Rookie Next Door
Starting or coming off the bench, Evan Turner is easy to root for.
Not every high lottery pick is given the reigns to his team. Most aren’t even able to showcase their full potential — part of which includes the opportunity to take initiatives and make mistakes in the process.
A lot of times it is not a first year player’s confidence in his own game but rather the confidence shown to him. Giving a rookie playing time is an investment and granting the chance to play through situations is the best way to guarantee a return. Evan Turner did not come to the Sixers with any guarantees except his contract. Perhaps minutes are made to be earned, but in the era where high Draft picks produce expectations of instant gratification, the Sixers did not use their Draft pick to fill a void. Without a guarantee of a large role, Turner has been forced to find his identity on a team that is largely without one. More difficultly, Turner has also been forced to adjust his role from Renaissance guard at Ohio State to an off-the-ball wing with the Sixers.
When talking about the first month-plus of his rookie season, Turner says, “I’m adjusting alright, I’m having my ups and downs. You know in college, you’re used to playing a lot, being involved in a lot of offense and stuff like that. Here sometimes you gotta wait your turn…That’s what you have to get used to more, just trying to find a rhythm at the same time.”
Turner has had opportunities to showcase his game under different variables. In five games without Andre Iguodala in the rotation due to an Achilles’ injury, ET recorded 12.8 points and 8.2 rebounds. Friday at Atlanta, he scored 11 points in 19 minutes in his first game off the bench after a string of 12 straight starts. Turner looked most effective with the ball in his hands, an aspect of the offense easier to manipulate when he comes off the bench and Iguodala is resting. The only issue is: to maximize Turner’s strengths would mean to limit his minutes.
On adjusting to his ever-changing role, he says, “I just try to do little things, just pick my spots. That’s the most important part, just pick my spots. Just try to get in an open area, try and move the ball around and just try to be a good teammate at the same time.”
Turner’s goals for this year include “just be a solidified player in the rotation, rebound well for the team, and get valuable minutes.”
On Friday, he was the last Sixer to leave the floor during pre-media warm-ups. While his game isn’t flashy, he plays the battle-tested, finish over flourish brand that will produce results even if they are not immediate.
Asked about playing for the city of Philadelphia, he says, “It’s cool, they’ve been pretty nice to us this year. Right Jrue?”
Teammate Jrue Holiday says, “They like Evan, they like Evan a lot.”
“Something about the smile that gets them going,” Turner jokes.
It is hard to say what the best route is for the Sixers, since roster flexibility and a seamless mix of stars and role players are usually attributes of highly successful and efficient teams. The Sixers are still working to get there, and until then, Turner will have to take the minutes and role he is given.
Turner says the best advice he receives is “just go with the flow sometimes. Some things might be unconventional or things you might not be used to, but you have to go with the flow and just keep working hard every day.” Whether it’s a stutter step or waiting to check in off the bench, a lot of success in the NBA game comes with patience. Turner will eventually get where he needs to be.