Sunday, July 5, 2015

Drives have been key to Evan Turner's improved offense

In the absence of an established all-star, many expected Evan Turner to improve statistically this season. Improvement was expected especially on the offensive end, where Turner would finally serve as a main option.

Drives have been key to Evan Turner's improved offense

The 76ers´ Evan Turner goes up between the Hawks´ DeMarre Carroll, left, and Paul Millsap. (David Tulis/AP)
The 76ers' Evan Turner goes up between the Hawks' DeMarre Carroll, left, and Paul Millsap. (David Tulis/AP)

In the absence of an established all-star, many expected Evan Turner to improve statistically this season. Improvement was expected especially on the offensive end, where Turner would finally serve as a main option.

Well improve Turner has, upping his points per game average to a career-high 21.6; good enough for 12th overall in the NBA up to this point. Some of this improvement can be credited to the departure of former head coach Doug Collins, who Turner never quite saw eye-to-eye with. With Collins gone, Turner isn’t “looking over his shoulder,” as he put it, and feels more confident and comfortable out on the court.

“I’m not worrying if I miss a shot," he said. "There’s not really pressure and it instills confidence.”

Clearly, a fresh face on the sideline has been beneficial for Turner, who is thriving in Brett Brown’s up-tempo offense. The offense, which emphasizes motion and places a premium on shots at the rim and from beyond the arc, is designed to increase opportunity - another factor in Turner’s enhanced output.

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The Sixers are playing at the fourth fastest pace in the league, which generates additional offensive possessions, and in turn, more touches for Turner. He is taking, and making, more shots than at any other point in his career, thanks largely to the speed and emphasized shot selection of Brown’s system.

Turner is not only benefiting from the additional opportunities afforded in the flow of the offense, but from finally being a go-to-guy as well. Turner leads the Sixers in field goal attempts per game and clearly serves as the team’s main offensive options.

E.T. is posting a career-high 27 percent usage rate, which lands him in the top 20 in all the NBA. This rate is about seven percent higher than his career average heading into the season. Turner has been the beneficiary of increased opportunities, and he has made the most out of them.

While playing in a new system under a new coach has helped, Turner’s increased offensive output this season is directly related to his newfound dedication to driving. Seeing Turner settle for pull-up jumpers and long twos was a common, groan-inducing occurrence under coach Collins. So far this season though, those un-ideal attempts have been largely replaced by much more fruitful drives to the basket, and in turn, Turner’s statistical output and efficiency has been enhanced.

Turner currently leads the league - yes you read that right, he leads the entire NBA - in total player points scored on drives to the basket. He is averaging seven drives, defined by the NBA as any touch that starts at least 20 feet of the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop (excluding fast breaks) per game, and scoring eight points per on those drives. The Sixers as a whole are averaging 10 points per game off Turner's drives. He has been unafraid to attack, and it has led directly to his offensive improvement.

Defenses now have to expect, and respect Turner's drives, which opens up perimeter opportunities. Turner’s determination to drive has also afforded him more trips to the foul line, where he is averaging more than twice as many attempts per game (5.3) as he has throughout his career (two). Turner himself has acknowledged his improved driving dexterity:

“I feel like I’m getting better and better at driving to the basket. And when I attack the rim, I get foul calls and that helps the team,” he stated.

It has helped the team so far, as Turner’s offensive improvement is a major positive for the Sixers, regardless of if he fits into the franchise’s future, or if he will be dealt at the deadline.

Playing for a new coach in a new system has worked wonders for Turner this season, but his dedication to driving has been his most important improvement. As long as he remains toward the top of the league’s list of most dangerous drivers, he will serve as a serious threat.

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