Hot-Takebuster Part One: Myles Turner’s Offense

Myles Turner hasn’t gotten off to the tremendous start to the season that many expected in his third year. Whether that’s due to his concussion in the opener or a smaller offensive role than expected, this has caused many to air their grievances about the Pacers young big man. Even in a game against the Boston Celtics where he led the Indiana Pacers in scoring while taking only nine shot attempts, the noise for much of the game was all about what Turner can’t do or won’t do.

“Myles Turner is not a true big man” is quickly becoming this team’s “George Hill is not a true point guard.” Both claims pointless, perplexing and frustrating to see about players that add tremendous value to their team while playing their position in perhaps a non-traditional way. 

After compiling a bunch of complaints on Turner, his critics tend to fall into one of these two hot-take categories:

  1. Myles Turner is a one-trick pony. He can’t create his own shot and has no post moves. He’s a role player that can’t finish inside and has zero ways to score outside of the pick and pop. SOFT!
  2. Myles Turner is a bad defender that can’t rebound and gets outplayed by opposing big men every night.

In order to debate the merits or extinguish the hot takes of each of the above, I’ll tackle each of these claims in a 2-part segment to determine whether they are myths or whether they are facts. Consider this Pacers Mythbusters. First, we’ll go after the offensive side.

Hot Take: “Myles Turner is a one-trick pony. He can’t create his own shot and has no post moves. He’s a role player that can’t finish inside and has zero ways to score outside of the pick and pop. SOFT!”

There’s a lot to take in here. This cornucopia of hot takes is going to be easiest to dissect into parts.

Can Myles Turner create his own shot? Does he have any post moves?

The biggest issue that Turner has is a lack of opportunities to showcase his ability to create his own shot and utilize post moves. He’s simply not asked to do what many other young bigs like Kristaps Porzingis or Karl-Anthony Towns are on a nightly basis.

It’s hard to know with any player that hasn’t been given a chance to do something whether it’s because they can’t do it or if the role they currently play doesn’t give them the opportunity to do so. Perfect examples of the latter are how much better Victor Oladipo (He warned us) and Domantas Sabonis (Chemistry. With. Everyone.) look in their new roles compared to how they looked in one season with the Thunder.

Still, while we haven’t seen Turner post up or create his own shot in game action very often, he has shown flashes of both in his limited chances.

Myles Turner’s one pet post-move from the beginning of his NBA career was his smooth, quick turnaround jumper. NBA teams quickly realized that this was his go-to move and it’s rare to see him attempt this shot anymore, however, after the adjustment was made. Here’s the new version that he showed against the Magic. He used to take this right off the catch without any dribbles.

While he only gets just below two post-up possessions per game, we’ve seen a few new things from already this year. Look at this post move he pulled against DeMarcus Cousins of the New Orleans Pelicans as he goes baseline and gets an easy layup.

He’s also used this move to swing the ball to the opposite corner when the shot isn’t there.

He’s still more likely to turn and face up in the rare occasion when he gets the ball in the post with a big on him (more on this shortly), but he has shown a wider variety of post moves than in his first two seasons. Here’s a hook shot against Porzingis.

It seems like it’s just a lack of opportunities in the post rather than an inability to make any moves for Turner. Far too often when Turner gets a switch on the pick and roll with a guard, the Pacers don’t look to go to him inside. While he still has a tendency to fade too much in the post regardless of who’s guarding him, the Pacers guards are too quick to settle for midrange shots as they try to attack a taller player instead of feeding Turner in the post.

On too many occasions we’ve seen guards quickly look elsewhere and not give Turner a chance to attack the mismatch. It gets to the point where if Turner doesn’t get the ball after posting up the mismatch a few times, he’s doesn’t look to do so as he expects the guard to take the shot or for the ball to end up elsewhere.

Turner is fairly average when compared to the rest of the league as he sits in the 46th percentile in points per possession on post-up plays, but Domas Sabonis, widely thought of as a better post-up player, sits in just the 21st percentile for points per possession on these type of plays. Perhaps the perception of Turner is simply altered by the fact that it feels like he should make more attempts down low than he does, but he’s been more effective than Domas in that area so far in similar volume. Neither player, however, matches the low block veteran wisdom and skill of Al Jefferson, PhD in Post Moves, who sits in the 98th percentile this season after slimming down.

As far as creating his own shot besides with post moves, this is where his face-up game comes into play. Turner can lose the ball if he attempts to drive too often, either on the way up for a shot or as he’s dribbling, but he does have one necessary skill for most All-Star caliber players that create their own shot: the step-back jumper.

Turner hit a pair of these shots against Al Horford against the Boston Celtics as the Pacers kept the game within striking distance in the fourth quarter but were unable to make a run to seriously threaten the outcome of the game. Here’s one case last year where he hit a step-back 3-pointer against the Charlotte Hornets:

This entire thread by Indiana Sports Coverage’s Afseth shows numerous examples of Turner creating his own shot from his second season, mostly with step-back looks. This one is perhaps the most impressive of the bunch.

Based on all the examples, there’s no reason to think Turner couldn’t develop more skills in this area if given the opportunity. That last video looks mightily similar to one praising Porzingis’s unicorn-likeness recently.

It’s not exactly the same move and Turner’s not 7’3″, but he can do both when he gets the chance. Only 3.6% of Turner’s offensive chances (0.5 per game) come in isolation but he’s shooting 67% on these plays so far. He doesn’t have enough attempts to qualify for percentile rankings but his (very) small sample size output of 1.14 points per possession in isolation would be ranked at about the 85th percentile. This is certainly something that McMillan could explore more in the future to see if it’s something Turner can do with regularity.

Verdict: Myles Turner needs more opportunities to prove it definitively, but he’s shown flashes of being able to both utilize post moves and create his own shot.

Can Myles Turner finish inside? Can he score outside of the pick and pop?

We’ve already tackled multiple ways he can score outside of the pick and pop, so I think we can put that one to bed already. The reason for this misconception about Turner seems to be caused by the fact that so much of what he’s asked to do on offense comes out of the pick and pop. Look at his night against the Miami Heat where he hit 9 of 10 shots in the first half for 20 points. Nearly every single shot came out of the pick and pop as Hassan Whiteside stayed back and Miami’s guards stayed with the ball-handler every time, leaving Turner wide open.

Turner leads the league in points per game as the roll man (or pop man) in the pick and roll with 6.9 points per game. 43% of his offensive plays come in this play type. He’s very good at it, ranking in the 69th percentile with 1.21 points per possession.

With that much of his offense coming from this one type of play, however, it would seem to boil down to a lack of creativity in finding more ways for Turner to be involved in the offense. Take that Heat game, for example. After scoring 20 points in the first half, the Heat adjusted how they were defending that play and Turner only attempted four shots in the final two quarters and finished with 25 points.

When a player shoots 90% in the first half, you probably want to find more ways to get him the ball, even if the first choice option has been schemed against.

The Pacers have been using Turner in different ways more recently as he’s been more of a floor spacer than ever before. This seems to be an adjustment designed to make Sabonis and Turner function better together on offense as they spend more time playing together. Turner took five 3-pointers against the Magic on Monday, making three, while a  would-be fourth make was ruled a long two with his toes on the line.

Turner shows natural ability here and the Pacers would be wise to turn more of his long  2-point attempts into 3-point attempts as the year goes on with how well he’s shooting to start the season.

shotchart (1)
Turner’s on fire with his jump shot to start the season. The only place he’s struggled is in the paint.

Turner’s jump shot couldn’t be much better to start the season, but his overall field goal percentage is down from 51% last year to 48% this season because of one reason: he’s struggling at the rim. This may be the biggest reason for the concern over Turner’s performance as everywhere else on the court has been a constant stream of buckets (41.2% from 3-point range, 57.8% from mid-range).

So should the Pacers be concerned about Turner’s finishing ability inside? Is he playing too soft and not attacking the rim aggressively enough or is he simply missing shots that he’d normally make?

Much of the struggles may be tied to his concussion from early in the season. Turner said he still wasn’t feeling fully like himself until recently and he’s missed a bunch of bunnies that are simply unexplainable for a player of his caliber. We’ve seen a lot of plays like this one from the first game against the Magic.

To his credit, Turner in Monday night’s game decided to just start trying to dunk on people. He was blocked on a dunk attempt by Biyombo on the first attempt (he grabbed the rebound and ended up drawing a foul on the next shot attempt) and drew a foul on the second attempt against Aaron Gordon.

There have been a bunch of plays where that’s all you want to see Turner do is just dunk the ball inside, so it’s good to see Turner looking to do so more often. This missed finger roll was especially egregious in the gotta-dunk-that category.

But really, most of his misses inside have just looked like shots he’d normally make as they roll off the rim. It’s a very small sample size with only 43 attempts at the rim so far this season. Look at his shot chart from last season and notice how different it looks.

shotchart (2)

Turner shot 71.6% last season at the rim on much higher volume. While it’s not great to see Myles missing so often so close to the rim, it’s more likely that he’s just having some bad luck since he’s never had this problem before.

Last season, his attempts at the rim were much closer to his jump shot attempt total than this season as he’s taken about twice as many shots outside the paint compared to inside the paint over his first 14 games this year (it was close to even last season). But once again, only so much of this can be put on Turner. A lot of it is what he’s being asked to do in his role and where the guards on the team get him the ball. It’s definitely something to keep an eye on, but with Turner’s previous history, there’s no real cause for concern just yet on his struggles at the rim.

Verdict: Myles Turner has a multitude of ways to score, but he’s mostly been asked to be a pick and pop machine this year. While he’s struggled at the rim early this season, he’s shown in the past to be a very capable finisher at the rim and has shown improvement lately in that area already.

Hot-take busted: While Myles Turner may be treated as a role player in the Pacers offense, the potential is clearly there for Turner to do more if called upon. It’d be wise to remember how much better Oladipo and Sabonis look in their new roles with more responsibility compared to their mediocre seasons last year when they weren’t asked to do nearly as much for the Thunder. Sometimes, it’s more about what the coach asks a player to do than what that player is actually capable of.

Part Two on Myles Turner’s defense coming soon.

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3 thoughts on “Hot-Takebuster Part One: Myles Turner’s Offense”

  1. I’m a big Myles fan. He has a mountain of potential, from leadership to offensive and defensive potential. He’s also in a tough position as “the face” of a franchise (and captain) at a super young age. I’ve been a critic too, not as much of him directly (how can you not like the guy), but of the expectations levied upon him. Nobody really knows what he’ll blossom into, but from what I’ve seen he looks markedly better than last season. He’s clearly stronger and has better footwork, which arguably have been his biggest achilles heels.

    Like

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