Myles Turner
(Matt Kryger)

Player Review 2022: Myles Turner

Age: 26
Years Pro: 7
Status: Has one year remaining on contract extension signed in 2018.
Key Stats: Played in 42 games, averaging 12.9 points and 7.1 rebounds. Blocked 2.8 shots per game, which would have led NBA for third time in four seasons if he played enough games to qualify. Shot 50.9 percent from field and 33.3 percent from 3-point range.

Strangely enough, the most significant thing to happen in Myles Turner's 2021-22 season took place after he had played his last game.

The Feb. 8 trade that sent two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis was a franchise-altering move and no player should have been greater impacted by the deal than Turner. Alas, Turner had been sidelined a couple weeks prior with a stress reaction in his left foot, and he wound up not returning before the end of the season.

Before the injury, Turner was having another typical season. The seventh-year big man has been remarkably consistent over his tenure in Indiana. He has averaged between 12.1 and 13.3 points per game over the past five seasons (he averaged 12.9 in 2021-22) and between 6.4 and 7.3 rebounds over the past six campaigns (7.1 this season). He has established himself as an elite rim protector, leading the NBA in blocks per game in 2018-19 and 2020-21 (he was on pace to do so again this season, but didn't play enough games to qualify for the title).

But fans (and Turner himself) have long wondered what Turner might be if he ever ventured out on his own instead of sharing frontcourt responsibilities with Sabonis. The two formed a successful frontcourt pairing for the better part of five seasons, initially splitting time at the center position and then starting together for nearly three seasons. But there was no denying that the pairing forced each player into unconventional roles.

Because of Sabonis' low-post dominance and screen-setting prowess, Turner logged the majority of his minutes offensively as the "four," spotting up on the perimeter rather than being more involved in primary offensive actions (Sabonis, in turn, spent his time defensively chasing fours on the perimeter so Turner could stay near the paint to protect the rim).

Turner still managed to show flashes of offensive breakouts. Take the first month of this season, which saw him drop a career-high 40 points in the second game of the season, going 15-for-22 from the field and 5-for-9 from 3-point range. He scored another 25 and went 7-for-10 from beyond the arc in a win over New York on Nov. 3 and added 20 points to go along with his six blocks in a victory over Philadelphia on Nov. 13.

The 6-11 Turner reached double figures in eight straight games from Oct. 30 - Nov. 13, not to mention the 40-point eruption on Oct. 22, but also had five games over his first 18 contests in which he scored six points or less.

Myles Turner

Photo Credit: Matt Kryger

But what can Turner do as the full-time center? It's a question Pacers fans have had ever since Sabonis was traded and one they hope to see answered next season.

In a limited sample size, Turner has played well when Sabonis has been out. He averaged 15.8 points on 59 percent shooting and 10.8 rebounds in the bubble playoff series with Miami with Sabonis sidelined. Turner played in exactly one game that Sabonis did not this season — on Dec. 23 against Houston — and he dominated, tallying 32 points on 14-of-18 shooting and 10 rebounds.

In an ideal world, the Pacers would have gotten an extended look at Turner without Sabonis (and with new star point guard Tyrese Haliburton) over the final two months of the season. But there was nothing ideal about this Pacers season.

Turner missed just one of Indiana's first 43 games, but eventually an aching pain in his left foot caused him to get testing done, which determined he had a stress reaction. They caught it early, but it forced him off his feet for several weeks. He returned to the court in some capacity after the All-Star break, but eventually he and the training staff determined it would be more prudent for him to not return this season and instead let his foot heal fully heading into the summer (whether they would have made that same decision if the Pacers were in the playoff hunt is up for debate).

And so, Myles Turner as the featured center will have to wait until next season. It may be delayed, but the longest tenured player on the Pacers' roster is pumped to show what he can do.

"Anytime you trade an All-Star, it's a big deal," Turner said of the changes in the frontcourt. "I've had times where I was able to play the five and I think that that's where I thrive the most, at the five position...So I'm excited for that opportunity to be the full-time five and thankful for the opportunity that's been afforded to me, to play the full-time five and prove what I can do and what I know I'm about."

Though he just turned 26 in March, Turner is a definite veteran leader in the Indiana locker room. He's been with the organization twice as long as the next-longest-tenured Pacer (Goga Bitadze) and has been one of the more vocal players on and off the court in recent seasons. While he was sidelined for the second half of the year, he remained vocal from the sidelines, offering coaching and advice to the team's many young players, including big men Bitadze, Isaiah Jackson, and Jalen Smith, as well as Haliburton.

'I have a lot of experience," Turner said of his attitude over the final two months of the season. "I feel like I have a lot to offer on the court and off the court for these guys.

"I'm especially excited about playing with Tyrese, the way that he came in here and has automatically directly just made an impact on our organization, on our fans, and on the guys around him. I think he just makes everybody better. I'm really looking forward to getting back out there and playing with this group."

Turner is entering the final year of his contract this summer, though he is eligible to sign an extension if there's mutual interest between himself and the organization. Whether that comes to pass or not, next season figures to be a pivotal one in his career.

Never one to shy away from bold proclamations in either his soundbites or his outfits, Turner offered a warning of sorts to the rest of the league in his end-of-season media availability.

"When you get injured and you kind of fall off in a sense or you don't play, people forget very easily," Turner said. "I'm very confident and very excited about my position going forward because I'm going to remind everybody what I'm about."

2022 Player Review Schedule

April 18: Tyrese Haliburton
April 19: Buddy Hield
April 20: Chris Duarte
April 21: Isaiah Jackson
April 22: Oshae Brissett
April 23: Malcolm Brogdon
April 24: Goga Bitadze
April 25: Myles Turner
April 26: Duane Washington Jr.
April 27: T.J. McConnell
April 28: Jalen Smith
April 29: Lance Stephenson
April 30: Terry Taylor