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Back off Myles Turner

The third-year leap never happened but that doesn’t mean it won’t in the fourth year.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Boston Celtics
Indiana Pacers forward Myles Turner (33) reacts during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Credit: Greg M. Cooper
Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine you’re 21 years old. You’re currently the starting center for an NBA team that’s on pace to win 45 games this season and you have a field goal percentage of 50 percent. Despite that, you’ve only slightly improved your points per game from last season to now, so fans are disappointed. I’m describing Kevin Garnett, but Myles Turner can certainly relate.

If you were to take statistics from Turner’s second year, keeping the same number of shots while increasing the number of three-pointers, you’d see his current season’s stats.

Offensively, Turner has plateaued.

“He’s got to get stronger,” Pacers president Kevin Pritchard said during his post-trade deadline press conference “He’s got to get a post-game because they are switching and they are putting smaller guys on him. There’s a thing in the league called dirty rebounds between a couple of players. He’s got to start winning those battles.”

Compared to last season Turner has slightly changed his offensive play style to focus more on three-point jump shooting, just like the rest of the league.

Turner increased his three-point attempts from one in every eight shots taken last season to one in every four shots now.

Much to the surprise of Pacers fans, he’s also increased his mid-range shots (10-16 feet range) but has decreased the number of shots he takes around the rim (0-3 feet range).

Part of this is due to Nate McMillan’s new offensive strategy that was implemented during the offseason. The Pacers rely on Turner to set high screens and pop off of picks instead of rolling to the rim.

Part of his shying away from the rim could also possibly be because his efficiency is down - he went from 72 percent to just 63 percent when shooting around the rim.

Turner also lacks a reliable low-post game, something that’s typically expected of a center to develop and fine-tune throughout their career. But just because he hasn’t yet doesn’t mean he won’t.

Indiana stood pat at the trade deadline, partly because of Al Jefferson, who Pritchard labeled the team’s fourth most important player.

In his prime, Jefferson was a lethal who could catch the ball at almost any spot around the paint and score. Just watch this highlight from when he made third-team All-NBA with the Charlotte Hornets:

The Pacers’ reasoning for keeping Jefferson might have to do with his experience and the wisdom he’s received that he can pass on. In his prime, he was an effective mid-range shooter just like Turner is. He was able to use the threat jump shot to draw defenders in close enough to beat them to the rim.

Jefferson’s hesitation and spin moves are easily replaceable by Turner, who’s shown glimpses of these skills in past games:

Turner has shown flashes of greatness but he has a real problem with consistency. Both injuries and lack of opportunities have hurt him

When the Pacers traded Paul George they had to find a way to replace his 18 shots per game. Instead of the shots being distributed to Turner, Victor Oladipo stepped in and has taken them all.

That’s not a knock on Oladipo, who’s currently having a career season. But if Turner wants to evolve, he needs to average 13-15 shots per game, not the ten he’s averaged over the past two seasons.

Turner has also had a hellish year in terms of injury. He’s missed significant stretches of the season thanks to injuries more commonly seen in football (concussions) and baseball (elbow strain). The injuries led to a lack of chemistry development with his new teammates at the start of the season and hurt his conditioning.

Each time Turner has returned from injury he’s come off the bench. He hasn’t been able to work out during his injuries which cause him to be slightly out of shape compared to his teammates. Lack of a consistent workout routine has prevented Turner from getting stronger during the season, which is crucial to improving his game.

“[Turner] knows he’s got to get stronger,” Pritchard said. “Those kinds of things are really done in the summer when you are not playing game after game after game. We’ve made him aware. He knows of that.”

Indiana has a history of helping centers put on muscle and grow stronger. Former Pacer Roy Hibbert gained 15 pounds of muscle in the summer of 2013, contributing to what would be the best season of his career.

When reviewing the unrealistic expectations set before the season even began, Turner appears to be a disappointment. But if he avoids fluke injuries and adds the extra muscle, his post-game will improve and he’ll be able to make a leap forward in his fourth season.