It’s been said that a man’s happiness is underpinned not by where he is, but by where he eventually expects to be. Happiness is, essentially, a capacity for optimism. By this measure, Sixers fans, for the first time in a decade have a chance to be happy.
Alright, cautiously optimistic. At least not unipolarly depressed.
The reason for this uptick in the once bleak prospects of the 7-6 is that they’ve finally landed a franchise player. A big Ohioan, with size, superlative court vision, defensive tenacity, and a lightning quick first step. One who was twice recognized as the best player in his league, but was unable to carry a mediocre collection of teammates to a title, regardless. That’s right. Evan Turner is a Sixer.
What we like about Evan Turner
There’s obviously a lot to like here. He plays three positions and puts up triple-doubles like Kobe puts up ill-advised threes in big spots before getting bailed out by his teammates. This past season he led the Big Ten in scoring and finished second in assists and rebounds. Not the Big Sky. The Big Ten. Obviously no one had done this before.*
*It’s nice to a have a Sixer who has done things that are unprecedented in a positive sense, rather than unprecedented like, “Allen Iverson once drank three-quarters of a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue and played 40 minutes the next day. He shot 9 for 26.”
His productivity in college, coupled with reports that his work ethic is excellent (Yes, we’re talking about practice), auger well for his professional future. The component of the collegiate game that seems to translate best to the NBA is rebounds. Some guys can just do it. Evan Turner is one of those guys** He projects to a cross between Brandon Roy, Andre Iguadala, and a Great White shark.
**Evan Turner is a statistical beast. In addition to his other-worldly rebounding, he put up a PAWS40 (Positionally Adjusted Win Score) of 14.37 this past season. John Wall was a 9.97. 65% of college players who perform at this level in college go on to post an above-average WP48 in the pros. If you want to know what the hell this means, go here. If not, just take my word that Turner was very, very good last season, and should be very, very good in the pros.
He also has the requisite toughness to succeed in Philadelphia. Last season he broke his back and missed six games. Six games.
What makes us nervous about Evan Turner
Despite the ample grounds for optimism mentioned above, any enthusiasm for Turner should be tempered by an awareness of the steep odds he faces. Namely, he’s a rookie. And rookies usually suck.
An average starter will produce about eight wins a season for his team. In the last 33 years, only 64 rookies have reached this mark. Two per season. In fact, the average rookie is only 40% as productive as an average veteran.
Even fewer rookies are exceptionally productive. The generally accepted threshold for “superstar” status is a WP48 of 0.3***, or about three times the productivity of the average player. Since 1994 only Chris Paul and Shaq have performed at this level as rookies.
But while the numbers tell us we shouldn’t hold our breath for ET (definite nickname possibility) to blossom into a superstar, these gloomy projections should be considered in light of the fact that the average number two overall pick is generally more productive than the average rookie and Turner, after playing three seasons of big conference collegiate basketball, is better prepared physically and philosophically to succeed immediately than the average one-and-done (or none-and-done) incoming rookie. There’s a chance he’s more Chris Paul than Chris Richard.
Unfortunately there is some reason to believe that the aforementioned back injury will be a problem down the road. Back injuries don’t heal that well. Once the thing goes downhill, it never comes all the way back. I stress fractured two lower vertebrae in high school, and it still bothers me when I jog. That said, Larry Bird had a famously lousy back and he was pretty good.
Oh, and ET (I’m making this name happen. “ET, his game is out of this world.” You can see it) turned the ball over too much in college. He also handled it constantly. With Jrue Holliday sharing the backcourt with him that should be less of an issue.
What will become of Evan Turner
I’m bullish on the young fella. For his rookie season I see a line of 15 points, 7 rebounds, six assists, 3 turnovers, and four “Evan Turner Overdrive” references per game, with a WP48 of .17.