With the Indiana Pacers trailing by three points to the Oklahoma City Thunder with just under a minute remaining in the game, Monta Ellis drove towards the lane. As Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka converged to help, Ellis kicked it out to the open man standing in the corner ready for the pass behind the 3-point line, 19-year-old rookie, Myles Turner.
The rookie, who had only attempted two 3-pointers and had made none so far this season, calmly gathered the low pass at his feet and immediately rose with confidence to take the shot. Nothing but net. Tie game.
His first career 3-pointer and yet another Mylestone in the constant evolution of Myles Turner.
Myles Turner learned a new skill. Something that seems to happen nearly every game for the fast learning, hard working rookie.
“His biggest quality is that he’s not afraid. He’s never afraid, he’s never shying away from the moment,” Paul George said after the Thunder game, “He asks questions; he wants to learn, wants to get better, and works hard. It’s everything you want in a young player. He has it, and he’s going to be special for us.”
At the start of the season, it was clear that Frank Vogel didn’t want to put too much burden on the Pacers first-round draft pick. He was going to play off the bench at the 5 spot, so he could focus on learning just one position while he got used to the speed of the NBA game.
Myles came into the league with a couple of skills: A smooth jumper, his Turneround™ post move, and an impeccable sense of timing when it came to blocking shots. He used these skills to average 5.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in his first 18 career games and missed over a month and a half with a thumb injury. Modest numbers in about 18 minutes per contest, but you could still see flashes of his potential in every game.
Then the Pacers went on a 4-game Western Conference road trip and Myles Turner put on a nightly show. Turner averaged 20.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.8 blocks over the trip, including a 31-performance over the defending champion Golden State Warriors that made me tweet this:
“You would have to say fairly that he’s one of the most, if not the most, surprising players in the draft,” Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said to the Indy Star. “I think everybody pretty much knew he was going to be a good player, but I think a lot of people thought it would take more time than this and he’s playing very well.”
Turner was starting to show off even more skills: preventing dunks with blocks that recalled the memory of Roy Hibbert’s block on Carmelo Anthony in the playoffs, hook shots in the post, crafty, quick finishes in the lane. While he was still out of position at times on defense and Vogel knew it might be a “roller coaster,” Myles Turner was moved to the starting lineup, where Pacers fans hope he stays for a good 12-15 years.
Not only is Turner starting, but Vogel is playing him at power forward alongside Ian Mahinmi. While Mahinmi has recently struggled to stay on the court, the Pacers are now 4-1 when the tandem starts the game.
“I don’t know how fast and how far he develops in the final 29 games,” said Vogel in Candace Buckner’s great profile on Turner, “but it will be a big factor in what our ceiling is.”
The result is a rare mix of spacing on offense, but an abundance of rim protection and rebounding on defense. Turner is blocking anything that comes near him at the rim and that includes serving up some smothered chicken to LeBron James.
In the OKC game, assistant coach Popeye Jones told Turner that he wasn’t doing much on defense according to Jeremiah Johnson. Turner responded with 5 blocks in the 3rd-quarter alone.
The lineup is just touching the surface of its potential in terms of spacing now that Turner can take open corner threes. As Turner proves he’s ready to hit the long range shots and Vogel gives him more freedom to take those, the spacing will continue to grow on offense.
The end result may be Larry Bird finally getting that fast paced offense with lots of free flowing movement and spacing, and Frank Vogel playing his preferred style of having two bigs on the court at all times. The best of both worlds.
The always growing skillset of Myles Turner can do that for you.
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