Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers was recently a guest on the Basketball Insiders podcast on January 24. Michael Scotto interviewed Turner and the Q&A transcription can be found below. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, click the play button above.
Michael Scotto: If you look at the way you’ve played individually in January, you’re shooting 51 percent from the field, you’re shooting 56 percent from three-point range, 80 percent from the foul line thus far. You’ve got about nine rebounds, two blocks a game and 16.6 points. What’s been the biggest factor for that, in terms of your individual play, to start off the new year here in 2017?
Myles Turner: I think the biggest thing is just getting comfortable. I’m more comfortable with the guys on the floor. I’m more comfortable with our system and just playing the right way. I’m really excited to be out here on the floor with these guys, we’re doing a good job.
Scotto: In terms of your own individual development, I know we’ve spoken previously about the level that you want to get to ultimately at some point in your career, where do you feel that you are on that road to becoming the player you ultimately want to be?
Turner: To be honest, I feel like I’m not even close. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface right now and, hopefully, I can get there soon but I’m working hard every day trying to get there.
Scotto: What is that, I don’t want to say ‘ceiling’ because I don’t think that’s the correct word, but where is that type of level that you think that you can be as a player?
Turner: I feel like, one of these days, I can be top five in the league, if not the best. That’s the sights I set for myself, those are the goals that I have and that’s where I’m trying to get to. But, I know I’m a long way from getting there, so I can’t view the long term. I’ve got to take everything day by day.
Scotto: Nothing wrong with striving to reach your full potential, certainly don’t mind that. I’m also curious, you’re one of the few big guys that’s a five, a center, that can shoot the three ball, we’ve seen that with Brook Lopez a little bit more. I’m just curious if you think that, with the way both you guys are transitioning, I don’t want to say a full stretch-five because you guys can both post-up on the block but adding that element to your game with the ability to be a stretch-five, do you think that we could see that as a bit of a trend in the league with the way the floor spacing has been so prevalent?
Turner: Undoubtedly. I think a lot of guys coming in are just working on all aspects of their game. I know that’s what I did and I know that’s what, I think, is being taught throughout a lot of the college programs and even in high school. Guys are just starting to be basketball players, not be just defined to one position. I know that’s what I did with my pops, he really worked hard with me every day after practice and even before practice some mornings just to work on all aspects: dribbling, shooting. He just made it possible for me to get here.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you away from yourself, individually, and we’re going to talk a little bit about the Indiana Pacers overall. In the month of January, you guys are six and three thus far. Just curious, what have you seen, so far, since the calendar has flipped to 2017 from the core group, collectively?
Turner: We had that stretch where we won five games in a row and we were just playing well together and the ball was just rolling the right way, but we’ve had a little bit of a downfall these past couple games. There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get it back, it’s just, I think, coming back from this London trip and having to go to the West Coast right away messed with our bodies a little bit, but we’re starting to get back in rhythm.
Scotto: Now, I’ve joked with you about this before, but it seems like, with the team, you guys do a little bit of a cha-cha. You guys take a step forward, you guys take a step back. I’m just curious, why do you think it’s been, at least to this point in the season, a little bit inconsistent thus far, almost half-way through, or a little bit over, actually, half-way through the season?
Turner: I think it’s mostly because we’ve got new guys on this team so we’re all trying to figure each other out. We’re at the halfway mark of the season so we need to start figuring it out soon, but, like you said, we have stretches where we look like we’ve finally turned that corner and we just fall back a little bit and a lot of that fall back comes on the road. We really need to figure out what’s going on on the road and get these road wins back up to par and I know we’re at the bottom of the league in that aspect but I still have all the confidence in the world in this team. We have so many great players and so many great playmakers that the sky’s the limit for us once we figure it out.
Scotto: Now, I remember earlier in the season you had mentioned to me when we did an interview for a feature story that you thought the team could be, potentially, a top-four team. As it stands right now, when you look at the Eastern Conference, the number 6-11 seeds are only separated by about 3.5 games. What have you seen just from this conference overall and how clustered it’s been through the halfway mark in the east thus far?
Turner: Well to say it’s competitive is an understatement. Guys are just winning and dropping games but, once we play each other, it’s just like a dogfight. We’re all fighting for those three positions and it’s just interesting to see how it just volleys up and down throughout the season. You’ve got a team that has a bad loss or a really big win like Miami beat Golden State last night, the Pelicans beat Cleveland, stuff like that just happens. It really just messes with the entire thing. You can go from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed just like that. It definitely makes it a lot more interesting and I feel like it makes things a lot more fun, knowing that you have to go out there and win some key games.
Scotto: What do you think is in store for you guys as a team overall and yourself individually for the second half of the season?
Turner: Well, like I said, I’m nowhere where I want to be. I feel like I still have more strides to make and I feel like I can make those strides throughout the rest of this season. I had a decent start to the season, not necessarily where I wanted to be, I wanted to be contributing a little bit more, but I think this team could really make the right steps. Jeff [Teague] is really starting to come into his own, PG [Paul George] has had a pretty good past couple of games and we’re all figuring each other out day by day and that’s just our biggest thing.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you off the court for a little bit and, for those who may not know, you’re a pretty active guy within the community and doing charity work. Do you have anything, in terms of that for Indiana specifically, coming up over the next few months?
Turner: Not anything coming up over the next few months here in Indianapolis that I know of right now. I’m still planning that stuff out. It’s hard to just get here, get in and get out, throughout the rest of the season. I know that around All-Star, I’m trying to get out to the community as much as I can. I think I might visit a high school and talk to the kids about giving back to the community, how important that is and how good it’s going to be for their futures. But, anytime I can help out the community, I try. It’s not even necessarily events that I plan, I just try to get out there on my own and make a difference.
Scotto: As a 20-year-old young man, did you ever foresee yourself having that type of impact not only just in the community for yourself individually and trying to help out others but just having that platform?
Turner: To be honest with you I did. I really thought that … with some kind of voice. I think I was that voice in my community growing up in high school. I tried to carry or transition it to Austin, Texas and, bringing it to Indianapolis, it’s just who I am, it’s a part of how I was raised and you’re never too young to have a voice. I encourage any younger guys that listen to this, to be that difference to their community. You’re never too young to start.
Scotto: Now you being a 20-year-old young man, for a lot of people they’re still in college at this point and you’re living a grown man’s life and having a lifestyle of your own off the court. What has that been like for yourself, adjusting into the real world, more or less?
Turner: It’s had its ups and downs. You still want to be that college kid you were, just hang out with your friends and just live the life, but it’s definitely work. Every day, day in and day out, you have something to do, you have certain responsibilities. It’s not college and that’s the biggest thing I had to learn last year. You can’t just do the same stuff you were doing, make the same decisions you were making. Everything you do is now looked at as a business. The organization that drafts you, you’re they’re multi-million dollar investment, that’s how you have to view it. You’ve just got to take care of your business and, obviously, you have fun while you’re doing it, but that’s the biggest thing that I learned.
Scotto: Certainly a good head on your shoulders from that regard and knowing you personally. Before I let you go, obviously, being a guy that went to Texas [the University of Texas at Austin], I’m curious what you think of them adding, I don’t know if you still follow them as much, but they did add a pretty good point guard in Matt Coleman and they’ve got some young pieces there at the program. What do you think of Texas’ future going forward as a program?
Turner: We’re just so young right now. I think we’re the seventh or eighth youngest team in the NCAA. They had such a great win over OU [University of Oklahoma] yesterday and I can see them growing real well. I’m actually really impressed by this Coleman kid. I watched a couple of highlights of him after he committed and I’m really glad that we got him. He’s the kind of guy that can come in and make a difference right away. We’re going to have a lot of sophomores next year, a couple juniors and that’s a young team. The sky’s the limit for them, for sure. I really think they can make a big difference and, hopefully, they play Kansas [the University of Kansas] in the Big 12. I’d love to see for that to happen.
Will The Pacers’ Change In Style Pay Off?
With deals and changes abound, the Indiana Pacers’ wild rebuild marks them as a franchise on the rise.
After coming off four consecutive first-round exits under head coach Nate McMillan, the Indiana Pacers decided it was time to make a change. Instead of dismantling or retooling a core that had been acquired mostly by opportunistic deals, general manager Kevin Pritchard went in a different direction and, early into the season, it seems like it has paid off.
Under Nate Bjorkgren, the Indiana Pacers have dramatically transformed their style of play. Many of the mid-range jumpers they took last season have turned into shots at the rim or three-pointers instead. There are a lot more dribble hand-offs, staggered screens and an overall sense of purpose in every action on offense. The offense has operated like a well-oiled machine, largely with Domantas Sabonis acting as the main engine.
This has led to Sabonis’ play and potential being unlocked. Ultimately, Sabonis is well on his way to another All-Star appearance, averaging career highs in points (21.7 PPG), rebounds (12.8 RPG) and assists (5.8 APG). While his usage is similar to last season’s, the way he’s being utilized is very different. With McMillan, Sabonis was mostly used as a post-up big who also scored a lot as a roll-man. Bjorkgren is giving him those same touches but he has also a lot more free reign to operate and make decisions.
Sabonis is now attacking teams in semi-transition after defensive rebounds. Basically, all the offensive actions are run through him, which have accentuated his passing ability. His range has also improved, and he’s turned his 20-foot jumpers into three-point attempts. Moreover, it’s a huge part of the reason why the Pacers rank 11th in offensive rating (111.3). Sabonis is a walking mismatch who can play almost any role in an offense and Bjorkgren has let him roam free.
Better, Malcolm Brogdon is also playing at an All-Star level. He’s averaging 22.2 points per game along with 7.5 assists per game, both career highs. Brogdon’s shooting 43.3 percent from three and is another player who’s benefitted from Bjorkgren’s offense. Brogdon’s ability to shoot threes while dribbling off screens and the ability to attack out of dribble hand-offs has allowed for the Pacers’ offense to be far less predictable than in the past.
Myles Turner is probably in the lead for Defensive Player of the Year so far. He’s averaging an insane 4.2 blocks per game, practically shutting down the paint for opposing offenses. Turner has been relegated to a mostly spot-up role in the offense, but those mid-range jumpers from last season have become three-pointers to this point. While he has struggled to hit three’s so far, his shot quality is considerably better. However, his value comes on the defensive end, where he is anchoring the 9th best team in defensive rating at 107.8. Opponents are shooting just 54.4 percent in the restricted area when Turner is in. Although his recent hand fracture will surely complicate proceedings there and the Pacers will miss him sorely.
The Indiana bench has also provided some good minutes. Doug McDermott is effective not only with his jumper but with his underrated cutting ability. Justin Holiday has been solid and is shooting 43.1 percent from three. His brother, Aaron Holiday, has had his ups and downs but built himself into a solid rotation player. Naturally, TJ McConnell has been his usual pesky-self.
There’s still plenty of room for upside as the Pacers have dealt with injuries to some key guys. TJ Warren, last season’s bubble breakout star, is out indefinitely after having foot surgery. Jeremy Lamb tore his ACL last season, is close to returning but hasn’t played a single minute this season. The Pacers’ newest addition, Caris LeVert, will be out indefinitely after a small mass was found on his kidney. All three are proven guys who can really help Indiana take the next step.
Sadly, it gets more difficult with Turner’s injury too.
Interestingly enough, many of the players have seemingly gone out of their way to not only express their appreciation for Bjorkgren’s coaching – while also knowing the difference compared to years past. Brogdon, Sabonis and McDermott have all seemingly made it clear that this style of play is preferable to last year under McMillan.
“In seasons past, the offense didn’t call for me to do those certain things,” Turner said “But coach has a lot of confidence in me… I’ve just had the chance to show it this season.”
Questions about the Turner-Sabonis pairing now seem to have gone away. It’s no secret that Turner oft mentioned in trade rumors the entire offseason in large part due to his perceived fit with Sabonis. Bjorkgren has found a way to maximize both player’s skillsets while also keeping them happy with their roles. Bigger, Pacers’ lineups with Sabonis and Turner have a 2.5 net rating.
The improved play of the Indiana stars is something that can be attributed to Bjorkgren’s shift in their style of play. It’s what Pritchard was hoping for when he made the coaching change. The Pacers made a calculated gamble when they fired a proven coach with this roster in Nate McMillan and now the Pacers are 8-5 with room to grow. If Sabonis and Brogdon can continue this level of play as guys come back healthy, the Pacers will be a team no one wants to face come playoff time.
Myles Turner Making A Difference With Defense
The Indiana Pacers have always been a good defensive team, but Myles Turner is on a mission this season to take them to an elite level. Chad Smith takes a closer look at the impact Turner has had as the anchor of Indiana’s defense.
This week has been a roller coaster ride for the Indiana Pacers, who are returning home after splitting a four-game West Coast trip. It was supposed to be five games but their matchup with the Phoenix Suns was postponed due to contract tracing within the Suns organization. On their day off between games, Indiana traded away All-Star guard Victor Oladipo as part of a four-team blockbuster that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets.
What they got in return seemed too good to be true, until it was. Acquiring a young and talented player like Caris LeVert, whom they originally drafted and subsequently traded to Brooklyn, took many people by surprise. With Oladipo not planning to return next season, it was a brilliant move by Indiana, especially when you consider LeVert’s upside and his team-friendly contract. On top of that, the Pacers also received a 2024 second-round pick (via Cleveland), a 2023 second-round pick (via Houston) and $2.6 million from the Nets.
Unfortunately, the Pacers’ medical staff discovered what the team described as “a small mass” on LeVert’s left kidney while undergoing a routine physical. The good news for LeVert is that this was found and he can begin whatever treatment is necessary for him to return to playing basketball at some point. For now, though, the Pacers will employ the “next man up” philosophy. The team has already lost TJ Warren indefinitely and have been without Jeremy Lamb all season. Now Myles Turner may soon join them on the sidelines.
Myles missed his first game of the season on Sunday due to an injury on his right hand. He met with team doctors on Monday and early reports are that he has a slight fracture in his right hand and will be re-evaluated in the coming days.
In that game against the Los Angeles Clippers, the absence of Turner was glaring. Even without Serge Ibaka and Lou Williams, the Clippers shot 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from behind the arc. Nearly half of their 129 points came in the paint as they destroyed the Pacers by 33 points, in a game that wasn’t even that close. Indiana had just two blocks in the game and even those came in garbage time.
When Nate Bjorkgren was named the Pacers’ new head coach back in October, many around the league wondered what that meant for Turner. Would the experiment next to Domantas Sabonis come to an end? Were his days as a Pacer now numbered? A rumored sign-and-trade deal with the Boston Celtics for Gordon Hayward never came to fruition, but that ended up working out well for both Myles and the Pacers organization.
When the Pacers selected Turner with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the opinions on him were split. While many saw the raw, unlocked potential that he possessed, others were skeptical of his lack of lateral movement and, of all things, the way that he ran up and down the court.
Draft evaluators were concerned that his awkward running style would lead to long-term effects on his knees. In a breakdown by Draft Express, they noted that “His awkward running style might not change anytime soon. He noticeably lumbers getting up and down the floor, and only made five field goals all season in transition situations.” That was in reference to his Freshman season at Texas, where Turner averaged 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks per game while shooting 46 percent from the field.
Fast forward to 2021, where Turner is having arguably the best season of his career. While he is scoring at the same level, he has improved several other facets of his game. He is shooting the ball with more confidence, attacking the basket more off the dribble and even hitting the offensive glass. While his three-point shooting is down largely due to more attempts, his work in the paint has him shooting a career-high 63 percent from inside the arc.
Obviously, the blocks are what really pops out, as he leads the league at 4.2 per game. That is staggering when you consider the next best is Rudy Gobert at 2.7 per game, while Chris Boucher is the only other player averaging at least two per game. By comparison, when Turner led the league in blocks during the 2018-19 season his average was 2.7 per game. Entering Sunday’s slate of games, Turner was actually averaging more blocks per game than six teams.
Myles Turner: Swat team captain 🚫 pic.twitter.com/As9SFTUP3g
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) January 17, 2021
Following a game earlier this season, Turner elaborated on his goals for the year: “It’s definitely been a goal for myself to start the season off strong on the defensive end. I’ve gotten the respect as a shot-blocker in this league. I know it’s something that I do. But I’m trying to take that to the next step.”
“I’ve already proven that you can lead the league in blocks and not make an All-Defensive team or not be Defensive Player of the Year. So it’s time to do more and assert myself more on that end.”
Turner has had four games this season with at least five blocks, including two games where he stuffed the opponent eight times. His defensive prowess is much more than just blocking shots though; he’s averaging a career-high 1.5 steals per game so far and has had seven games in which he recorded at least two steals.
Indiana’s offense will continue to run through Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon, who are both playing at an All-Star level this season. But, as much attention as those two have gotten, it’s the defense that has really shaped this Pacers team.
The loss of assistant coach and defensive guru Dan Burke was a concern before the season began. The truth is the Pacers are much more aggressive on defense now, playing further up on the perimeter. This is the same scheme that Bjorkgren and Nick Nurse incorporated with the Toronto Raptors. Ibaka played that role last year and this season it’s been Boucher, who currently ranks third in the league in blocks behind Turner and Gobert.
With Sabonis often guarding the opponent’s biggest/strongest player, Turner is left to defend more on the perimeter. This is a real challenge given his disadvantage against smaller, quicker wing players. To his credit though, Turner has stayed in front of them. And that is what makes his shot-blocking even more impressive; every game and on multiple possessions, Turner is essentially guarding two players by himself for seconds at a time.
Since Turner’s rookie season, only three players have blocked more shots than he has. He ranks 15th in the league in deflections and is top-five in terms of defensive field goal percentage at the rim. Indiana’s defensive rating is a 107.7 when he is on the court and a 111.3 when he is on the bench. These are the signs of a truly elite defensive player.
And, with Turner as their defensive anchor, the Pacers have a scary three-headed monster that could ultimately be a nightmare for the top teams in the Eastern Conference this season.
2021 NBA Draft Evaluation: What Are We Missing?
With limited in-person opportunities to NBA franchises, will the 2021 draft be the toughest to scout?
There were loads of talks last offseason about how the 2020 NBA draft would be the hardest to scout in recent memory. The draft started in 1947 and – without knowing what it was like to try and scout a country full of potential players sans a large scouting department, over 100 games a week on national television, and even more via other streaming sites – it’s hard to believe that statement holds much water.
But it did have its challenges though. With the season ending as conference tournaments were getting underway, NBA teams lost out on several crucial scouting opportunities both in and out of season. Despite having college basketball back, the scouting landscape is still not the same. It has not been determined if NBA personnel will be allowed to attend the NCAA Tournament or what postseason events will look like. In this piece, we go through some of the challenges organizations are facing while preparing for the 2021 NBA Draft.
THE CANCELLATION OF THE NIKE HOOP SUMMIT AND MCDONALDS ALL-AMERICAN GAME
The kickoff to scouting a new crop of freshman players actually happens before they ever step on campus. The Nike Hoop Summit and McDonald’s All-American game are the first two events in which NBA scouts can watch the next incoming freshman class in person. While they may have seen some of the players at Youth FIBA events, they can get early evaluations of players that will most likely make up a majority of the lottery in the next draft class.
Getting an early evaluation of these players allows you to track progress. They’ve all been dominant at the high school level playing against their peers. But watching them allows you to evaluate where they are at, and gives you a baseline for what they can bring to the table. When you see them several months later playing at the college level, you are able to have an idea of what skills translate, which do not, and how a player has improved both physically and with their skills since leaving high school. Getting the early evaluation on a player allows you to track whether a player progresses in college or whether they are the same player they were in high school.
The games themselves are not unimportant, but they do not have as much of an impact as a lot of people think, at least for the American prospects. The practices are what the organizations are really interested in seeing. This gives scouts the opportunity to see how these young athletes compete, handle coaching from someone they are not used to coaching them and conduct themselves on the court when there are no TV cameras or spotlight. The Nike Hoop Summit, which pits 12 American prospects against a team of 12 international prospects, has proven to be a launching pad for international players looking to get drafted. Dennis Schroder and Bismack Biyombo are two examples of international players who turned a good performance at the Hoop Summit into an early-round draft selection.
Not being able to watch these players in person before entering their freshman season has put organizations behind in terms of getting a full, proper evaluation of them. While players like Cade Cunningham of Oklahoma State don’t need events like this to boost their stock, other stand-out freshmen could have elevated their early projection.
THE ABILITY TO ATTEND COLLEGE GAMES AND PRACTICES IN PERSON
College basketball games have never been more accessible than they are now. Not only are there 100 games on TV every week, but for the games that are not, colleges upload them to Synergy Sports Tech, a film sharing website that every team uses and that NBA teams can access. Within one hour of the end of every game, teams will have the ability to download and watch full games.
The issue is not that teams cannot watch prospects, but seeing the game is only part of what scouts do when seeing players on college campuses. Scouts often get to the games 2-3 hours ahead of time to watch warmups. They want to see how players approach the game. Does he warm up hard? What is his intensity like as the game approaches? While you can get an idea for someone’s height, length, strength and wingspan over film it is much easier to get a gauge on it when seeing someone in person. Warm-ups are also a chance to watch a player take over 100 jump shots and assess his form. During the game, they will pay attention to how he interacts on the court with his teammates, coaches and refs. When things go wrong during the game, they will want to see how he responds.
Practice is similar. Scouts want to see how early they get in the gym, do they stay after to get up shots and how do they respond during practice when the coach pushes them. While some states are allowing fans to attend games, scouts are not on the road like they normally would be at this time. Not only are most schools not allowing them to attend practices and games, but a lot of organizations are not sending their scouts out on the road for fear of them contracting COVID-19 and the quarantine restrictions they’d eventually face.
POSTSEASON SCOUTING EVENTS
It is still too early to see what post season scouting events will look like. Last season, the Portsmouth Invitational, NBA Combine and individual team workouts at NBA facilities were canceled – and these events are important for multiple reasons. First, it gives teams the chance to watch athletes in a different setting outside of their schools. While the top prospects won’t play at the combine, many athletes will and there is always someone who plays well and elevates their stock. Seeing players outside of the constraints of their college system helps teams get a better picture of how they could translate to the NBA.
Another benefit of having these postseason events is getting proper medical information. During Portsmouth and the Combine, you’re able to get proper measurables on the players and at your team facility, your medical staff can evaluate the players more thoroughly for physical injuries and potential lingering problems.
There is still a lot of time to determine what the scouting landscape will look like before the 2021 NBA draft. Given how things are going though, and depending on how things go moving forward, this could very well be one of the harder drafts to scout due to the limited in-person opportunities available to NBA teams. Not only will there be a smaller sample size of the incoming freshman class, but a year-and-a-half of in-person scouting information on the players who returned to college will be missing too.
Again, while this won’t make a huge difference for the class’ biggest prospects, it will simply change proceedings in every other aspect – but the NBA always finds a way.