Turner Turning Heads with Defensive Prowess

Dec. 30, 2020 - Pacers center Myles Turner and Nate Bjorkgren discuss Turner's strong start to the season on the defensive end, where he has blocked four shots over the first four games.

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Turner Turning Heads with Defensive Prowess

Dec. 30, 2020 - Pacers center Myles Turner and Nate Bjorkgren discuss Turner's strong start to the season on the defensive end, where he has blocked four shots over the first four games.
Dec 30, 2020  |  02:50

Myles Turner with 8 Blocks vs. New York Knicks

Myles Turner with 8 Blocks vs. New York Knicks, 12/23/2020
Dec 23, 2020  |  00:01

Postgame: Pacers Locker Room – Dec. 29, 2020

Dec. 29, 2020 – Nate Bjorkgren, Victor Oladipo, Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon speak with the media following Indiana’s 116-111 loss to the Boston Celtics at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Dec 29, 2020  |  02:54

Turner Blocks Then Dunks

December 29, 2020: Myles Turner with the block and dunk.
Dec 29, 2020  |  00:10

Big Rejection by Turner

December 27, 2020: Myles Turner sends one back.
Dec 27, 2020  |  00:13

Turner Throws It Down

December 27, 2020: Myles Turner takes it to the rim and throws it down.
Dec 27, 2020  |  00:09

Turner Blocks It

December 26, 2020: Myles Turner blocks his second shot of the game.
Dec 26, 2020  |  00:11

Turner Putting League On Notice with Strong Start

by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

Myles Turner's track record speaks for itself. Through his first five NBA seasons, the Pacers center has clearly established himself as one of the league's top shot-blockers.

Turner has finished in the top four in the NBA in blocks in each of the past four seasons and led the league in 2018-19, when he swatted 2.7 shots per game.

Yet Turner has never been named to one of the league's two All-Defensive teams and has only received votes for Defensive Player of the Year once, in 2018-19, when he finished fifth but did not receive a first-place vote.

Ask Turner and he doesn't shy away from the topic. He's been outspoken about feeling slighted in past seasons and he entered this season with a clear goal of finally earning the league-wide respect he feels he deserves.

"I've already proven that you can lead the league in blocks and not make the All-Defensive team and not be Defensive Player of the Year," Turner said. "So it's time to do more and assert myself more on that end.

"It's definitely been a goal for myself to start the year strong on the defensive end and continue to assert myself on that end and let the league know, put them on notice. I'm locked in on that end of the floor."

Putting the league on notice might be putting it mildly. Turner has racked up 20 blocks over Indiana's first four games. He matched his career high with eight blocks in a season-opening win over New York, has swatted at least three shots in every game, and is averaging a full two blocks per game more than any other player in the NBA.

It's admittedly very early, but as of Wednesday morning, Turner had more blocks by himself than 17 of the other 29 NBA teams (it was 19 on Monday, as referenced in the Tweet below).

It's probably too soon to launch a formal campaign for Turner, but his teammates have been advocating for the big man even before the season began. Malcolm Brogdon referred to Turner on multiple occasions during the preseason as "the best shot-blocker in the NBA."

"Myles to me doesn't get enough credit," T.J. McConnell said last week. "I mean, he had eight blocks (in the season opener). That's absolutely ridiculous."

Turner's shot-blocking is crucial to Indiana's overall success. He is the anchor of Indiana's defense and a pivotal part of what, on paper, is one of the NBA's best starting lineups.

Injuries limited the five-man unit of Turner, Domantas Sabonis, T.J. Warren, Victor Oladipo, and Brogdon to just 86 total minutes last season. But everyone in that group is healthy to open this season and they have already logged 43 minutes together over their first three games (Oladipo sat out one game on the second night of a back-to-back for injury management on his surgically repaired knee).

The Pacers' starting lineup has an absurd +26.6 net rating so far this season, meaning they are outscoring opponents by 26.6 points per 100 possessions when on the floor together. Offensively, they are averaging 119.4 points per 100 possessions. Defensively, they are limiting opponents to just 92.7 points per 100 possessions, buoyed significantly by Turner's defensive prowess.

"People around the league know what I bring on the defensive end of the floor as far as rim protection," Turner said. "I don't think the league knows how much more there is to my defensive prowess. I think there's a lot more that I have to offer (than) just rim protection.

"I feel like I patrol the paint, I'm able to step out and guard quicker guys whenever I need to switch, I feel like my pick-and-roll defense has improved year in and year out. There's a lot of aspects to my defense that needs more respect."

Not only has Turner drawn rave reviews from his defense, he has also earned plenty of praise from new Pacers head coach Nate Bjorkgren. The first-time head coach was familiar with Turner's abilities as a rim protector from his time coaching against him while an assistant in both Toronto and Phoenix. But Bjorkgren said that Turner has exceeded his expectations since he took over the reins in Indiana.

"He's even better than I thought," Bjorkgren said. "He's versatile out there. He can defend more than one position, he can switch onto guys. I like his rim protection. On offense, he's doing great on the weak side with spacing, he's diving when he's supposed to, he's cutting when he's supposed to, he's shooting the three when he's supposed to, and he can handle out there on the perimeter a little bit."

While Turner is known for his defense, he also has found a way to contribute offensively even with limited touches and a slow start shooting the ball.

Though Turner has proven himself to be a capable scorer, especially from 3-point range, he is admittedly the fifth scoring option on Indiana's loaded starting lineup. Oladipo is a two-time All-Star, Sabonis was an All-Star last season, Brogdon nearly made the All-Star team, and Warren was Indiana's leading scorer and an All-Seeding Games first team selection during the NBA's season restart.

Still, Turner scored in double figures in three of Indiana's first four games. Though he started the year just 1-for-12 from 3-point range, Turner went 3-for-6 from beyond the arc in Tuesday's game against Boston while scoring a season-high 16 points.

"I put a lot of extra work in on my shot after the last game, the past couple of days," Turner said Tuesday night. "I know I'm a great shooter. I think it's just shaking off the rust right now. My teammates, my coach, everybody's giving me the green light to go out there and shoot it. They're going to have to fall eventually. I work too hard on it for them not to."

Bjorkgren has also started to experiment with his rotations, playing Turner more with Indiana's second unit. The Pacers had great success a year ago playing Sabonis with the quartet or McConnell, Doug McDermott, and Justin and Aaron Holiday. Bjorkgren has also utilized that lineup but has also swapped Turner for Sabonis on occasion to great success.

Turner has logged 15 minutes so far with the second unit and that five-man lineup has posted an eye-popping +45 net rating, averaging 125 points per 100 possessions while limiting opponents to just 80 points per 100 possessions on the other end.

That grouping should allow Turner to spend more time in a featured role offensively, while also bringing a different element to the second unit.

"He affects the game in so many ways," McConnell said. "Rim protection, his ability to step out and shoot the three, then put it on the floor and finish at the rim. He brings a completely different dynamic than Domas that I think can mess with teams and I think we'll obviously use that to our advantage."

Turner has certainly put the NBA on notice through the first week of the season. But he's hopeful that this is just a taste of what's to come.

"I have lofty goals for this year and that all starts on the defensive end," Turner said. "It's definitely felt good to come out here and establish myself on that end of the floor, but the work's not done. We have a long way to go."

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