Evan Turner‘s time with the “Night Shift” in Philadelphia is coming to an end, and it’s about time.
After spending the last two years helping fuel the Sixers’ second unit, nicknamed the “Night Shift” by coach Doug Collins, the former second-overall pick is moving into the starting lineup permanently.
Collins said that Turner would be in the starting lineup for the rest of the season following his career-high 26 point, nine rebound performance against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night. He played a season-hight 37 minutes in just his second start of the year, and showed the athleticism and basketball IQ that Philadelphia tapping him as the second pick behind John Wall in 2010.
When the six-foot-seven Turner was drafted out of Ohio State pundits wondered exactly where he would fit in with Philadelphia as the team already had a playmaking swingman in Andre Iguodala (and his shiny new contract) at the small forward spot. Those concerns were realized as Turner had a slow start and failed to show the shooting ability to play two-guard in the NBA. He played well at the swing forward spelling Iguodala, but didn’t show enough to supplant his in his first season.
In the offseason Turner committed himself to improving his game, including his jumpshot. The result was an improved player still stuck behind Iguodala. But it did lead to an expanded role as part of the Sixers’ lights-out second unit that tortured teams without the same depth as the Sixers.
But inconsistent play from starting shooting guard Jodie Meeks opened the door for Turner. Meeks, a knockdown jumpshooter, has struggled this season inside the three-point arc and is oft replaced by sixth-man Lou Williams after the first TV timeout. But Williams is a proven scorer off the bench and provides more impact to the team coming off the pine rather than starting from the opening tip. Without another viable option on the roster, enter Evan Turner.
Collins gave Turner the start Wednesday against the Boston Celtics, and was rewarded with Turner’s best game as a pro. The Illinois native was 11-19 from the field, 1-3 from three-point range and recorded 26 points and nine rebounds. He also played a vital role on defense, holding Boston’s Ray Allen to just two points.
Let’s dig into what Turner brings to the table for the Sixers in the starting lineup. The Sixers have trouble rebounding the ball without center Spencer Hawes. Enter Turner, who rebounds the ball extremely well for his position and is averaging more than 5.7 rebounds in just over 24 minutes of action a game. He’s athletic enough to be able to steal some defensive rebounds as well as a few on the offensive end, which gives the offensively challenged Sixers some much-needed extra possessions per game.
Turner plays excellent defense, much better than that of Meeks, who has been lit up this years by some of the league’s better two-guards. Turner is long and athletic, which gives guys like Ray Allen fits on defense, he closes out on every shot and provides great help defense to a team that already plays solid defense.
He sees the floor very well and is an above-average passer. While some talk of him being a point guard might be overstated, he is a player that excels with the ball in his hands. That is a problems because the Sixers already have a solid point guard in Jrue Holiday, but Holiday has a good jumpshot and moves well without the ball unlike Turner. I have no doubt the two could have success playing on the floor at the same time.
So what isn’t to like?
He’s shooting just 41% from the field and doesn’t shoot the three all that often or very well. Before his 11 of 19 shooting performance against Boston, he shot 1 of 12 from the field at Milwaukee. Though he had 12 rebounds and four assists in that game, no team can win with a starting two-guard shooting 1 for 12.
So he can’t shoot, but if he creates enough open shots for Sixers that can shoot, like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams, then it won’t be a big of a problem.
Regardless of whether this experiment works or not isn’t a huge deal. The Sixers are currently getting little to nothing out of its starting two-guard Jodie Meeks, so why not try an option that could provide more? It’s a no-brainer, and it’s just time to give Turner a chance to see if he will be a difference maker from opening tip or coming off the pine as a part of the “Night Shift.”
It’s a gamble the Sixers and Doug Collins can afford to take.