Pacers will make Evan Turner reach his potential

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Evan Turner’s rookie year with the Philadelphia 76ers has been anything but normal; and not in a good way. The Chicago native who took home all the major national player of the year awards in college basketball during his final season of “amateur” status at Ohio State. His NBA career get off to a very rough start. He looked terrible in summer league; had an atrocious first couple months and when he returned to play in his hometown versus the Bulls for the first time, his numbers read like this: 6.3 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 40.6 FG%, 1.8 Asst. The Sixers demanded better ROI on their 3 year, $12 million investment.

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Well Evan Turner eventually found a role in Philly, and his numbers improved steadily each year. This year, Turner was the best player, on a very bad team. Even though it takes him 16 shots a game to score 17 points per game.We knew that Philadelphia was going to blow things up, as they were going nowhere. The team is bad, attendance is worse, and their leading scorer, Evan Turner was the first to go. He had the most trade value of anyone on the Sixers.

Evan Turner does have talent, it’s just that he hasn’t lived up to it so far. Maybe he’ll find his groove in Indy. He doesn’t have that far to go, just needs to shore up his defense and further develop his three point shot. When evaluating the only blockbuster trade on deadline day, in terms of upside, maybe Evan Turner actually has more long term upside than Danny Granger?

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Now he’s in a best case scenario, going from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best. We haven’t seen the best from Evan Turner yet. We soon will I believe.

You might have seen Gene Pingatore, Coach of St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois in the 1994 documentary “Hoop Dreams,” which followed two high school students with dreams of playing in the NBA. He was also Turner’s high school coach, and the leader of the West team in the McDonald’s All-American game.

“He’s going to get better, he’s gotten better,” Pingatore said when I caught up to him at MAA media day during Evan Turner’s rookie year.

“Part of the thing with Evan, he’s in a system where if he stays there, it’s going to take time for Collins to appreciate his talents. Collins likes to play older guys everyone knows that. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if someone’s going to get traded or if it’ll stay that way. But Evan’s a good kid. He’ll do what he needs to do, he’s coachable. He’s fundamentally very sound and he’ll be in the league a long time.”

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Pingatore has helped produce countless college and professional players including former McDonald’s All Americans Isiah Thomas in 1979, Daryl Thomas in 1983 and Deryl Cunningham 1989. So he ended up being prophetic on Turner, who eventually was given an extension and a fourth season in Philadelphia.

Inevitably, on a bad team, somebody had to score, and Turner’s numbers took off. With the Pacers, he’ll come off the bench and not have to be the man offensively. Evan Turner will back-up Paul George at the three or Lance Stephenson at the two.

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Pingatore seems to think Turner is better off running the point instead of playing the two or the three. Out of need he moved to the one at Ohio State; and all he did there was win a Naismith and Wooden award.

“I always thought he’d become a point when he hit the pros, because he sees the floor well, he can handle it, he passes well.  Maybe he needs to work on his three point shooting, Derrick Rose in high school could not shoot the three, but he’s developed it well.”

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Granger wasn’t fitting in. I guess Larry Bird will once again show us he has chops as a GM. He’s made a lot of solid moves already. Now he doesn’t have to be the #1 option on his team. And he won’t have to worry about living up to the hype and expectations of being the #2 overall draft pick. So perhaps Turner will thrive as a role player instead of a franchise player.

Granger probably won’t stay in Philly for long as he’s an expiring contract. The Sixers will let him go after the season to free up cap space. Philly also will have two lottery picks, so this will be a total rebuild.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports. An MBA and Fulbright scholar, he’s also a frequent analyst on news talk radio; with regular segments on ESPN,NBCCBS and Fox. A former NBC Chicago and Washington Times writer, he’s also been featured on the History Channel. President Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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