Myles Turner was the amalgamation the Indiana Pacers needed to find the balance between their tried and failed divergent identities. As much as they were too small and inconsistent with C.J. Miles at the four, the Pacers were too slow and stagnant with Lavoy Allen. Turner's ability to space the floor without sacrificing rim protection provided the team with the happiest possible middle.
But when head coach Frank Vogel inserted the then 19-year-old into the starting lineup back on January 28 against the Atlanta Hawks, Turner had only logged one minute of playing time next to Ian Mahinmi, per NBA Wowy. That he earned Rookie of the Month honors for February, his first full month as a starter in a new role, speaks as much or more to his commitment to team and willingness to learn and grow as it does it to his overall level of talent and ability.
"That kid's work habit is amazing," Nate McMillan said Monday. "He puts in his time. I think he will one day be an All-Star in this league."
Placing Turner among the league's future elite was arguably not the highest compliment McMillan lavished upon Turner at his introductory press conference, as he also noted that Indiana's 2015 first round draft pick reminds him of a certain player he once coached during his tenure in Portland, "...Myles is very similar, and I've said it to Larry (Bird) and Kevin (Pritchard), to LaMarcus Aldridge."
How did Myles Turner impress:
Comparing the five-time All-Star's smooth face-up game to that of Myles Turner's may seem premature, but the two players' rookie numbers do seem to parallel one another.
Aldridge still is not particularly fond of playing center and Turner's slighter build makes holding his ground against more imposing big men a challenge in the immediate, but each possesses the ability to draw opposing behemoths out of the paint with their accuracy from mid-range.
In the first round of the playoffs against the Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas had his way as the roll man and on the glass, but Turner showed, on occasion, that mismatches exist on both ends of the floor. Here, Indiana's rookie forces Valanciunas to leave the paint to contest his shot out of the pick-and-pop.
Turner still has a lot to learn when it comes to playing NBA team defense like Aldridge did this season with the league-stingiest San Antonio Spurs. However, his timing and athleticism did aid him in blocking the third-most total shots (86) of any rookie in Pacers NBA franchise history, behind only Herb Williams (178) and Rik Smits (151), which made for plenty of highlight worthy denials.
Turner's propensity to be out of position weirdly made some of his block shots all the more impressive. For example, check out the ground he covers on this play against the Orlando Magic, wherein Turner mysteriously leaves Aaron Gordon to help Paul George force Elfrid Payton to pass the ball before smothering Victor Oladipo's shot at the rim. The defense likely had Dan Burke rolling his eyes, but his athleticism is impressive.
How did Myles Turner disappoint:
He did some strange things on defense due to lack of experience. Like against the Dallas Mavericks, when the 20-year-old got completely lost chasing Chandler Parsons baseline and ended up getting whistled for running through a screen set by Zaza Pachulia, who was presumably blocking Turner from contesting a shot from...well... it's tough to say.
As was mentioned previously, the rookie, as is common, also predictably struggled to hold his ground against bigger bodies on the block, placing in the 38th percentile defending against post-up plays. When Ian Mahinmi was sidelined with a sprained ankle, Turner provided little resistance against Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins, who scored 48 points to go along with 13 rebounds. If the five is going to be Turner's preferred position long-term, then putting some weight on his slim 243-pound frame needs to be atop his summer to-do list.
What's next for Myles Turner?
Go ahead and add extending his shooting range to that list as well. Turner only connected on three three-pointers this season, one of which happened to be in the clutch against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but doing so more consistently would make him a nightmare to defend regardless of which position he plays.
Myles Turner's agent confirmed to the Indy Star's Candace Buckner that his client has been invited to participate with Team USA's Select Team, which presents him with the rare opportunity to hone his game and begin chipping away at his offseason checklist while competing against many of the best players in the country.
"He's got it," Bird said of Turner's talent at Monday's press conference. "He's got the work ethic. He's got an opportunity to make strides through the summer and be ready for next year."
Perhaps more than the head-to-head comparisons, stylistic similarities, or shared Alma mater it is Turner's commitment to his craft which bears the most resemblance to LaMarcus Aldridge.
"It was almost like those guys were cloned," McMillan told Sirius XM NBA's Radio "Off the Dribble" and was reported by AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today Sports. " ... the one thing that I loved about LaMarcus was the fact that he worked extremely hard. He stayed in the gym after practice, he was early to practice, and he really worked on developing his game. Myles Turner is exactly the same type of player. This kid loves to play."