. With the public clamor for starting Turner becoming impossible to ignore, coach Frank Vogel moved him into the starting lineup, slipping the news four minutes into his pre-game talk with the media before the game against Atlanta on Jan. 28. It wasn't as obvious as it might have seemed, as Lavoy Allen was excelling in the plus-minus categories, but Turner was playing too well not to give him a test run.

He scored 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting in a 19-point victory over the Hawks, as the Pacers broke a three-game losing streak with their most uplifting victory of the season to date. By that point Turner was looking like the Pacers' all-time draft steal, a 19-year-old with an NBA body who could rebound, block shots, run the floor and was perhaps the team's best mid-range shooter.

He went on to average 14.3 points on 51 percent shooting in his first 13 games as a starter, and was named Rookie of the Month for February. That stretch included a game of 16 points and six blocked shots in an upset victory at Oklahoma City in the first game after the All-Star break, one in which he picked a pass of his ankles and hit a crucial late-game 3-pointer from the right corner.

He began sputtering in March, but gathered himself for a standout performance on his birthday on the 24th with 24 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks in a win over New Orleans. He followed that, however, with four subpar games in which he combined to hit 8-of-31 shots.

"He's going through the rookie phase," Paul George said then. "He's going to have good nights and bad nights. You just want him to keep learning. Keep sticking him in there, let him find his way, keep helping him, keep being a mentor to him."

The last of his subpar games came in a 20-point loss to Orlando, the second in a row at Bankers Life during a time the Pacers were fighting for a spot in the playoffs. Vogel promised changes afterward.

"We're still in position to make some subtle moves, or big moves, to right the ship, and that's what I intend to do," he said after the game.

The ship-righting move turned out to be returning Turner to the bench and starting Allen again. It worked, although a soft schedule helped, as the Pacers won six of their seven games in April to earn the seventh seed. Vogel's intent was to bring more balance to the starting lineup and more pace to the second unit, a self-contained group that could utilize the small-ball strategy that began the season. Turner had a 28-point, 10-rebound outing against Brooklyn, and was back on track heading into the playoffs.

He was back in the starting lineup after the Pacers fell behind 2-1 to Toronto and Allen had failed to contribute much of anything positive. He started the final four games and averaged 10.3 points on 46 percent shooting overall in the series, along with 6.4 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.

New coach Nate McMillan and team president Larry Bird believe Turner's best future is at center in an uptempo offense. His perimeter shooting fell off after he became a starter as he appeared to rush shots more often, but it always will be a strength. He'll be knocking down jumpers when he's 50 years old, playing slow-motion pickup games at the Y.

The true test for him will be whether or not he can develop a post-up game. He struggled to score around the basket as a rookie, and appeared to lack go-to weapons. His personal coach in Texas, Ken "Slim" Roberson, insists he has them.

"There's a lot of things we worked on over the years we haven't even implemented," Roberson said during the season. "As you see him get more and more comfortable as games go on, you'll see him do some back-down stuff – jump hooks over both shoulders, up-and-under-moves, you'll see a whole lot of things. The more comfortable he gets, the more of his arsenal he'll display."

Next year would be a good time to begin putting those wares on display. Turner won't be bouncing back and forth between the bench and starting lineup any longer, he'll be a focal point of the offense. The expectations are high, as are his ambition, work ethic and maturity.

He had one of the best rookie seasons in Pacers history. Now the challenge is to have one of the best careers.

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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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