Trade for Evan Turner Hurting the Indiana Pacers

Evan Turner
Evan Turner
Joshua S Kelly USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers were declared one of the immediate winners of the NBA trade deadline after sending oft-injured swingman Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner, who was in the midst of a career year.

Fast forward a month, and perhaps we were too quick to make that call.

The Pacers remain atop the Eastern Conference standings but are currently riding a four-game losing streak. The defending champion Miami Heat have been able to make up ground during this rough stretch and now are within 1.5 games of that highly coveted No. 1 seed.

Turner was expected to give Indiana an offensive spark off the bench, but since his arrival the team has actually struggled to score points. During the current losing streak, the Pacers are averaging 91.0 points per game and have been outscored by 5.8 points with Turner on the floor, according to ESPN Stats & Info. In seven games donning an Indiana uniform, Turner is averaging 10.1 points, which is more than what Granger was producing, but with Granger the Pacers outscored their opponents by 8.5 points.

The Pacers are 5-4 since acquiring Turner, averaging fewer than 89 points per game — about 10 points less than the team’s overall season average (98.6 points per game). Defensively, the team maintains its title as the best defensive team, giving up just 92.2 points per game on the season. But since Turner’s arrival, the Pacers are allowing their opponents to score more than 100 points per game, including 106.0 points per game during the recent skid.

It’s easy to make Turner the scapegoat; he’s the only difference from the Pacers dominating the East before the All-Star Break and now in danger of falling from the top spot in the conference standings.

Turner was averaging 17.4 points per game early on in the season with the Sixers, but was taking 15.4 shots per game — about double of what he’s getting now as a role player. The Sixers’ fast-paced offense allows Turner to take more shots in more possessions, which allowed the swingman to earn better statistics. It also explains why 2013-14 was Turner’s best statistical campaign since arriving in the NBA.

In his first action with the Pacers, Turner was a strong offensive contributor. He scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, and shot 50 percent from the floor in 26 minutes in his debut against the Los Angeles Lakers, then later that week had a 15-point effort in 26 minutes off the bench in his third game against the Boston Celtics.

But when Turner’s minutes dwindled, so did his offensive production.

In 20 minutes in his second contest against the Milwaukee Bucks, he mustered eight points on 2-of-10 shooting. He produced eight points in 20 minutes again against the Utah Jazz. In 18 minutes against the Golden State Warriors he went scoreless.

After head coach Frank Vogel increased his playing time to 31 minutes, Turner responded with a 22-point performance against the Charlotte Bobcats, albeit in a losing effort.

The Pacers probably are not as happy with their move for Turner as they might have hoped, but there is a silver lining. They need to realize Turner can contribute on the offensive end — making up for his lack of defense — but only if he’s given enough shot attempts.

Vogel has to keep Turner’s minutes consistent to get the most of out Turner, and he has no choice but to rely on his new sixth man because Granger has since signed on with the Los Angeles Clippers. The weapon may not be as dynamic as the team had expected, but he can be effective — in the right situation. And if Indy wants to stave off the surging Heat, retain its spot atop the conference, and be at full strength by the start of the playoffs, it has to figure out how to use Turner … and quickly.

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Sam Spiegelman
Sam Spiegelman is a native New Yorker covering sports in New Orleans. He likes Game of Thrones way too much. Tweet him @samspiegs.