Connect with us

NBA

NBA PM: One on One With Myles Turner

Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner discusses his rookie season, toughest match-ups and much more.

Alex Kennedy

Published

on

One on One With Myles Turner

With the 11th pick in this year’s draft, the Indiana Pacers selected a player with ridiculous upside. There was a lot of talk about Myles Turner’s potential and how he could develop into the type of big man that NBA executives are in love with these days. However, what some pundits didn’t realize is that the 20-year-old was capable of making an immediate impact.

MylesTurnerInside1This season, Turner has averaged 10.3 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks while shooting 49.4 percent from the field. And he has done all of this playing just 23.1 minutes per night. He missed some time due to injury, but he has been very productive in his 55 games. In his 29 games as a starter, he’s averaged 11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 28 minutes.

He’s one of only seven rookies averaging double figures in points (and the only one of those seven currently whose team is in the playoff picture). He also ranks third in the class in blocks per game. Turner has become a significant contributor for the Pacers, who currently have a 41-36 record and occupy the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference. I recently caught up with Turner for in-depth interview:

Basketball Insiders: How much have you learned throughout the course of this season?

Myles Turner: “I’ve learned a whole lot. Just being around these guys, being around the league and seeing stuff that happens on the court and off the floor, I’ve just learned a lot more this year than I expected. It’s a lot to take in, but I feel like I’m doing well adjusting. I’ve learned a lot about schemes and the need for unique players and a lot about different styles of offenses and what it takes to guard the best players in the world night in and night out.”

BI: Were there any particular players who were tough to match up against? At the start of this season, Los Angeles Lakers power forward Larry Nance Jr. told me some of the experienced role players, like Toronto Raptors power forward Luis Scola, were the toughest for him because of their strength and array of moves. Anyone stand out for you?

Turner: “Yeah, there’s a couple. My toughest match-up of the year was probably guarding DeMarcus Cousins because he is just so big and agile and he does a lot of different things. That was my first real tough match-up. Then, I’ve been cross-matched a couple of times with guys like Kevin Durant, you know? KD was one of my favorite players and I’ve played against him a few times, so he’s always a tough cover. Then, transitioning and playing more four than I have before, I was guarding a lot of these faster perimeter guys like Marvin Williams of Charlotte. He had a heck of a game, just because a lot of the stuff I was doing when I first was playing was more in the paint, so I didn’t really know where to be position-wise so he got a lot of shots up. Those three really stick out to me the most this year.”

BI: Now that you’re playing against NBA players, it’s even easier to take bits and pieces of other players’ skill set and add them to your own arsenal. Which players, on or off your team, have you learned from?

Turner: “I mean, some of the guys on my team like Jordan Hill. I think he’s deadly in the post. Man, he’s a heck of a player down there – he bodies everyone at practice, and just seeing what he does in the game [has helped me]. I love his footwork and it’s almost very nonchalant how he plays, but that’s what might throw you off and it’s just funny to me; I’ve learned a lot of stuff from Jordan Hill this year. Ian Mahinmi is another guy I take some stuff from. It’s funny you mention Luis Scola because I love watching him play because he gets the job done and just hurts you in so many different areas. I watched some of the stuff that he did when he played against us. Al Jefferson too. When we played Charlotte, I just kind of keyed in on some of the stuff that he was doing.”

BI: You’ve now played in 55 games and started 29 contests. How much more comfortable and confident are you when you’re on the floor?

Turner: “The confidence is definitely starting to grow more and more since the beginning of the season. Watching all the film and going through it in the game, it’s like my mind just takes me there now. In the beginning of the season, I was trying to figure it out and now it’s just like I automatically do it. I’ve adapted and adjusted a lot faster than I thought I would, so it’s definitely coming a lot easier just because of how natural I can do things now.”

BI: Before the draft, people talked about you having a lot of potential, but you’ve made a day-one impact with Indiana. At that time, there were also some people who doubted you and questioned your NBA readiness and even your running style. How does it feel to play this well after hearing all of that?

Turner: “Man, I’ll tell you I absolutely love it – just coming out here and proving people wrong. That’s one of my favorite parts about this game, going out there and doing things people said you can’t do. The fact that I’ve had an impact and just seeing the way people have kind of turned their head toward me is definitely something I’ve taken some notice of. Not too much, but I do pay attention though. You are going to have on and off nights and people are going to say what they want about you. But that is one thing that I definitely took a lot of pride in this year, proving a lot of doubters wrong from the draft [process].”

BI: What’s been the hardest part of your transition from college to the NBA?

Turner: “Definitely the physicality of the game; it’s a lot different than college. The refs don’t blow the whistle as often, they let you play through a lot of stuff. When the refs do blow the whistle often, you are going to get a lot of calls on you for being a rook – a lot of bogus calls, so that’s one thing I’ve had to adjust to as well. That’s not going to last too much longer though; well, hopefully not. The travels tough too though. The traveling definitely takes a toll on your body. About three to four weeks ago, I just found out I hit a little bit of a wall – being so tired all of the time, not really wanting to move, not wanting to practice. I’m over it now, of course, but my wall was a little different. I hit it a little later in the season because I missed all of those games and stuff. When all of the other rookies were hitting their walls, that’s when I was kind of just getting started and had all of that energy and stuff like that. Yeah, so I’ve learned to adjust to the travel, learned to get my rest. You have to manage your rest better than you did in college and you have to really manage your off-court stuff too. When you’re not practicing you’re doing this appearance or you’re signing these autographs or XYZ. Managing your personal life is a big thing that I heard about in college, but now it’s definitely different when you are living it.”

BI: How difficult was it for you to be sidelined due to injury for a chunk of the season?

Turner: “It was very frustrating because when we started losing some games, I saw some stuff out there where I really thought I could have helped and stuff out there that I really could have done [to help] defensively and a little bit offensively as well. Also, it was just rough not establishing myself with my teammates yet. I had missed a little bit of training camp because of I had to rest my knee a bit and then in the beginning of the year I had some soreness from Summer League, but that’s long gone now and trainers have done a good job with me. But at that point, it’s almost like I look like a prima donna to my teammates. You have to prove yourself to your teammates and that’s very important because those are the guys you are going to war with. If they can’t trust you to go out there and fight with them, then you are already losing the battle. Establishing the trust of my vets was something I had to do.”

BI: When did you feel like you had established that trust with your veteran leaders?

Turner: “I think I got it in practice when I came back. Some of the guys were resting and what not because we were at that point in the season, but I was just going so hard in practice and going so hard in the four-on-four stuff and five-on-five stuff. I think that’s when I started to earn the trust. I was staying late at night working, shooting in the gym at like 2 or 3 a.m. I’d be in the gym two hours before practice, that kind of stuff. I think that’s when I started earning the trust of my teammates.”

BI: You guys are fighting for playoff positioning in the Eastern Conference. How intense are things right now?

Turner: “Man, it’s really intense right now. It’s a dog fight, especially in the East right now with everyone’s record being so close, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m getting that experience of the playoff intensity before the playoffs even get here. I always hear ‘playoff intensity this, playoff intensity that, everything is so different in the playoffs’ and now I’m kind of starting to see that. It’s really cool and I’m blessed to be one of the rookies to be in the position to do this right now early in my career. It’s definitely a whole different atmosphere and whole different vibe because everybody plays so much harder because a lot is on the line.”

BI: How much have you learned from Coach Frank Vogel?

Turner: “It’s been incredible and I have learned, like, light years of information from him. I’ve learned a lot defensively, especially during that time I was out watching a bunch of film and everything. I’ve definitely added a lot of stuff to my game and I’ve taken a lot of strides since my freshman year of college [last year]. I’ve learned a lot and the coaches have definitely done a great job with me to this point.”

The Pacers have five games left in the season – three at home and two on the road.

NBA Announces Players of the Month

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook today were named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in March.

James ranked second in the East in scoring (25.6 ppg) and fifth in assists (7.1 apg) as the Cavaliers went 11-5 for the month (10-4 with James in the lineup).  He added 8.2 rebounds and shot 53.8 percent from the field.  James was the only player in the NBA to average at least 25.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists in March.  He posted seven double-doubles and recorded two triple-doubles.  In a 107-87 win over the Brooklyn Nets on March 31, James scored 24 points to move into 12th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list (he is now 11th).

Westbrook led the Thunder to an 11-5 record behind averages of 21.7 points, 10.6 assists (third in the NBA) and 8.3 rebounds.  His seven triple-doubles in March were the most in a calendar month since Michael Jordan had seven in April 1989.  Those performances increased Westbrook’s season total to 16 triple-doubles, the most since Magic Johnson had 17 in 1988-89.  Westbrook scored at least 20 points in 11 of 16 games for the month and logged nine games with double-digit assists, including a career-high 19 in a 120-109 win over the Clippers on March 9.

Other nominees for the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Atlanta’s Paul Millsap, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas, Charlotte’s Kemba Walker, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki, Golden State’s Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Miami’s Hassan Whiteside, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Portland’s Damian Lillard, San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Advertisement




Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

NBA

NBA Daily: Keldon Johnson Is Next In Line

Keldon Johnson, a prototypical 3-and-D prospect, will have plenty of franchises clamoring to get a look at Kentucky’s next 19-year-old star-in-waiting, writes Ben Nadeau.

Ben Nadeau

Published

on

The life of a potential non-lottery first-rounder is not easy, make no mistake.

And for Keldon Johnson, a wild final month may be just beginning.

Johnson, 19, is one of three players from the University of Kentucky expected to be drafted in the opening round next month — but where exactly is anybody’s guess. At 6-foot-6, Johnson is an athletically-gifted guard, above average in both the open court and from behind the arc. His overlying statistics — 13.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 38.1 percent from three — might not scream can’t-miss, but the freshman is ready to get after it and prove his worthiness during the springtime workouts.

“I’m fine with competing, I did it all year and I’ve been doing it all my life,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders during last week’s NBA Draft Combine. “All I gotta do is just keep working hard. I think if I keep working hard and stay in the gym, I’ll be fine.”

So far, Johnson has received strong marks — both during the collegiate season and during these most recent tests — for his passion, athleticism and effort on defense. Given his height and lengthy wingspan, it’s possible that Johnson could slot in at the small forward position at the next level too. Basically, Johnson kind of spring-loaded rotation-worthy asset that every franchise could use, whether rebuilding or as a yearly powerhouse.

Thankfully, that’s a position that Johnson finds himself settling into one month before the draft.

As is customary for the back half of the first thirty picks — the odds are high, barring a trade, that Johnson lands on a team that reached the postseason this year. In fact, the only team that didn’t have a playoff game with a current selection between Nos. 14 and 30 is Cleveland at 26. The possibilities, particularly so given Johnson’s modern skill-set, are endless.

Whenever he ends up, though, Johnson just wants to make a good impression.

“I definitely want to play my first year, but if I get in a situation where I won’t get as many minutes and they still develop me, I’ll be fine,” Johnson said. “I definitely want to play, but if that’s not the case, then I just have to keep working.”

Prestigious franchises like Boston, Golden State and San Antonio decorate Johnson’s perceived pick range, with perennial postseason contenders in Milwaukee, Portland, Oklahoma City, Utah and Philadelphia finishing out the round. Johnson, like most young prospects, will have to work at improving his deficiencies — to some, that includes his free throw percentages and playmaking — but what he could eventually offer far outweighs everything else.

A defensive-minded athlete that can stretch the floor? Check. A multi-position shooter that wears those impassioned emotions on his sleeve? Sign him up. Understandably, Johnson wants to land with a franchise that can help him hit the ground running as a rookie, both on and off the floor.

“Just having a great relationship with the whole organization,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “Coming and fitting in right away, them developing me and getting me ready to play at that level.”

One look at Johnson’s stellar freshman year highlights, however, and it’s hard to see how the former Wildcat won’t fit in. For as much as things change — what with the need for floor-stretching unicorns and seven-foot point guards these days — sometimes, other matters stay exactly the same.

The desire for 3-and-D contributors in the NBA will never die and Johnson seems to fit that mold exceedingly well. And, if anything, that may just be his floor.

On seven occasions in 2018-19, Johnson tallied 20 or more points, even hitting at least one three-pointer in six of them. During a mid-season contest against Utah, Johnson went a blistering 6-for-7 from deep before notching 4-for-7 against the much tougher North Carolina a week later. If the pressure wasn’t high enough then, Johnson certainly lived up to the hype during the NCAA Tournament as well.

Although he struggled against Houston, Johnson was solid in Kentucky’s narrow loss to Auburn in the Elite Eight, tossing down 14 points, 10 rebounds and three assists on 4-for-6 from the free throw line. Time and time again, giving the ball to Johnson resulted in wins for the eventual No. 2-seeded Kentucky.

According to Johnson, he believes he’s a more-than-capable passer too — an opinion he’s set out to cement during upcoming private one-on-one sessions.

“I really just shoot the ball — [but] I can handle the ball a lot better than what they think,” Johnson told Basketball Insiders. “Once I go into workouts, I’ll be fine.”

Since 2010, more than 20 players from Kentucky have been chosen in the NBA Draft and their list of former superstars needs little introduction — Anthony Davis, Karl-Anthony Towns and John Wall to name a few — but their continued success with prospects under John Calipari cannot be understated. Just last year alone, four Wildcats were selected, including Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox, the former of which was just named to the All-Rookie Second Team earlier this week.

But with his silky smooth stroke, Johnson’s mechanics and release have potential franchises simply excited about the type of two-way scorer he could be in the near future. Against stiff competition like LSU’s Naz Reid and teammate Tyler Herro– two other likely first-rounders in June — Johnson still finished the season as the SEC Freshman of the Year for good reason.

In a month, somehow, everything and nothing will change. Fundamentally, Johnson will be drafted to an eager team somewhere in the first round, a franchise that will want to feature his NBA-ready qualities — whether that be on the defensive end or from behind the arc. Johnson’s name may not be mentioned in the same breath as Zion Williamson or Ja Morant — two other freshman standouts — but the marathon has only just started.

With everything other than the interviews and individual workouts now officially out of his hands, Johnson’s trying not to sweat the small stuff.

“[I’m] just enjoying the process, just having a great time,” Johnson said. “I mean, really enjoying it, to be honest, don’t take it for granted and enjoy the whole thing.”

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Luguentz Dort – A Different Kind of Point Guard

Shane Rhodes

Published

on

The point guard position is a clearly-defined one – perhaps the most defined – in the modern NBA.

At the one, you are either an elite shooter (both inside and on the perimeter), ala Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard, an elite passer, ala Chris Paul, Ben Simmons and Russell Westbrook, or some combination of the two.

Luguentz Dort doesn’t exactly fit that bill.

The 20-year-old combo-guard out of Arizona State University didn’t shoot the competition out of the gym – Dort managed a field goal percentage of just 40.5 and hit on a meager 30.7 percent from downtown. And he wasn’t exactly the flashiest passer, as he averaged just 2.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Sun Devils.

He’s different. But, according to Dort, he has what it takes to run the point at the next level.

“I know that I can become a really good leader on the court and create for my teammates,” Dort said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine.

Confidence and an “I-will-outwork-you” competitive attitude are at the center of Dort and his game. Those two aspects drive the engine that has made Dort one of the more intriguing prospects in the back end of the first round. He may not be the most talented player in this class, but Dort is hyper-competitive and can out-hustle anyone on any given night.

“When I play,” Dort said, “I’m really going at people to let them know it’s not going to be easy.”

There is a hunger in Dort – a desire to win that is evidenced in his game. An aggressor on both offense and defense, Dort’s motor is always going. His primary selling point is his defensive ability; built like an NFL defensive end, Dort can bring energy and effort to any defense. He has more than enough speed to stick with smaller guards on the perimeter and more than enough strength to bump with bigger forwards in the paint.

Dort has also shown a knack for jumping passing lanes to either deflect passes or outright steal the ball; Dort was fourth in the Pac-12 as he averaged 1.5 steals per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes.

Dort has made it a point to put that defensive ability and intensity on full display for potential suitors. At the Combine, Dort said he wanted to show teams “how tough I play on defense” and “how hard I play and the type of competitor I am.”

Offensively, Dort is an impeccable cutter. At Arizona State, Dort averaged 1.289 points per possession on cuts, according to Synergy Sports. When he goes to the rim, Dort used his size and power to his advantage in order to get to the basket and either drop it in the bucket or draw a foul. He isn’t Irving with the ball in his hands, but Dort can make a move with the ball to create space as well.

Dort isn’t a superb passer, but he has a solid vision and can make, and often made while at Arizona State, the right pass as well.

But can Dort overcome the inconsistencies that plagued him at Arizona State? Dort was, at times, reckless with the ball in his hands. Whether he drove into a crowd just to throw up an ill-fated shot attempt or forced an errant pass, Dort’s decision-making must improve. His shooting is suspect and his touch around the rim – two skills critical to the modern point guard – weren’t exactly up to snuff either.

There were lapses on the defensive end as well. Sometimes Dort would fall asleep off the ball or he would be too aggressive one-on-one. If he is too handsy or unaware, NBA veterans will take advantage of every chance they get against him.

But, according to Dort, he has worked on those issues.

“My decision making got a lot better,” Dort said. “My shot, my free throws, everything. I really worked on all that this season.”

But in order to truly make an impact at the next level, he’ll have to continue to work and refine those skills further.

More work has never been an issue for Dort. However raw he may appear, he has the look of and the work-ethic required of NBA-caliber talent. Dort’s ultimate goal for the Combine, other than draw interest from NBA teams, was simple: “learn about everything, get feedback and go back to Arizona and continue to work on my game.” Whether or not teams view him as a point guard, shooting guard or something else entirely is a matter for debate, but, standing at just over 6-foot-4, 222 pounds with a 6-foot-8 wingspan and high motor, Dort has the versatility and ability to stick at, and is willing to play, a variety of different spots on the floor.

“I want to play any position a team would want me to play,” Dort said.

He may not be the prototypical point guard, but with that kind of willing, team-first attitude, Dort, at some point or another, is almost certain to make it to and have an impact at the next level.

Continue Reading

NBA

NBA Daily: Brandon Clarke Working From The Ground Up

Because of the unusual path he’s taken to get here, Brandon Clarke has established himself as one of the more unique prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft, writes Matt John.

Matt John

Published

on

When the draft time comes along, teams who have the higher picks usually look for guys who have the highest ceiling. Because of this, they usually decide to take players on the younger side because they believe those who have less experience have more room to improve.

This puts Brandon Clarke at a slight disadvantage. Clarke is 22 years old – and will be 23 when training camp rolls around – and only just recently came onto the scene after an excellent performance for Gonzaga in March Madness this season.

Competing for scouts’ attention against those who are younger and/or deemed better prospects than him would be quite the challenge, but because of what he’s been through, said challenge didn’t seem to faze him one bit at the combine.

“It was a different path for me,” Clarke said. “ I’m 22 and there are some guys here that are only 18 years old. With that being said, I’m still here.”

The Canadian native has clearly had to pay his dues to get to where he is. Clarke originally played for San Jose State, a school that had only been to the NCAA Tournament three times in its program’s history – the most recent entry being 1996 – whose last alum to play in the NBA was Tariq Abdul-Wahad. Props to you if you know who that is!

Playing under a program that didn’t exactly boast the best reputation wasn’t exactly ideal for Clarke. In fact, according to him, it was disheartening at times.

“There were definitely times that I felt down,” Clarke said. “When I first went there, I was kind of freaking out because I was going to a team that had only won two or three games prior to me getting there.”

No tournament bids came from Brandon’s efforts, but the Spartans saw a spike in their win total in the two seasons he played there. The team went from two wins to nine in his freshman year, then went from nine wins to fourteen his sophomore year. Clarke’s performance definitely had a fair amount to do with San Jose State’s higher success rate, but the man praised the program for the opportunity it gave him.

“We did some really big things for that college so I’m really grateful for the stuff I could do for them,” Clarke said.

After spending two years at SJS, Clarke then transferred to Gonzaga where he redshirted for a year before getting himself back on the court. When he did, he put himself on the map.

Clarke dominated in his lone year with the Bulldogs, averaging 16.9 points and 8.6 rebounds – including 3.1 offensive boards – as well as 3.1 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. The man clearly established himself as a high-energy small-ball center at 6-foot-8 ¼ inches, and it paved the way for Gonzaga to get a one-seed in the NCAA Tournament and go all the way to the Elite Eight.

Brandon loved the experience with the Bulldogs, both for the opportunity they gave him and for what he was able to do for them on the court.

“It was a great year,” Clarke said. “I got to play with some of the best players in the country… It was everything that I ever dreamed of. I’m going to miss it a lot. From a personal standpoint, I was just really blessed that I was able to block shots… I felt that I was really efficient too and I really helped us on the offensive end taking smart shots.”

Both his age and the small sample size, unfortunately, go hand in hand so that it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly Brandon Clarke will be taken in the draft. The latest Consensus Mock Draft from Basketball Insiders has all four contributors disagreeing where he will be selected, ranging from being picked as high ninth overall to as low as 21st.

Where he will get selected will all depend on who trusts what could be his greatest weakness – his shotty jumper.

In a league where spacing is so very crucial to consistent success, Clarke’s inability to space the floor hurts his stock. His free throw shooting at Gonzaga saw a drastic improvement from San Jose State, as he went from 57 percent to almost 70. That’s not as much of a liability but not much of a strength either. His three-point shooting in that time took a dive in that time, going from 33 percent to almost 27, which definitely does not help.

To be a hotter commodity at the draft, Clarke had to prove he could shoot the rock from anywhere, which is what he set to do at the combine.

“That is my biggest question mark,” Clarke said. “I’ve been working really hard on it. So I’m hoping that they can see that I can actually shoot it and that I have made lots of progress on it, and that they can trust me to get better at it.”

The journey that Clarke has been on to get to where he is had made him all the wiser as a player. With him expected to enter the NBA next season, he had a simple yet profound message to aspiring young ballers everywhere.

“Trust yourself. Trust your coaches. Trust everybody around you that you love… Make the best out of the situation that you are in.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

NBA Team Salaries

Advertisement

Close Up 360

Insiders On Twitter

NBA On Twitter

Trending Now