Floating anywhere from No. 68 to No. 36, outlets can’t even seem to reach a consensus on how good Myles Turner is right now, let alone where he’ll be four years from now. Nevertheless, in the spirit of fun, a panel of ten SB Nation NBA writers and editors has bravely endeavored to project who will be the Top 101 players of 2021 and in so doing bullishly drafted Indiana’s franchise heir apparent among the Top 25 at No. 22.
At first blush, that placement seems high — especially since, notwithstanding guards and forwards, there are at least four other multi-dimensional bigs currently under the age of 24 who, for various reasons, arguably already have the edge over Turner heading into the 2017-18 season.
Karl-Anthony Towns is a more well-rounded scorer
Establishing Indiana’s lone rim protector on the block may not be worth wasting precious seconds of the shot clock or potentially draining the energy required of him to come out higher against ball-handlers, recover to the paint, and box out, but it’s evident that leaning on his face-up game comes at the cost of a comparably more diversified arsenal.
Nikola Jokic is better at making his teammates better
Myles Turner never recorded an assist at the Orlando Pro Summer League as a rookie, so displaying the split-second vision necessary to find shooters in either corner as he rolled to the rim was an encouraging sign for his development during his second season. Still, while the quality of the reads he executed noticeably improved, he didn’t exactly orchestrate one of the league’s most proficient offenses as a point center.
Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis are better at what Myles Turner is best at
On the other end of the floor, however, Towns is less committed and Jokic is more flawed than Turner. Consider this, only three players in the league last season averaged at least 14 points, seven rebounds, and two blocks while shooting at least 34 percent from three: Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis, and Myles Turner.
It’s this dual-ability to spread the floor and prevent scoring opportunities with precisely timed, jaw-dropping rejections that makes Indiana’s 21-year-old center special.
But, blocked shots only tell part of the story when it comes to defensive impact. For instance, opponents shot worse within six feet against the length of Porzingis (50.7%) and mobility of Embiid (44.1%) than they did when Turner was on the floor (53.0%). They also scored fewer points in the paint with the rookie sensation’s physicality on the court than they did against the less imposing frames of either second-year player.
In terms of floor spacing, Turner’s shot is the least adjusted to three-point range.
Head-to-head comparisons aside, though, the value of stretch-5s isn’t likely to depreciate over the next four years, so it’s possible there could be room for Turner among the herd of unicorns, regardless.
There’s also some evidence which suggests that he could narrow the gap.
For instance, it bodes well that his still-maturing build hasn’t shown many signs of fragility. In retrospect, the chip fracture that he sustained to his left thumb during his rookie season which cost him 21 games seems relatively tame when considering that Embiid has only played 31 games in three seasons while Porzingis has suffered six different injuries in two.
Plus, committing himself to adding strength will likely only improve his durability. In that regard, it seems fair to expect that his frame will be fully developed by 2021. If so, he should be better equipped to hold his spot and power through the chest of opponents as opposed to shying away from contact and settling for awkward, off-balanced shots.
Likewise, making the effort to modernize his shot distribution over the next four seasons has the potential to further weaponize his smooth shooting stroke. Prior to and thru the game in which he incurred an injury to the index finger on his shooting hand, Turner was shooting 45.4 percent from mid-range, which was the second-best mark among the aforementioned 23-and-under bigs.
But, they take and make more threes than he does. Lowering his ratio of mid-range shots (337) to three-point attempts (115) would likely yield his tough-to-contest release more points per attempt.
Of course, as Indiana’s new focal point, feeding him a more steady diet of purposeful looks beyond the arc rather than last-ditch, pick and pop scraps from the elbow when the offense breaks down shouldn’t be as much of an obstacle.
Unlike Jokic, Towns, and Embiid, Turner was drafted to a team with an already existing and well-established star presence to prioritize and accommodate. As a result, the 21-year-old used fewer of his team’s possessions while he was on the floor than any of his fellow rivals last season.
In fact, he only averaged 49.3 touches per contest, which was fewer than Jeff Teague (77.0), Paul George (62.7), and Thaddeus Young (50.5). Nevertheless, given what he was able to accomplish with less, supposing that he will be able to do more with more seems probable considering that the two players atop Indiana’s possession food chain will now be on different teams.
All of which is to say that there’s reason to expect that Myles Turner will make a leap by 2021, but it’s difficult to predict how sizable it will be before having seen him complete a full season in a leading role. Even so, if the panel’s future draft position holds up, the Pacers might want to borrow Zito’s crystal ball so that they can gaze into and better prepare for the summer of 2023, when the then prime-age stretch-5 will likely be set to enter the fifth and final season of his designated rookie extension.
Here’s the full blurb on Turner’s ranking:
22. Myles Turner
Age in 2021: 25 (6 seasons)
ZITO MADU: At just 21 years old, he’s already one of the best shot blockers in the league and the rare big man who can shoot threes, at least at a respectable level. He has a lot to improve on the offensive end and defending the post, but with such a great foundation and the spotlight on him now with Paul George, I expect for him to steadily improve.
Everyone else’s reactions
CAITLIN COOPER, INDY CORNROWS: Prime-age stretch 5s aren't going to suddenly depreciate in value by 2021, so there could be room for Myles Turner in the Top-25 somewhere behind Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, and Kristaps Porzingis if his then fully developed frame is less apt to shy away from contact as the key cog within what is hopefully a more modern and imaginative offense.
MIKE PRADA: This is asking a hell of a lot from Turner. I know Pacers fans are desperate for a face of the franchise that embraces them, but we’re talking about him being a perennial all-star if he’s this high. It’s possible, but I would’ve taken the safer route and picked him several spots lower.
I worry the absence of George will simply raise expectations too much.
TOM ZILLER: This is going to be a very interesting season for Turner. I’m a little concerned about how much his guards can help him develop.
WHITNEY MEDWORTH: GREAT PICK, ZITO. I’m serious. I love this pick.