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Myles Turner: It’s a Two-Way Street

Welcome to The Gallery, featuring a look at what’s holding Myles Turner back from taking on more of a two-way role.

Original image via Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

(“The Gallery” is an end-of-season series featuring one uniquely titled picture or video installation for every player that best summarizes or encapsulates that player’s season in a single snapshot. These aren’t highlights, they’re seminal moments expressed through the medium of art placards. Enjoy your tour!)

Myles Turner

Center, Age 23

It’s a Two-way Street

Indiana Pacers versus Golden State Warriors, March 21

Oracle Arena

An intellectually provocative piece, It’s a Two-way Street adds an extra layer of context to the discourse concerning Myles Turner’s involvement in the offense. Taking place during a game in which the Pacers tied a season-low for scoring with 89 points on the fourth game of a brutal four-game road trip, the 23-year-old center’s eyes provide the work with a strong, yet subtle, focal point. At the precise moment he receives the pass from Cory Joseph, trace the line of his gaze. After starting the game 2-of-9 from the field, Turner isn’t spying the rim; he’s staring straight in the direction of Bojan Bogdanovic, preparing himself to flow into a dribble hand-off reversal without giving even slight consideration to looking for his own shot.

Worse still, his passivity has the unintended consequence of generating a non-competitive switch. As was demonstrated during the first-round of the playoffs, Bogdanovic doesn’t fare so well when pindowns get transformed into small versus big isolations, and Turner doesn’t have a clear advantage over Kevin Durant on the block. He ends up posting up with the intent to pass, but the backscreen Wesley Matthews sets for Bogdanovic as the post feeder produces only minimal effect against a switching defense. When all is said and done, Indiana’s starting small forward is left with little choice but to a take a lower percentage shot than the one that Turner initially bypassed.

And therein lies the rub: Sometimes, Turner’s limited role in the offense wasn’t about limited touches, it was about what he did with those touches as well as his own limitations. By conceding the pick-and-pop, Golden State basically communicated their unbelief that the Pacers could win on the back of Turner shooting jumpers, and instead of putting that theory to the test, Myles more or less agreed with them and then proceeded to make a series of highly questionable decisions. In addition to second-guessing the greenlight given to him by the defense, two other things had a tendency to happen throughout the season in that same scenario: The defense would adjust, and neither he nor the Pacers would have a viable counter for the counter (i.e. switches, cross-matches, pre-rotations, etc.), or he would make them pay individually, but they wouldn’t get anything else out of those plays (see: shooting 4-of-11 from three versus the Bucks).

Granted, from initiating pick-and-rolls from in-between the paint and three-point line to stashing him in the dunker’s spot and providing opponents with a means by which to hide their behemoth rim protectors, there were inherent obstacles to Myles Turner being fully and consistently actualized as a modern stretch-five, but he also had a hand in his own marginalization.

Even ignoring his propensity for appearing equal parts timid and hasty when operating out of the low block, his average volume of shots off two or more dribbles (1.3) increased only slightly in comparison to a year ago (0.8), and he slipped less than 5 percent of the possessions he was used as the roll-man for a second-consecutive season.

Just showing greater natural instincts in those two areas alone, rather than congesting hedged pick-and-rolls or passing out of closeouts (yaas, to attacking Gordon Hayward off the dribble in the playoffs), would give him more of a voice to call shotgun against various types of defense as opposed to being relegated to the backseat.

Leading the league in blocked shots while providing his team with the option to be more adaptable with their pick-and-roll coverages due to his improved fluidity of motion, Turner didn’t allow missed shots to affect where his head was at on defense. Moving forward, if he’s going to take on more of a two-way role, the same needs to be the case on the other end of the floor.

Getting him more touches is one thing, but he also has to be ready to assert himself both when his shot falls as well as when it doesn’t.

It’s a two-way street.

Previous collections:

Darren Collison: Meh

Thaddeus Young: The Sticking Point

Cory Joseph: It’s all in the Details

Alize Johnson: Rough around the Edges

Doug McDermott: The Invisible Man