Last summer, the Indiana Pacers lost their centerpiece of the franchise as Paul George was shipped off to Oklahoma City. If you go back and look at this tweet from big man Myles Turner when George was traded you can see all sorts of comments to the effect of “the team is yours now.”
At the time, many of us assumed that Turner was going to be the one to take over the future of the team. We all know the story with Victor Oladipo taking over the city of Indianapolis and he brought his “little brother” with him in Domantas Sabonis. This has worked out just fine for the Pacers, who are currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference when no one gave them a chance in the preseason.
I think we can all agree that no one has responded better to this shift in the franchise than Turner himself. That being said, between injuries and consistency issues, this has not been the season that we all envisioned for Turner statistically. He is currently averaging 13.4 points per game, which is a full point down from last year’s campaign.
That being said, I personally refuse to believe that Turner has regressed, rather it is a result of untimely injuries and a lack of usage while he is on the floor. Turner is a rare talent that can pose as a match-up nightmare for NBA bigs because of his pure jump shot and elite shot-blocking ability. Turner needs to be more of a focal point in the offense.
Turner has appeared in 46 of the Pacers 62 games up until the writing of this article. Within those 46 appearances, 43 have them have been in the starting lineup and three off the bench. There is a direct correlation between Turner’s performance and, to a degree, the Pacers’ performance overall based on how many shot attempts the third year big puts up per game. Unfortunately, his average field goal attempts per game played has steadily dropped since the beginning of the first month of the season.
Through the month of December, Turner was averaging over ten shot attempts per game, yet the total immediately started to fall (13 FGA per game in October, 11.2 FGA in November and 10.3 in December). January was a bit of a lost cause because of Turner’s elbow injury that kept him out for most of the month. His FGA would decrease to 8.3 in January given the small sample size. The next month would prove more concerning as he would put up 8.6 FGA for the entire month of February. Though the calendar just flipped to March, Turner only shot the ball six times in the Pacers last game against Milwaukee.
What the numbers do tell us is that Turner performs more efficiently when he takes more shots. His overall volume also increases, that goes without saying. In Turner’s 46 appearances this season, he has only reached the ten FGA plateau 28 times, roughly 60 percent of his games. The ball seems to be finding other Pacers first.
For reference, there has been one game that Victor Oladipo has not reached that number of shot attempts. It was the All-Star Game. Granted, Oladipo should be taking the most shots on the team and will continue to be a high-volume scorer. The point remains the same: Turner needs the ball more. In those 28 games with ten FGA, Turner averages 16.5 points per game and shoots at nearly 52 percent, including nine games with 20+ points. Since coming back from his elbow injury, those numbers are 19.4 PPG at a blistering 61.7 percent in five games.
Obviously, when Turner gets the ball he will perform better, but what does all of this mean for the Pacers? In the 28 games where Turner shoots the ball at least ten times, the Pacers are 17-11 on the season, a .607 win percentage in such games. That is better than the current Pacers win percentage of .565 at 35-27. The ugly side of this comes when we look at the 18 games that Turner has played and not been fed the rock. In games with under ten attempts, the Pacers are dead even at 9-9.
What Can Be Done?
The fact of the matter is it does not take a PhD in statistics to understand that the Pacers are better when Turner gets the ball. Oladipo has put a lot of miles on his body this season, which is not remotely surprising given the hustle, high-octane style he plays. It’s time that he be given more rest throughout a game to save for the playoffs. There needs to be another offensive focal point in the starting rotation. The Pacers need to reestablish Turner as that focal point where he is given clean looks every night as well as the green light. I cannot be the only one that has noticed his hesitation when given the ball on the perimeter.
His misuse is causing lack of consistency. No, it’s not time to trade Turner or give his spot to someone else. It’s time to feed Turner because the big fella is hungry.