Player Review 2021: Myles Turner

Age: 25
Years Pro: 6
Status: Signed through the 2022-23 season.
Key Stats: Started 47 games, averaging 12.6 points and 6.5 rebounds. Led the NBA in blocks per game for the second time in his career, swatting a career-best 3.4 shots per contest.

Though injuries ultimately cut his season short, Myles Turner put together arguably the best season of his six-year career in 2020-21. Already one of the NBA's best rim protectors, Turner took his shotblocking to another level and was one of the frontrunners for Defensive Player of the Year before foot injuries derailed his campaign.

All told, Turner started 47 of 72 games last season, averaging 12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, and a league-leading 3.4 blocks per game. The big man shot 47.7 percent from the field and 33.5 percent from 3-point range.

Offensively, Turner's numbers were pretty similar to his 2019-20 averages (12.1 points and 6.6 rebounds with a .457 field goal percentage and .344 3-point percentage), but he seemed more comfortable with his role his season. Last year was Turner's first starting alongside Domantas Sabonis and it took time for him to adapt to being deployed out on the perimeter more as Sabonis was involved in more post-ups and pick-and-roll actions.

This season, Turner had a better feel for his role as a floor-spacing big. He even had more freedom to do things he didn't in the past, like putting the ball on the floor and looking to drive and playmake from the wing. Turner proved more than capable of doing that on occasion, showing a penchant for using his long frame to get to the rim and finish off the bounce.

While Turner finished the season sixth on the team in scoring, he still was a valuable offensive weapon. The 6-11 center reached double figures in 32 of his 47 games, topped 20 points seven times, and was second on the team with seven double-doubles.

But defense remains Turner's bread and butter. Turner set the tone in the season opener against New York on Dec. 23, when he matched his career high with eight blocked shots. He never really let up, blocking a shot in his first 46 games this season (and 64 games overall, the longest streak in the NBA since Josh Smith in 2006-07). He blocked three or more shots in 31 games and swatted at least five shots on 12 occasions.

Turner led the NBA in blocks per game throughout the 2020-21 season. Though he also led the league in 2018-19, when he blocked 2.7 shots per game, he significantly surpassed that average this season, swatting 3.4 shots per contest. Only two-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert (2.7 blocks per game) was within even one full block of Turner's average.

Just how impressive was Turner's shotblocking? He is only the third player since 2008 to block at least three shots per game in a full season, joining Serge Ibaka and Hassan Whiteside in that exclusive club.

Myles Turner, Jayson Tatum

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

But Turner's defensive impact goes beyond just his shotblocking. He contested the most shots at the rim of any player in the league (10.3 per game) and limited opponents to just 48.7 percent shooting in those attempts. Of players who contested at least five shots within six feet per game, only Gobert (48 percent) held opponents to a lower percentage.

Though traditionally one of the best defensive teams in the league, the Pacers struggled at times defensively last season. Turner was the glue holding the defense together, keeping the team afloat with his ability to protect the rim.

On the year, Pacers opponents scored 110.4 points per game when Turner was on the floor. That number jumped all the way up to 115 with Turner on the sidelines. The Pacers' defense dropped off significantly when Turner got hurt late in the season, as opponents topped 120 points in 12 of the 22 games Turner missed over the final six weeks of the season.

Turner was healthy for most of the year, appearing in 46 of the team's first 49 games. But he sprained his left ankle in an April 6 loss to Chicago, an injury that sidelined him for six games. He returned on April 18 in Atlanta, when he tallied nine points and 11 rebounds in 34 minutes (but notably, did not block a shot for the only time on the season). But he experienced pain in his right great toe following the contest and a subsequent MRI revealed a partial tear of his plantar plate in his toe.

That injury ultimately ended Turner's season, keeping him out of the final 16 regular season contests as well as the Play-In Tournament. In exit interviews, Turner told the media he was still probably a few weeks away from being cleared to return to the court. The injury did not require surgery, but takes typically six to eight weeks to heal fully and Turner had been out a little over a month when the Pacers' season ended.

The Pacers had reached the playoffs in each of Turner's first five seasons in Indiana. They failed to do that last season, in part because Turner was unable to suit up in the final month. Turner admitted it was frustrating to not be able to compete in the postseason and said he hoped "to remember this taste in your mouth" for fuel as he heads into the offseason.

Still just 25 years old, Turner is nonetheless a seasoned veteran at this point. He has taken on a more vocal role in recent seasons. Not only is he the anchor of the team's defense, he is also one of the leading voices in Indiana's locker room.

While much has been written about the pairing of Turner and Sabonis in the frontcourt, both players have embraced playing alongside each other. Injuries have prevented the Pacers from deploying their complete starting five for significant stretches over the past two seasons. But Turner, for one, believes that if the Pacers can stay healthy, they can get back into the postseason and make some serious noise next year.

"Most definitely I believe in this group," Turner said in exit interviews. "I don't even think that that should be a question. I just don't think that we've had enough of an opportunity to play with each other. I think that when we've had our opportunities, we've looked like a pretty good team."