Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Evan's Emergence: A Tale of Refutation

68 points, 48 rebounds, and a mile high, 49% field goal percentage over his first four starts. Although it seems like it, these aren't the numbers of a front court player; these numbers were produced by Evan Turner: the Sixers shooting guard that many had already labeled a 2nd overall pick-bust. Who could blame them? His play was anything but befitting of a superstar, and with company like Hasheem Thabeet, Darko Milicic, Jay Williams, Stromile Swift, and Marvin Williams all being taken with the 2nd overall pick less than a decade before him, being a bust wasn't out of the question.

Well, it's starting to look like they were very, very wrong.

Even in highschool, Turner had to
work for his respect.
This isn't the first time he's had to prove himself. Turner's basketball career has been an absolute roller coaster, filled with enough hills and drops to be confused with the Appalachians he crossed on his way from playing for the same Illinois high school that produced Knicks great Isiah Thomas to being taken by Philadelphia in the 2010 draft. The criticism Turner had to face started very early, as he wasn't even thought of as the best player on his high school team. Those honors were placed on the shoulders of the teams point guard, Demetri McCamey, who is now playing for the Mersin Büyükşehir Belediyesi S.K. in Turkey (I wonder who won that rivalry). With McCamey and Derrick Rose representing the top prospects in the 2007 Chicago area class, Turner was severely overshadowed to the point where he was snubbed from the Illinois all-state team is junior season. Even so, Ohio State must have seen what the Associated Press --who create the all-state teams-- didn't, as they aggressively pursued, and eventually signed Turner in the Summer before his senior year. He finished his senior year as the seventh best small forward in the country (according to ESPN) and was rightfully named to the Illinois all-state team in his second stint in the running.

Although both he and his teammates had a lackluster season that led to the Buckeyes missing out on a bid to participate in the madness that is the NCAA Tournament, Both Turner and his teammates felt that they were snubbed of a chance to show how good they truly were. Turner did what he always did when facing doubt: refute. In the final two games of the 2008 National Invitation Tournament (NIT), Turner averaged 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 3 steals to lead Ohio State to victory.

He tried to them.
As if he'd expect anything different, Turner's late season heroics went unrecognized, as he was left off the preseason Big Ten all-conference team. Just as he was always doubted in the past, he solved the questions that surrounded his play. This time, though, Turner made it clear that he wasn't just another college basketball player, as he led his team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. His great play --and the fact that he led the entire Big Ten conference in scoring-- earned him an honorable mention for the All-America team, while also making him the only player to be unanimously voted to the Big Ten all-conference team.

His effort didn't go unnoticed this time, as ESPN selected him to their preseason All-America second team. Still, this didn't seem to be enough for Turner. Regardless of the court he was on, he was playing well. His fantastic play on enemy hardwoods left him with the nickname, "the Villain." It was at home, though, where Turner faced the most horrifying injury of his career. After a strong defensive rebound, Turner looked to throw down a ferocious dunk on the fast break, when he fell on his back awkwardly and suffered a fracture in his back- just a week after recording his first two career triple-doubles. Initially, Turner was told it would be two months before he could join his team again, and with a broken back, few expected him to continue his high level of play upon returning. After watching his teammates allow themselves to fall out of the top 25 , Turner decided to return to the floor after just a month: thrusting his team back into national ranking while making his way to a Big Ten record ten Conference Player of the Week awards. His play in the Big Ten tournament not only led the Buckeyes to a conference title, but it also proved enough for his critics. Turner was selected as the College Player of the Year, and even though he won it over NBA first overall pick John Wall, Turner was selected second overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.

I'm sure you know the rest, how his rookie season was monumentally disappointing, how he started this --his sophomore season-- as a great rebounder with flashes of scoring ability, how he had a fall from grace that most people labeled a sign that he was to be traded, and how he's been playing like a superstar since coach Collins squashed rumors of having a slight against ET by inserting him into the starting lineup in an apparent move to appease fans: an opinion that I personally find ridiculous.

Iguodala may finally have the scorer everyone
knows he's needed.

It's not about why he was started, but what happened as a result. Even with his first start against Milwaukee being a disaster offensively (1-12 shooting, 2 points), Turner has some of the best starting numbers of any player this season: lighting up both the glass (12.0 rpg) and the scoreboard (17 ppg). Since the Sixers struggled as a team with the very mortal Bucks, Turner has seemingly found his stride to becoming the elite scorer that he was drafted to be, but he's also become so much more. Not only has his scoring translated from college to the professional level, but so has defensive and rebounding ability. According to Turner? None of this is a surprise."It's the opportunity," Turner said in an interview following his career high 15 rebound, 24 point effort against the Knicks last Sunday. "Coming in to help effect the game right away. That helps me to get my rhythm and get my flow."

The Scary part? There's room for even more improvement. While most of his numbers have been unbelievable, his turnovers have been anything but. Even excluding his disappointing first start, Turner has given up 10 turnovers over his past 3 starts. With his aggressive style of play, some turnovers are bound to follow. Regardless, Turner needs to look to Andre Iguodala, whose 1.8 turnovers a game is the third least to only Richard Jefferson and Tayshaun Prince among starting small forwards. With the efficient court facilitation of Iguodala and the great scoring effort from Turner, these two are seeming like a great one-two punch on the wings. With the emergence of Evan Turner, and the comeback of Spencer Hawes --expected against the Indiana Pacers on March 14th--, This Sixer team is no longer one that is in danger of falling off.


  1. Eh I just question your last statement about the Sixers not being a team in danger of falling off. It may be my personal bias but as long as Spencer Hawes is our center, we won't be going anywhere as a franchise. Also, Turner has put up some good numbers in mostly non-competitive games. Let's see how he does down the stretch, in late-close games.

  2. There's just way too much evidence to support that statement: Turner's emergence, the team's numbers with Hawes, and how everyone is falling into their assigned roles so beautifully. The true test will come when the Sixers face a close score late in the game, but I completely stand by that call.