Evan Turner has faced plenty of doubt during his brief Celtic career. But his solid play recently has been changing the narrative around him. Even noted Evan Turner skeptic Matt Moore is coming around to him.
It's hard to find Turner's impact looking at the traditional box score. He's putting up modest numbers, largely unchanged from last season. His midrange shooting is down from last season, but he's been better in the paint and at the rim. On solely 2 point shots, he's hitting a slightly higher percentage this season. The biggest change is 3P%, where he's only shooting 13%. That's really bad, and it drags down an otherwise fine FG%.
He's been more careful with the ball this season though. Whether it's TOV% or just plain turnovers per game, it's been an improvement over last season and the lowest since his time as a 76er.
But Turner's impact stretches further than 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. With Marcus Smart in injury purgatory, Evan Turner has been a needed force off the bench. He can be a little frustrating at times, sure. Nobody likes the random possessions of isolation that end with terrible midrange shots. But he's a crafty ball handler and passer. He adds an element of playmaking and creativity that the second unit lacks. His biggest impact however might be keeping the offense afloat when Isaiah Thomas leaves the game.
Without Isaiah Thomas, Boston's offense has a tough time scoring. Per NBAwowy, the Celtics score just 95.2 points per 100 possessions when Thomas sits. When Turner plays and Thomas doesn't, the offense only produces an offensive rating of 97.7. While statistically this is a Brooklyn Nets level of ineptitude, it isn't quite as bad as you'd think.
Because, when both Thomas and Turner are off the floor, the Celtics have a ghastly offensive rating of 87. That's more than just falling off a cliff. It's more like falling into a 1,000 foot ravine and exploding. This shows that Turner's impact might be propping up the offense when Thomas sits. Just treading water offensively can prevent a collapse when Thomas leaves the game. That can huge against good teams.
He's even stepped up defensively in some huge moments. Look at the Golden State game for instance. Against the defending champs, Turner made some clutch blocks against Steph Curry in the fourth quarter. For someone who's never been much of a shot blocker, that's pretty impressive.
He has also earned another superlative, the most consistently funny quote on this team. When he pulled off a "dope" 360 dunk, he coined it "Turner Vinsanity." When he made a nice, but unspectacular game winning assist? He referenced MJ to Kerr, called it an ingenious play, and talked about his legacy. Turner playing well is nice on its own, but his hilariously hyperbolic descriptions of his game are an added bonus.
Isaiah Thomas is drawing most of the praise around the Celtics these days. That's well deserved, but Evan Turner deserves credit for his solid play this season too. He's settling into his role, and providing some nice minutes for the Celtics.