It’s been a “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” sort of season for Texas big man Myles Turner, who officially announced that he’ll be entering this year’s NBA draft. Turner’s play this season helped the Longhorns lock down an 11th seed in the 2015 NCAA Tournament. But unfortunately in Texas’ first round contest it was one of those nights when the meeker Dr. Jekyll version of the center showed up, and Turner had just two lonely points to go along with 10 rebounds in the Longhorns’ loss to Butler.
The Texas native was ranked No. 6 overall in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index coming out of high school, but he didn’t quite live up to the hype during what will be his sole college season in the Lone Star state. In a draft rich with talented big men, Turner’s stats this season don’t necessarily rate him as a lottery pick. If a team selects Turner in the top 10 it will be more about his long-term potential than the player he is right now. Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) ranks Turner as the No. 10 overall prospect, and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress rates him the No. 12 overall player in this year’s NBA draft.
Turner’s overall numbers for the season weren’t eye-popping, with averages of 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds, 0.6 assists, and 2.6 blocks in 22.2 minutes per night. His shooting numbers in 34 appearances were .455/.274/.839. Turner was 1st in the Big 12 Conference in blocks, 1st in defensive rating (86.3), and 3rd in free throw percentage.
There was a large discrepancy between Turner’s performances against lesser competition and what he logged against the bigger, more talented schools. The 19-year-old failed to score in double figures in 20 of the 34 games he played in, and he only reached double digit rebounds in a total of seven contests. It’s unclear how much of Turner’s struggles with consistency can be placed upon the shoulders of former Texas coach Rick Barnes, who was let go by the university after Texas’ tournament ouster. Barnes’ system wasn’t a great fit for Turner, but one would still like to see more production from a potential lottery selection.
Offensively, Turner is more of a jump shooter at this stage of his development than a post up threat. The big man has good instincts on the offensive end, something that isn’t all that common in young power forwards and centers his age. Turner has a nice high release point on his shot which will translate nicely to the NBA and its bigger, more athletic players. He also can drain shots from beyond the arc, but isn’t a consistent threat from deep just yet. The forward is also a superior free throw shooter, nailing nearly 84% of his attempts from the charity stripe this season.
One major concern regarding Turner is his odd and somewhat awkward running style. The forward doesn’t move well in transition, even by big man standards. According to Givony, citing statistics gathered by Synergy Sports Technology, Turner only made five field goals (out of 13 attempts) all season in transition situations. That is an alarmingly low percentage for a college player with Turner’s level of athleticism, and should raise some red flags amongst scouts and GMs. Turner’s running style also has some scouts worried that he could be an injury risk, something that is already a concern with taller players without the added worry Turner’s unusual gait brings.
As a defender, Turner is far from a slouch. He was one of the anchors on a Texas team that ranked in the top-20 in the nation on defense, and he is a fearsome shot blocker and also an excellent help defender. While Turner still needs to bulk up, a common requirement for college bigs transitioning to the NBA, his excellent 9’1.5″ reach should make him a tough defender once he figures out the professional game.
The seven-footer does have a leg up on a number of college forwards, in that Turner does have a clearly defined NBA position. Far too many college bigs transition to the league without a set position, and those players usually don’t turn out to be much better than complementary rotation players for their careers. Turner is a prototypical stretch four as far as his skills go, and with the increasing demand for big men who can stretch the floor in the NBA, he shouldn’t be lacking for work anytime soon.
Turner is easily one of the more polarizing talents in this year’s NBA draft. He has top five pick potential, but his athletic limitations and injury concerns will likely cause him to drop to the bottom of the lottery, or out of it altogether. His pre-draft physicals will be paramount to his case to be a top 10 pick. If teams are too wary of his potential knee and hip issues, then Turner will slide down the draft board and some team picking in the late teens could land themselves a steal. Turner has the potential to provide similar production to that of LaMarcus Aldridge and Chris Bosh, though it will likely take him multiple seasons to even begin to approach those players’ levels. In a draft loaded with talented big men, Turner carries with him one of the higher risk versus reward ratios. But he’s absolutely worth taking a chance on for a team picking in the teens, though I wouldn’t risk a top 10 pick on him considering the depth in this year’s draft at Turner’s position.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.