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Player Review: Myles Turner shouldn’t change what makes him special

He should refine it.

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Hassan Whiteside averaged 24.7 points and 20 rebounds against the Indiana Pacers this season mostly because Myles Turner failed to match his level of physicality. Indiana’s young center idly watched as lob passes soared above his out-of-position outstretched arms, he allowed himself to get pushed too far under the basket, he shirked his responsibility to box out, and he committed multiple touch fouls of the soft variety.

That’s a problem. Worse still, is that it was a recurrent problem. Near to the same thing happened in separate games against Anthony Davis (35 points, 16 rebounds) and Marcin Gortat (21 points, 13 rebounds) and Jonas Valanciunas (16 points, 17 rebounds).

Needless to say, Turner needs to get stronger. The good news is that he knows it, but the bad highly questionable news is that he also apparently has his sights set on establishing himself more in the post. Prioritizing toughness is one thing, potentially shelving what it is that makes him special —- his dual-ability to spread the floor and protect the rim —- is quite another.

How did Myles Turner impress?

Granted, the injury he sustained to the index finder on his shooting hand took a considerable toll on his field goal percentage over the second half of the season. He was shooting 44.9 percent from mid-range before he incurred the injury against the Milwaukee Bucks on March 10, and shot 31.4 percent from that distance after. Dip in accuracy aside, it’s possible the nagging injury was actually a blessing in disguise, because it dictated that he refocus his attention toward his passing game.

"I'm distributing the ball a lot more," Turner told the Indy Star’s Nate Taylor at a practice following his team’s mid-March loss to the Boston Celtics. "It's what the offense has called for — feeding the hot hands. (Paul George) and Jeff (Teague) have been hot, so I'm getting it to them."

Turner didn’t rack up points created (3.4) near to the degree of Denver’s Nikola Jokic (11.3), but his vision certainly improved.

Making this pass out of the pick and roll to Aaron Brooks in the left corner wouldn’t have probably even crossed his mind as a rookie.

Quick Reminder: He never recorded a single assist in three games at the Orlando Pro Summer League.

That’s growth.

How did Myles Turner disappoint?

He shied away from contact, too often. Rather than powering up through the chest of his opponent, he had an intermittent tendency to settle for awkward, off-balanced shots.

He also needs to get a better handle on setting stationary screens as well as defending the pick and roll. In seasons past, when George Hill’s lengthy wingspan was disrupting passing lanes at the point of attack, it made strategic sense for the Pacers to actively funnel ball-handlers toward the rim protector, who would play a sort of one-man zone in the high paint.

That doesn’t work with Jeff Teague.

He lags from behind where Hill would’ve been able to stay attached to his man’s hip, which means soft coverage isn’t going to be very effective. Not against shooters, at least. Here, Turner should’ve hedged to force Kemba Walker to dribble away from the basket until Teague could recover. Instead, the first-time All-Star has all the space he needs to pull-up from distance and drain the open three.

What’s next?

Of course, expecting Indiana’s only true rim protector to venture 30 feet from the basket isn’t without risk. Turner will have to be quick on his feet, and the weak side help can’t be sleepy. If not, capable roll men will inflict as much damage on the Pacers as sweet shooting ball-handlers.

This, in part, is why adding bulk and focusing too heavily on establishing himself in the low post needs to be done with caution.

How likely is it that Turner will have the energy required to come out higher to show against ball-handlers, recover to the paint, and box out, if he’s gassed from banging on the block?

Extending and stabilizing the range on his jumper would arguably be of more value to the Pacers, assuming Kevin Pritchard follows through with his desire to retool the roster with multiple drive-and-kick flyers.

Jermaine O’Neal is qualified to help Turner to stop shrinking against more imposing frames, but not at the cost of the team’s space. In that regard, if he is going to be tutored by someone from Dallas, he might want to look up Chris Bosh.

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