Before Myles Turner joined the starting lineup against the Atlanta Hawks, it could have been said that the Indiana Pacers were the NBA embodiment of the Goldilocks Principle. They were too small and inconsistent with C.J. Miles at the four-spot. Faster (103.19 possessions per 48 minutes), but unable to keep opponents off the boards or away from the rim (DefRtg: 106.9). When head coach Frank Vogel replaced the streaky shooter with Lavoy Allen, they were almost too big. The starters held down the paint and cleaned the glass, but they played at a snail's pace (97.63 possessions per 48 minutes) and scoring points was like pulling teeth (OffRtg: 96.5).
Turner's addition makes them just right.
Indiana's starting unit is outscoring opponents by 11.8 points per 100 possessions since his first-career start on January 28, the best Net Rating of any lineup in the league over that same span of time (minimum 150 minutes played). The 19-year-old's mobility (what hitch in his gate?) allows Indiana to push the pace, and he's a consistent enough shooter from between 16-24 feet to spread the floor on offense without sacrificing rim protection on the other end of the floor. By simply adding his length and unique set of skills to the mix, the Pacers have found the middle way.
Here's how Turner's exceptional measurements paired with his dead-eye shooting and ability to protect the basket make him an ideal combination of some of the legendary big men who once donned the Blue & Gold.
Rik Smits' efficiency
This scatterplot shows all the power forwards and centers in Pacers NBA franchise history who recorded higher true shooting percentages during their rookie season than Myles Turner. Go ahead, check out the chart and please notice that there are only three names all-time which fit that criteria.
Turner, even while sharing the floor with several established veterans and a three-time All-Star, is responsible for a larger portion of Indiana's offense than either of the Davis Boys as rookies. When comparing him to Rik Smits, the other player who used at least 20 percent of his teams possessions while on the court, the Blue & Gold's current first-year player (54.0%) is only a shade less efficient (55.7%). However, the Dunking Dutchman was predominantly feasting on post-ups and hook shots while Turner can most often be found draining mid-range and turnaround jump shots. Notably, the 19-year-old's average field goal distance (10.7 feet) is significantly greater than the other names mentioned, which makes his ability to shoot the ball consistently, with range, at his size all the more rare in the annals of team history as well as valuable for today's Pacers.
Jermaine O'Neal's shot blocking
Myles Turner is already one of the best 19-year-old shot blockers ever.
Now he's posting a higher block percentage than Indiana's three top career-blocks leaders did during their respective rookie seasons.
The 6-foot-11 Turner still has a lot to learn when it comes to playing NBA team defense like O'Neal. He has a propensity for being out of position, but at times, these errors almost make his shot blocking all the more impressive. For example, check out the ground he covers on this play against the Orlando Magic. Turner abandons Aaron Gordon to rotate to Evan Fournier, converge with Paul George to stop the Elfrid Payton drive, and then reject Victor Oladipo's shot at the rim. The defense isn't particularly sound, but his athleticism is freakish.
David West's ownership
Myles Turner's mental lapse at the end of regulation leading to a last-ditch three-point attempt by Monta Ellis was not the sole reason the Pacers squandered a win against the Cleveland Cavaliers at home back on February 1, but his post-game remarks made it seem so.
"That's all on me," the 19-year-old told Vigilant Sports. "I forgot the play."
"I'm really frustrated about it but it's behind me now. Just got to move past it. That was rough on me. I put my teammates in a bad position by doing that."
Turner was never tutored by David West on professionalism, but his willingness to avoid making excuses is reminiscent of Indiana's once resident voice of leadership.
"There's a certain way you need to conduct and carry yourself and be, and you don't compromise on that," West told Jon Washburn of 8 points, 9 seconds after a win against the Orlando Magic last season. "You don't compromise your integrity and you don't compromise who you are. Things you've built in terms of the legacy you want to believe. You walk around excuse free, and rather than trying to find excuses, you try to find solutions and be accountable."
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Turner is going to need to channel his inner David West, if he is going to successfully navigate his way around the wall he's hit of late. Since putting up Rookie of the Month worthy numbers in February, Turner is shooting only 26 percent from the field in March. Forgetting to block out, missing key defensive assignments, and launching more than one shot that failed to even graze the rim, the 19-year-old looked more than a little lost against the Washington Wizards on Saturday.
Yet even as his body and mind adjust to having already started 10 more games with the Pacers than he did during his entire freshman season with the Texas Longhorns, the fits and starts of coming of age are far outweighed by the vast potential of his atypical skill set.
He's 19 and 6-foot-11. He's converting field-goal attempts and blocking shots at a level equal to or better than that of past Pacers greats during their rookie seasons, all while presenting a refreshing public sense of self-awareness. Most importantly, he's been the amalgamation necessary to reconcile Indiana's tried and failed divergent identities.