The Ultimate ‘Boom or Bust’ Prospect: Myles Turner


Mar 7, 2015; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Myles Turner (52) shoots against Kansas State Wildcats forward Thomas Gipson (42) during the first half at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY Sports

The past few days have been a whirlwind of rumors. With the DeMarcus Cousins drama and the atomic “Woj Bomb”, which suggested the Celtics could go after Paul Pierce and Kevin Love, some of us are forgetting that there’s a chance to add an impact player tonight, in the 2015 NBA Draft.

But there’s no doubt that the Celtics have to make some more progress this offseason. A surprise playoff appearance isn’t enough to satisfy the ambitious Danny Ainge. Ainge is a risky character, and he’s clearly itching to make a move tonight.

If Ainge wants to take a risk, look no further than Myles Turner.

Feb 21, 2015; Austin, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns forward Myles Turner (52) shoots against Iowa State Cyclones guard Georges Niang (31) during the first half at the Frank Erwin Special Events Center. Mandatory Credit: Brendan Maloney-USA TODAY

Turner underwhelmed in a tumultuous season for the Texas Longhorns, but he still has a unique skill-set that made him such a popular recruit out of high school. Yes, he’s a terrific rebounder, but a 6’11” 245 pound big man should be able to grab board with ease. Yes, he’s an active shotblocker, but a player with a 7’4″ wingspan should be able to swat shots. Nevertheless, these are two skills the Celtics need, which make him an appealing prospect from the onset.

What makes Turner unique, for better or worse, is his offensive skill set. He is an elite shooter for a behemoth of his size, both in the mid-range game and from beyond the arc. Turner averaged fewer than one point per possession on catch-and-shoot opportunities, but the mechanics of his shooting stroke are solid. Furthermore, he was relatively efficient; his 52-29-83 shooting splits are nothing to scoff at for a developing seven-footer.

On the block, Turner isn’t the type of bruising player who will back a defender down or fight for low post position. He doesn’t have the leg and hip strength (yet) to bruise with NBA-caliber big men. To combat this issue, however, Turner has developed a sweet turnaround jumper. He typically likes to fade over his right shoulder; it looks a bit quixotic, not like the picture-perfect fade-away jumpers Kevin Garnett used to shoot, but he shoots a high percentage on these shots. His upside as a sweet-shooting big man is huge.

How does this fit with the Celtics? Brad Stevens has told his big men to fire away from three, as we saw with Jared Sullinger this season and even Brandon Bass from the corners occasionally. In a space-and-pace system, Stevens would like to have a versatile, jump-shooting big man and Turner can address one of those needs. (Go to 4:21 in the following video to see Turner’s encouraging range):

Although he can shoot from three, the problem with Turner is that he’s not versatile. Offensively, Turner doesn’t have the decision making abilities to be a playmaker down low or along the perimeter (go to 10:46 in the video to see some terrible passes). Turner also isn’t a great finisher; he rarely dunks the ball because he isn’t particularly explosive, and goes to the rim weak when he puts the ball on the floor. Ultimately, these flaws could be fixed with significant work on his body and on his low-post skills.

The question, therefore, is whether the Celtics are willing to wait on Turner. I’m almost certain the answer is “no.”

There are other issues, however, which are less easy to fix. Take Turner’s awkward gait, for example. Scouts have concerns that Turner may suffer injuries due to his uncoordinated gait. Perhaps as a result, Turner leaves much to be desired in his perimeter defense. Defensively, Turner showed horrific lateral quickness when guarding the perimeter in college, and won’t be able to switch onto smaller players as regularly as other prospects like Willie Cauley-Stein or Bobby Portis.

So Turner’s not perfect. But, if he were a perfectly molded big man, he wouldn’t be in the conversation for a small trade up (see Kelly Olynyk in 2013) or even to slide to the Celtics. He’s a project, a guy who won’t be able to step in and start from day one, but a guy who we can keep in the gym and make incremental improvements every season. It’s this simple, actually: If Turner doesn’t improve, he’ll be a bust. As it stands, he’s currently not good enough to make a real impact. But, in the right environment, Turner could become a star. His frame, shooting ability, and rebounding could make him an elite center.

The question, therefore, is whether the Celtics are willing to wait on Turner? I’m almost certain the answer is “no.” Ainge has long talked about how he wants this to be a quick rebuild, and adding a prospect like Turner would set the Celtics back for the time being. The Celtics are long past the tanking stage and, at this point, it only makes sense to try to continue to improve every season and vault themselves into the mix as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

If the Celtics do, however, want to go with a high-risk, high-reward scenario, then Turner is their guy. He’s a major roll of the dice; you could end up with snake-eyes or double 6’s. For the Celtics, who have a sound developmental staff, it’s more likely Turner would improve in Boston.

For some teams, Myles Turner might be worth the risk. But for the Celtics, if they are looking to continue their ascent into the Eastern Conference elite, it makes sense to pass.

Next: Could Paul Pierce return to Boston?