March 3, 2016 - Pacers forward Myles Turner was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Thursday. Take a look back at some highlights of Turner's stellar play in the month of February.
Turner Making Up For Lost Time
Rookie of Month Award the First of Many Potential Honors for Pacers' Promising Phenom
Myles Turner's rookie season took a little longer than expected to get going, but once it did, it didn't take long for the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft to establish himself as one of the very best players in an excellent rookie class.
Not only that, the 6-foot-11 forward is putting together one of the best rookie seasons ever by a player in a Pacers uniform.
Turner, who doesn't turn 20 for another three weeks, was officially named the NBA's Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month on Wednesday for his stellar play in February. He is only the fourth player in franchise history to earn Rookie of the Month honors, and the first since Jamaal Tinsley won the award twice during the 2001-02 season (Chuck Person also won it twice in 1986-87 and Clark Kellogg took home the hardware in December 1982).
PHOTO GALLERY: Go Game-by-Game Through Turner's Stellar February »
His rookie campaign got off to an inauspicious start when he suffered a chip fracture in his thumb on Nov. 11 in Boston, just one minute into his eighth game of the season. He missed exactly seven weeks before finally returning to the court on Dec. 30 in Chicago and hasn't looked back since.
His breakout can be traced to a four-game West Coast road trip in mid-January that saw him score 25 points against the Nuggets and then drop a career-high 31 on 12-of-17 shooting in a nationally-televised game against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.
But it was during the month of February that Turner truly proved that he belongs — not just that he can play in the NBA, but that he deserves mention in the conversation about the best young big men in the entire league.
Fittingly, the month began with the play that defines Turner's young career, his block of LeBron James' dunk attempt in the closing minutes of a Feb. 1 game against the Cavs (just his third career start) that sent a sellout crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse into hysterics.
Of course, there are still growing pains for the 19-year-old. In that same game against the Cavaliers, Turner forgot the play call at the end of regulation, a bad blunder in a game Indiana eventually dropped in overtime.
But for every one of Turner's rookie mistakes, there are countless other examples of plays where he has looked mature beyond his years. Even less than 40 games into his career, the rookie doesn't seem to shy away from big moments.
Take, for instance, his performance in arguably the Pacers' best win of the season, a 101-98 victory over the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Feb. 19. Turner scored 16 points on 7-for-12 shooting in the game and made his presence felt on the interior, swatting a career-best six shots.
But Turner also made another early career-defining play in the final minutes, spotting up in the right corner and knocking down his first career 3-pointer to tie the game at 95 with 55.4 seconds to play, a pivotal play in the Blue & Gold's late rally.
Turner's scoring has gone up every month, from 5.2 points per game in six contests in November all the way up to 13.4 points per contest in 13 starts in February. But what makes Turner's quick ascent all the more impressive is that he leaves the impression that he still has so much room to grow.
His clutch three against the Thunder notwithstanding, Turner has yet to fully extend his sweet shooting stroke out beyond the arc. On the defensive end, he has shown promise with his shot-blocking but is still learning the nuances of various coverages and assignments.
This year's rookie class is one of the best in recent memory, headlined by the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis (the only two players to take home Rookie of the Month honors until Turner broke their stranglehold this month). Despite missing a month and a half due to injury and not starting a game until Jan. 28, Turner still ranks third among rookies in blocks per game and sixth in both scoring average and field goal percentage.
Turner's current scoring average of 10.7 points per game might not blow you out of the water, but he's averaging more points than Paul George, Danny Granger, or even Reggie Miller averaged during their rookie seasons (and Turner is younger than any of those players were as rookies). In fact, Turner's scoring average would be the highest by any Pacers rookie since Rik Smits averaged 11.7 points per game in 1988-89.
You probably have to go back to Smits to find the last time the Pacers had a big man make this much of an impact as a rookie. The Dunkin' Dutchman started 71 games in his first NBA season, averaging 11.7 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks. Turner's stats in February were slightly better than those averages — 13.4 points, 6.8 boards, and 1.8 blocks.
Not bad for a player with only 39 career games under his belt.