Pacers video: Myles Turner spikes Kyrie Irving's layup into the stands
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Pacers’ Myles Turner spikes Celtics’ Kyrie Irving’s layup into the stands

Myles Turner, Kyrie Irving, Celtics, Pacers

The 2019 NBA Defensive Player of the Year couldn’t be any more wide open with at least five or so names all equally worthy of earning the award. One such player is the Indiana Pacers young big man Myles Turner who, on Friday night against the Boston Celtics, showed why he’s in contention by viciously swatting what would have been an easy escape layup from guard Kyrie Irving.

Turner signed a four-year $72 million contract extension (that could rise up to $80 million if certain incentives are hit) with the Pacers last summer to the surprise of many given how the 23-year-old has been a model of inconsistency. In addition, backup center Domantas Sabonis has been exceeding expectations in limited minutes (even more so this season) and locking up both bigs to large contracts (Sabonis is due for one eventually) despite being unable to play them together could complicate roster flexibility.

But one thing is definitely a constant with Turner – and that’s his defense. In just four seasons, the 6-foot-11 center holds a career block average of 2.1 a night. This year, he leads the league in rejections with 2.7 per game and his 196 blocks are comfortably ahead of the second-placer in Rudy Gobert (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year) who has 179.

Turner, however, still has a long way to go with rebounding which plays a huge part with voting unless you’re a perimeter type of defender. He hasn’t averaged more than 7.3 boards which are woeful given his size, length, and proximity to the basket.

Once he gets the rest of his game in order, maybe the Pacers’ starter would be hoisting that award soon.