In today’s NBA landscape, teams want three things out of their center: the ability to spread the floor, the ability to rebound and the ability to defend multiple positions on the defensive end. Very few centers check all three boxes, which is why you see some ballclubs have revolving doors up front and why otherwise productive players like Enes Kanter struggling to find his niche.
But the Indiana Pacers are lucky enough to have a big man who can do a little bit of everything in Myles Turner.
There was some skepticism surrounding Turner when the Pacers selected him with the 11th overall pick of the 2015 NBA Draft, which was why he fell that far in the lottery to begin with.
Some thought Turner was a top-five talent in the draft class, but that his lack of strength and his strange gait when he ran made him a bit of a risky pick.
So, Turner fell into Indiana’s lap at No. 11, and the Pacers decided to nab him.
Here we are, nearly four years later, and it seems like Indiana land a steal.
Turner immediately flashed his talent during his rookie campaign, averaging 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks over 22.8 minutes per game while shooting 49.8 percent from the floor, demonstrating the capacity to step out and defend the pick-and-roll on the defensive end due to his solid athleticism.
He was then even better in his sophomore season and began to show signs of a three-point shot, making 34.8 percent of his triples, albeit on low volume (1.4 attempts per game).
But this season, Turner is doing a little bit of everything.
The 22-year-old is registering 13.5 points, seven rebounds and a league-leading 2.7 blocks across 28.1 minutes a night, making 51.2 percent of his field-goal attempts, 40.5 percent of his long-distance tries and 70.7 percent of his free throws.
He isn’t an All-Star this season and he will probably never be a superstar, but he is a franchise cornerstone for the Pacers and will likely be a linchpin for Indiana on both ends of the floor for the long haul.
Myles Turner is a nightmare matchup offensively, as he is a significant threat from downtown and is also a big-time problem in pick and rolls given his ability to quickly roll to the rim and finish alley-oops. Plus, he is effective at crashing the offensive glass for putbacks.
Defensively, Turner can defend pretty much anyone, possessing the length to bother even the tallest centers and the athleticism and lateral footspeed to adequately defend pick-and-rolls and switch on to smaller players.
Want to drive the lane? You’ll probably have Turner and his league-leading block average waiting for you at the rim.
Want to try to get him in a switch? Good luck, because Turner is quick enough and long enough to defend just about any other player in the NBA.
Sure, Turner has some things he can work on. He is not great at getting his own shot, as evidenced by the fact that he takes only 10.6 shots per game, a pretty low number for a starter who is also a key offensive player. Turner is also not the greatest passer in the world, and that shows in his 1.6 assist average.
But what Myles Turner isn’t adept at pales in comparison to what he is.
We also have to keep in mind that he is just 22 years old, so there is ample room for him to grow and improve.
When you think of Turner, think of Al Horford without the court vision; a terrific all-around player who will not shatter any box scores, but will consistently deliver night in and night out and might make a couple of All-Star teams throughout his career.
If Turner can add Horford’s playmaking ability, that will just be icing on the cake.
The University of Texas product is exactly what teams desire in their modern centers. He can shoot, he can rebound, he can defend in space and he doesn’t take bad shots. He understands his role on both ends of the floor and makes the Pacers a much better team as a result.
Prior to Victor Oladipo going down, Indiana was a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference, and much of that had to do with Turner’s excellence, particularly on the defensive end.
There is a reason why the Pacers are one of the league’s best defensive ballclubs, and Turner is at the center of it.
Indiana knows this, which is why it signed him to a four-year contract extension back in October, preventing him from hitting restricted free agency this offseason.
That was a very smart move by the Pacers.
They cannot afford to lose the prototype for modern NBA centers.