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Myles Turner’s Skill Set Exemplifies New Age Basketball

Basketball is constantly evolving. What was viewed as advanced yesterday can be seen as ineffective today. This is because the NBA is always changing and always finding new ways to impact the game. NBA personnel are constantly looking for the right pieces to execute their ever-changing vision. Players these days need to be capable of doing everything while taking little off the table. That’s why when the NBA Draft rolls around on June 25, players like Myles Turner will be as important as ever.

Turner, who entered Texas as the No. 2 overall recruit according to ESPN, is the poster boy for modern day basketball. At 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-4 wingspan and 239 pounds, Turner is the size of an NBA center but is also capable of knocking down three-pointers. He’s able to do this without taking away any of the attributes that make him a big man. He’s still a terrific rebounder and shot-blocker despite possessing guard-like shooting abilities.

Despite all of this, Turner is ranked just ninth overall on Chad Ford’s Big Board and 11th on DraftExpress. Any team that picks him in that range would be getting a steal and potentially someone who could end up being the best player in the draft. Turner has a unique skill set not matched by many in recent memory.

There have been 20 seasons since 2009-10 where a player has averaged at least 2.5 blocks while making 17 or more three-pointers, according to Sports-Reference. Turner is the only player on the list to have played less than 27.5 minutes per game. He played just 22.2 minutes per game during his freshman season at Texas and still managed to block 2.6 shots per game and make 17 three-pointers (though, at a 27.4 percent clip). That equates to 4.7 blocks and just under a three-pointer a game per 40 minutes. Since no one has matched that kind of versatility in the NCAA in recent years, we can look to the NBA as well.

That same line of 2.5 blocks per game while making at least 17 three-pointers has been done just 11 times (!) in NBA history, according to Basketball-Reference. That’s it. Every player on that list needed at least 30 minutes per game to put up those numbers with the exception of Manute Bol in 1988-89. The most recent occurrences were both Serge Ibaka from 2012-2014. Turner has that kind of potential if he gets the chance.

The NBA is moving towards everyone on the floor being a threat at all times. The Golden State Warriors are a good example of this, with every starter but Andrew Bogut capable of knocking down a three-pointer.

LaMarcus Aldridge, who represents a good best-case scenario projection for Turner, made more three-pointers this season (37) than in his first eight seasons combined (24). His 7-foot-1 teammate Meyers Leonard almost made a three-pointer a game at a sizzling 42 percent clip in his historic campaign. Although Turner’s 27.4 percent three-point percentage doesn’t scream future pick-and-pop master, his free throw percentage indicates that he’ll find his stroke eventually. Just look at this great find by Kevin Pelton in his projections of the top shooters in the draft:

“It might seem crazy that anything but the college 3-point shooting percentage would help predict NBA 3-point shooting. But history is striking in this regard. Consider this: 13 players in Sports-Reference.com‘s college database (dating to 1997-98) shot at least 42 percent from 3-point range with at least 250 career attempts and have attempted at least 500 career 3-pointers as pros. A similar-sized group of players made at least 85 percent of their free throws on the same number of attempts. Lo and behold, the two groups — which overlap somewhat — have shot almost the same percentage from 3-point range in the NBA.”

Turner just missed out on this grouping, shooting 83.9 percent from the line last season. Considering his size and youth, that number is outstanding. In comparison to the NBA, just three players 6-foot-11 or taller made at least 83.9 percent of their free throws last season, according to Basketball-Reference. They all are terrific shooters in Channing Frye, Dirk Nowitzki and Aldridge. If you can make free throws at that efficient of a rate, there’s a very good chance you can shoot from distance as well. Turner also made 42.7 percent of his two-pointer jumpers last season, which made up for 52 percent of his field goal attempts, according to Hoop-Math. Both marks led the team.

There’s a reason why Turner has such a modest projection despite his unique skill set: He did most of his damage against weaker teams early in the season.

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This chart, courtesy of DraftExpress, emphasizes how poorly Turner played against superior competition. All three of his 25-point-plus performances came against at or below .500 teams. He also scored in double figures once in his last eight games.

Turner often stood around the perimeter and settled for poor shots when teams played him tough. He also played behind an experienced frontcourt and thus had a short leash from Rick Barnes. Nonetheless, his conference PER of 20.9 was still impressive for a freshman, as was his overall line of 18.3 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes. Those are Karl-Anthony Towns-esque numbers.

Myles Turner’s season wasn’t perfect by any means, but his abilities of protecting the rim and stretching the floor are very rare for someone his age. I wouldn’t want to be the GM that passes up on that come draft day.

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