With the Sixers sale months away from being official and the NBA lockout even longer away from being resolved, despite the two sides scheduling a bargaining session, this presents a real dead period for Sixers fans. Sure, you've got Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young setting up basketball camps, which is refreshing to see two of the teams young players staying involved during their time off, but legitimate Sixers news is few and far between. One of the few pieces of news for Sixers fans to digest has been Evan Turner's work with Herb Magee.
The simple fact that Evan Turner is taking the initiative to work with Magee -- while finishing up classes at Ohio State -- is good in and of itself. Magee's clientele is typically the player looking to increase his draft stock rather than the former #2 pick with three more guaranteed years left on his contract. Beyond that, how much can Turner gain by improving his shot? What else went wrong for Turner last year, and how can can the Sixers put him in a better position to succeed?
The fact that Turner can stand to improve the form and consistency of his jump shot is no surprise to anyone, and Magee, Philadelphia University head basketball coach and recent Naismith Hall of Fame inductee, is a verifiable expert in his profession as a shot doctor. It's hard to be a consistent creator in isolation situations in the NBA without the defense having to respect your jump shot, and any improvement -- both in consistency and in range -- Magee can get out of Turner would be a huge boost to his overall productivity in this regard.
It's also important to look at the differences between Turner's junior season at Ohio State and his first year in the NBA. Obviously, the talent level he played against increased exponentially, as it's no secret that the talent level in the Big Ten that year -- particularly among NBA level perimeter defenders -- was low. Between the change in talent level and the change in role, nobody expected Turner to match his previous levels of production right out of the gate.
But looking further at his role, and the teammates Turner had surrounding him at Ohio State, presents a glaring contrast to what he has here in Philadelphia. To say Turner's role changed in his rookie season in the NBA would be an understatement, as he used up roughly 30% of Ohio State's total possessions his last year in Columbus. Not the total possessions while he was on the court, but the total team possessions for the entire season. This number fell to under 9% with the Sixers.
Looking beyond just the numbers, Evan Turner initiated a very large chunk of Ohio State's half-court offense from pick and roll situations, becoming one of the most highly utilized and most efficient pick and roll perimeter players in the country. He did a very good job of using the pick and roll to get into the paint and foul line extended area, and once he got there was able to hit the pull-up jumper, and was a very good passer from that position if the defense collapsed on him. In the end, he generated over a quarter of his offense from pick and rolls during his junior season at Ohio State. That number fell drastically, as Evan Turner's primary source of half-court offense for the Sixers last year came in spot-up situations, which is not (and never has been) one of Evan Turner's strength.
Part of this can be explained by a change in personnel, a problem that could theoretically be altered if the Sixers were to on day deem Turner good enough to build their half-court offense around. Ohio State had a plethora of excellent catch and shoot options on the perimeter as well as big men who were solid at setting screens.
Compare that with the Sixers, who have few catch and shoot options or great screen setters, and the pick and roll landscape on Turner's new team is much more bleak, and outside of Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams the pick and roll is not utilized all that heavily in the Sixers offense. Add in the fact that Turner's not going to have the ball in his hands to initiate the offense nearly as much as he did at Ohio State, and less ability to shoot over the pick with the extended three point line, and Turner saw both his pick and roll opportunities and effectiveness drop.
The bind the Sixers have themselves in is that it's hard to see Turner initiating a large chuck of half-court offense in pick and roll sets without Andre Iguodala being moved, both because Andre generates a fair amount of half-court offense -- particularly for his teammates as a setup man -- and because Turner would really be more effective next to a great catch and shoot perimeter player, which Iguodala is not.
However, it's hard to trust that much to a second year player who was as inefficient as Turner was to become a focal point offensively. Turner's 48.4% true shooting percentage was the second worst among Sixers regulars last year, ahead of only Spencer Hawes' 48.1%. Only four other players in the NBA saw as many minutes as Turner did while being that inefficient, with DeMarcus Cousis (2309 minutes and 48.4% TS%), Tyreke Evans (2107 and 48.2%), Gilbert Arenas (1796 and 47.1%) and Travis Outlaw (2358 and 46.9%).
So there's a little bit of a chicken and egg scenario going on. It's going to be hard to trust Turner enough to hand a good portion of the half-court over to him before he proves he can be an efficient option, and it's going to be hard for him to be an efficient half-court option without playing the role he's most accustomed to.
That's where Herb Magee comes in. Improving his jump shot can help in all facets of Turner's game. It can help his isolation game, as defenders will have to respect his jump shot more, providing more space. It will help his pick and roll game, as it will provide him with another option, to shoot over the screen. Perhaps most importantly, it will improve his effectiveness in catch and shoot situations, where Turner is most likely to be used until he proves he can be a consistent and efficient option. In order for Turner to be put in his favorite spots, he's going to have to improve his least favorite ones.