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Myles Turner’s year-over-year growth hits yet another snag with elbow injury

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Indiana’s 21-year-old starting center will miss tonight’s game against Miami as well as Friday’s against Cleveland.

NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Indiana Pacers Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The right elbow strain that Myles Turner sustained while completing a first-quarter dunk against the Milwaukee Bucks will keep him out for at least the next two games, the Pacers announced today.

Indiana is 4-4 in games when Domantas Sabonis has started in place of Turner, including a sizable victory over Friday’s opponent, the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, for the 21-year-old shot-blocker with the feathery soft mid-range jump shot, the setback is the latest in what has been an unfortunate series of bumps which have contributed to his somewhat fitful year-over-year growth amid his third season.

From entering the concussion protocol after only one game and being limited to eating and sleeping for two weeks thereafter to observing his supposed understudy blossom in his stead, Turner has yet to consistently be put in the position to develop as the focal point of the offense that many expected him to readily become following the trade of Paul George.

Instead, the widely presumed franchise heir apparent is still touching the ball less on average than 15 other centers with at least 30 starts and continues to be somewhat of an afterthought in the fourth-quarter, racking up 15-plus games with fewer than two field goal attempts in the game’s final period.

Much to his credit, he’s been the league’s best shooter from between the paint and the 3-point line (minimum 125 attempts), but his tendency to settle for turnaround jump shots when defended by smaller guards along with his spotty coverage against roll-men makes it more of a challenge for him to impact the game when his shot doesn’t fall.

Such was the case against the more imposing interior scoring presence of Karl-Anthony Towns, when Turner was minus-13 in less than 20 minutes of action, finishing 0-of-5 from the field while notching more fouls than rebounds.

Of course, there’s also an argument to be made that the diversification of his scoring arsenal has also been somewhat slowed by his team’s implicit reliance upon his ability to knockdown shots out of the pick-and-pop.

As bballbreakdown’s Adam Spinella explains, Turner’s credibility from mid-range is key to how the Pacers generate high-quality, low-quantity three-pointers in the half-court, given that they maddeningly continue to lead the Eastern Conference in 3-point percentage while ranking among the bottom ten teams in 3-point attempts per 100 possessions.

These situations create a ton of wide-open three point looks, and they’re all available because the Pacers use that pick-and-roll so much. If Turner was less of a threat, and a credible one they went to time and time again, these sets wouldn’t generate the clean looks the Pacers need. So while it’s easy to criticize their lack of three-point attempts on the surface, there is a calculated plan that’s working well within their offensive scheme.

Nevertheless, after shooting below 40 percent over the four games that Victor Oladipo missed due to knee soreness, Indiana’s starting center had started to appear more aggressive on both ends of the floor over the last two games.

For instance, most recently against the Milwaukee Bucks, he helped set the tone early with his energy and intensity by denying passing lanes in the high post while starting the contest a perfect 3-of-3 from the field, all of which were shots attempted inside the paint.

Then, his elbow injury happened.

In the short-term, the Pacers already have a workable contingency plan in place. After all, they’ve outscored opponents by 5.3 points per 100 possessions in the 170 minutes that Sabonis has played with the regular starters.

However, once Turner returns, making a more purposed effort to sustain and foster what he was doing immediately before the injury happened needs to be as much of a priority as winning games while he’s out.