This week's mailbag focuses on Evan Turner's unmeasurable impact, Marcus Thornton down in Australia, and Marcus Smart's injury history. You can read previous editions of the mailbag here. If you want to submit a question for a future mailbag use this form here or tweet me @KevinOConnorNBA.
Q: It feels like Evan Turner is contributing more than his counting numbers tell us. Even his advanced stats aren't popping. Are there any SportsVU numbers that better reflect his improving performance? -- RA (India)
A: RA, Evan Turner is having by far his best season on the defensive end of the floor. It's incredible to see how far he's come since his time in Philadelphia. In many ways, I don't think Turner's contributions can be measured, such as his ability to defend multiple positions, which allows Brad Stevens to utilize unique lineups. However, the SportVU data does reveal that opponents are shooting only 33.8% when defended by Turner, which is 9.4% better than the league average.
Q: In a land where college coaches usually fail, why does Brad Stevens do so well? -- Joobouy (Los Angeles, CA)
A: Joobouy, I think it's because Brad Stevens isn't like most college coaches. Stevens is not only a brilliant basketball mind, both in terms of in-game X's and O's and in game planning. But he also understands people. Stevens knows how to press the right buttons to get his players to perform at optimum levels. He respects everyone, from the ball boys to the stars, to the reserves, to the front office executives, and the members of the media. I think players, in all sports, often take on the personality of their coach - their leader - and Stevens has proven over the years, both at Butler and in Boston, that he is the right man for the job. I thought he'd be a great NBA head coach when he was hired, but now I'm starting to think he could be even better once he gets "elite" personnel on the roster.
Q: Who on the team has been the biggest positive surprise for you so far this season? -- Justin Hebert (Beijing, formerly of Maine)
MORE ON MICKEY
A: Justin, no one has really surprised me. I've been expecting Avery Bradley to make this leap (granted he's been better than expected). R.J. Hunter is right on track. Jared Sullinger has improved. So the biggest positive surprise for me is Jordan Mickey, despite the fact he's played only five minutes with the Celtics. You can read my full profile of him by clicking here. But, in a nutshell, I never imagined him to develop a 3-pointer. So that's a stunning turn of events and I believe he could greatly exceed his "expected draft value" as an early second round pick. There aren't many players that can protect the rim and switch on defense and shoot threes. It remains to be seen if he can do all those things effectively at the NBA level, but the tools are absolutely there.
Q: Kevin, how is Marcus Thornton doing playing for Sydney in Australia? -- Tom Carey (Cape Cod, MA)
A: Tom, Thornton shooting only 32% from behind the arc, down from his 39.9% college average. His 24 assists to 31 turnovers is underwhelming since I'd like to see him develop some point guard skills. But it's difficult to judge without watching the games; stats don't always tell the full story. There are also other factors to consider. Sydney is only 3-10, and Thornton has been forced to carry quite a bit of the load without much talent around him (Al Harrington played only 6 games, and Josh Childress has played only 3).
Q: Kevin, what do you think about Marcus Smart's injury history? Is he an injury prone or is it just bad luck? -- Arif (Jakarta, Indonesia)
A: Arif, it's concerning to see all these nagging lower body injuries, especially for a player that relies so much on his lateral quickness to be a versatile, lockdown perimeter defender. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck made some interesting comments last week on 98.5 The Sports Hub, saying that Smart's ferocious style of play could have something to do with him being prone to injury. However, it's too early in his career to worry about it that much. It could just be bad luck and he'll be mostly healthy for the remainder of his NBA career.
Q: If the Celtics give up Kelly Olynyk, David Lee, and James Young, plus a first-round pick, is that enough or too much to get Markieff Morris from the Phoenix Suns? -- Nicholas Magliozzi (Twitter)
A: Nicholas, that's way too much for Markieff Morris. I've never been a fan of the Morris, though he fits the mold of a stretch forward. Morris can stretch the floor, but he's an inefficient three-point shooter at just 32.5% in his career. He's capable of driving closeouts and has had some big games, but I wouldn't give Kelly Olynyk straight up for him. Morris reportedly has questionable character, whereas by all accounts Olynyk is a team-first player who accepts his role. Then add in James Young and a pick -- no thanks.
Thank you, please submit more questions for next Tuesday's mailbag.