It appears as though Evan Turner may be the player who suffers most at the hands of the Boston Celtics‘ improved depth and talent level this season. Turner was a primary ball handler on the starting unit last season. He was trusted in clutch situations, was one of the best rebounding guards and lead the team in assists.
All of that sounds great but you could pick almost any game Turner played in last season and you would understand why a reduced role is coming. The most glaring problem is shooting 27.7% from three point range. The problem is less about Turner being a bad shooter and more that he takes egregiously bad shot attempts.
Despite being on a team whose offensive success depends entirely on ball movement, Turner would often play ball hog and resort to isolation shots. Turner would take contested shots in bad situations and it was the most damaging thing to their offensive flow. The Celtics have no other player that stunted them to the degree that Turner did. However, that is largely due to his higher usage.Apr 14, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) shoots against Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) in the second half at TD Garden. The Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 95-93. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, despite all the problems, Turner remained one of the best ball handlers on the team. Marcus Smart was not ready to have that role on the offensive end, Avery Bradley did not posses the same play making ability and no one in the front court could be trusted to run the offense.
Turner had some great moments with triple doubles and game winning shots but that was not enough to make up for his poor shooting and decision making. Shooting 27.7% from three point range is bad enough. It is even worse considering the kind of shots that Turner was taking. Forced isolation shots that were contested put the entire offense on hold and went in the opposite direction of Stevens’ great system. Unselfish ball movement is too important to Stevens’ offense and now that he has more options, it will no longer be tolerated from Turner.
Marcus Smart is expecting to become more involved in the offense. Isaiah Thomas is going to continue to lead the way for the second unit and David Lee has emerged as the primary ball handler for the starting unit. The Celtics have more offensive talent in their front court with Amir Johnson and have more options in their back court with Terry Rozier and R.J Hunter.
Not only has Turner lost his role on the starting unit but he runs the risk of disappearing behind a lot of guard depth. Fortunately, there remains one area where Turner can continue to have an impact for the Celtics and it is on the defensive end.Apr 23, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) looks for an opening against Boston Celtics guard Evan Turner (11) during the second half in game three of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. The Cavaliers defeated the Celtics 103-95. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports
Jae Crowder is responsible for guarding an opposing team’s best player and the only teammates he has that has the same ability to physically matchup with the best athletes in the NBA is Turner. Crowder’s impact on the defensive end is too important to have no option behind him and Turner fills that role perfectly.
Having Turner take the floor during the moments when Crowder needs rest will also continue to give him limited opportunities to be a play maker. Turner will no longer be playing with the starting unit and he can provide a legitimate boost on the offensive end when the primary play makers are on the bench.
The Celtics no longer have to deal with Turner stunting the offensive flow but they do not want to lose his physical prescence on the defensive end. Even though he is no longer needed with all kinds of guard depth on the team he is the lone player on the roster that can be trusted to effectively backup Crowder on the defensive end.
Stevens clearly sees something in Turner and that will ensure that he remains a part of the rotation in a limited capacity. Defense needs to become Turner’s focus and if he allows the more efficient play makers to control the offense then he can start to have more of a positive impact on the offensive end.
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