Myles Turner continues to find himself linked with the Boston Celtics this offseason, with the latter supposedly in need of an upgrade at center. Despite Turner having another three years left on his contract, rumors continue to circulate surrounding his immediate future in Indiana.
As such, it seems prudent to take a closer look at what Turner might bring to the table in Boston.
Let’s begin with his offense.
Turner is a career 35.7% three-point shooter who increased his attempts to four per game last season. Alas, that increase saw the Texas-born center’s success rate plummet to a career-low 34.4%. However, Turner’s smooth shooting mechanics and history of being a reliable threat from deep would indicate last season was an exception, not the rule.
Throughout this season, it became apparent the Celtics lacked the spacing a floor-stretching big can provide. Despite finishing 13th in three-point attempts and 12th in made threes, the Celtics got clamped down far too quickly once opposing defenses got set.
Having someone like Turner, who can provide a pick-and-pop threat from the perimeter, would generate more accessible driving lanes for the likes of Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. The 6’11” big isn’t just a threat from above the break either, having finished the season shooting 34% from the corners, too.
Despite his potency from beyond the arc, Turner is dangerous from the mid-range as well, finishing the season shooting 45% on 181 attempts. As shown above, Turner can score off pick-and-rolls, pick-and-pops, face-ups, and the occasional dribble move, forcing defenses to rethink their switch defense.
Brad Stevens has displayed an affinity with his center operating on the perimeter, which would accentuate Turner’s scoring ability. Of course, there’s always a counter-balance to this perceived upside, and the former All-American is no different. A key component of Stevens’ perimeter offense is the dribble hand-off, which can generate mismatches or cutting opportunities.
Al Horford was elite at facilitating dribble hand-offs for the Celtics due to his ability to command respect from the three-point line.
However, based on current evidence, this is a particular area of weakness for the 24-year-old. Turner shows a lack of patience on this play type, giving up the ball before the guard has drawn his defender close enough to take advantage of the screen, essentially killing the play in its infancy. Other times, Turner will step away from the ball as his guard blows by to obtain possession, risking some ridiculous turnovers as a result.
Turner doesn’t need to become elite at running the dribble hand-off, but if he can improve on his timing and floor recognition, he could become a dangerous facilitator from above the break for Boston.
The Pacers big is also a handful when posting up on the interior, boasting only two turnovers on 113 regular season possessions while averaging 1 point per possession.
Like the dribble hand-off, the Celtics missed Al Horford in the post this past season due to the veterans’ savvy footwork and ability to read help defenses. Turner will not be an upgrade on Horford in this regard, but he will upgrade the current rotation of bigs due to his size, length, and ability to face-up against sturdier defenders.
Overall on offense, Turner projects as an immediate improvement to the Celtics versatility at the five-spot, adding multi-level scoring, size, and a different dimension in the post. The former 11th pick would provide the Celtics a center capable of operating in a five-out scheme while also being equally adept at performing on either the high or low post.
But what about defense?
The obvious starting point is Turner’s shot-blocking ability. Entering the 2019-20 NBA season as the reigning blocks leader, Turner had a reputation as one of the league’s best rim protectors. Throughout the COVID-hit season, the young big didn’t disappoint, ending the year 4th in blocks per game with 2.1, a career-high average.
When guarding the pick-and-roll, Turner will usually play as the drop defender, back-peddling to deter any straight-line drives. Alternatively, Turner’s athleticism and change of pace do afford him some respectability as a perimeter defender. He can close out on shooters and successfully apply pressure from the rear view if a guard blows past him.
Closing in from the weak side, or holding his ground in the post, Turner can alter shot attempts from almost anywhere.
Alas, even an elite shot-blocker, he only swats away between 4 and 5 percent of attempts. So, how does Turner fair the other 95% of the time?
Boasting high-level hip flexibility, Turner can use his agility and length to make life tough when wings or guards get brave around the paint. Patrolling the strong and weak side help lines, the 250-pound big generally finds himself in the right spots, operating as their defensive anchor.
A key aspect of Turner’s defense this past season has been his lack of concentration when switching onto the ball handler. Too often, he’s found himself punished for not anticipating cuts from the weak side.
That’s a good point. I think a lot of that this year was that Indy regularly had three eh to below average defenders on court. Myles was used to having Thad Young on the weak side. But I agree. The fact that they finished 6th in defense still amazes me and is a testament to Myles— Mark Schindler (@MSchindlerNBA) November 9, 2020
When comparing Turner with the Celtics own Robert Williams, it quickly becomes evident that the Pacers center is far more developed on the defensive end and would instantly upgrade over the Celtics’ current rotation.
Ignoring the pieces Boston would have to give up in any possible trade, Turner projects as an upgrade on both sides of the floor. Operating as an anchor point for the defense while also giving Boston a true stretch-5 could unlock some of Brad Stevens more nuanced play calls.
The 24-year-old big man projects to earn $17.5 million for the next three years. The Celtics would be cementing a new, younger core to compete for a championship while also having enormous room for growth across the board.