In the 2016 NBA Playoffs, the Portland Trail Blazers found themselves in a heated Western Conference Semifinal battle against the 73-9 Golden State Warriors. Portland exposed Golden State’s weaknesses, but there was one deciding factor in the Warriors’ victory; Portland had only two options for creating on offense, and Golden State threw everyone at them.
Portland General Manager Neil Olshey found a surprising solution to relieving some pressure off of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum on the offensive end of the ball; the 6-foot 7-inch, three position-capable, Jack-of-all-trades skillset Evan Turner.
It didn’t take long for Turner to be recognized as a future NBA athlete. Turner started his basketball career alongside Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Iman Shumpert in 8th grade, a part of the 24-2 Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School team in Oak Park, Illinois. He stepped it up a level as a high school sophomore at St. Joseph High School, leading the Chargers to an Illinois AA Boys High School basketball tournament.
His senior class in high school was considered to be one of the best of all-time in Chicago, accompanied by former NBA MVP Derrick Rose and former NBA hopeful and St. Joseph teammate Demetri McCarney. While Rose and Turner were both stars in the Windy City, it definitely wasn’t a feeling of togetherness and pride between them. Their heated rivalry has resulted in plenty of quotes over the years. Having looked through these quotes, I’d say that this is almost more of a ‘hate’ relationship than a rivalry. “We both know who is better. He’s just doing this to get a little bit of publicity,” Rose told reporters after a high school match-up between the two outstanding academies. Turner’s response after a later game? “I was better than Rose. With me guarding him he didn’t do much. He knows that, and I know that.
After being named the top Chicago metropolitan area basketball player by the Chicago Tribune his Junior year, being dethroned by Rose his senior year, Turner turned down offers from Wake Forest, DePaul, and Notre Dame, ultimately committing to The Ohio State University.
It didn’t take long for Turner to be a vital piece to the Ohio State roster. “The Villain,” as he was called in Columbus, helped the Buckeyes win the 2008 National Invitation Tournament behind an average of 18.5 points, 7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 3 steals in the semifinal and final rounds of the tournament.
It only got better for ET during his sophomore year. As a second-year college athlete, Turner was named the player of the week three times during the Big Ten Conference men’s basketball season. Showing off his versatile game, Turner became the 4th player in conference history to finish top ten in the Big Ten Conference in points, rebounds, and assists.
Turner’s junior year as a Buckeye was historic. He started out the season with a bang, recording the first triple-double by a Big Ten player since 2001. This was followed by a streak of four double-doubles in a row, shortly followed by another triple-double. On December 5, his junior season was interrupted by a nasty injury; a transverse process fracture of the second and third lumbar vertebra in his back following a fast-paced missed dunk. Turner picked up where he left off after returning only a month later, recording his record-setting eighth career Conference Player of the Week award, surpassing both Glenn Robinson and Jim Jackson.
Turner ended his junior year with a record-setting average of 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 6.0 assists. This paved the path for various awards earned for his 2010 season, including being named the Big Ten Tournament MVP, Big Ten Player of the Year, All-Big Ten, First-Team All-American, and the National College Player of the Year.
The six-foot-seven-inch swingman forewent his senior year of collegiate eligibility, entering the 2010 NBA Draft. He was selected 2nd overall in the draft, behind John Wall, by the Philadelphia 76ers. Turner found a whole lot of playing time in Philadelphia, helping the 76ers make the 2011 NBA Playoffs. He received high praise from various sports analyst for his stellar play on both the offensive and defensive ends in their first round series against the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade-led Miami Heat. Philadelphia lost the series 4-1. His second year in the NBA with the once again struggling 76ers brought some great personal achievements for Turner, including 14 double-doubles and an average of 13.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 4.3 assists. During the 2013-2014 NBA season, Turner was traded to the Indiana Pacers, where he found himself competing against the vocal, ‘out there’ personality of Lance Stephenson. Things got feisty between Turner and Stephenson, resulting in a fist fight at a team practice during the 2014 NBA Playoffs. Head coach Frank Vogel took Stephenson’s side, banking on him being the future of the Pacers, leaving Turner sitting on the bench with no minutes for the rest of the season.
As a free agent during the 2014 offseason, Turner joined Boston Celtics on a two-year contract as a reserve. During these two years, his role expanded as the team’s primary point guard after both Marcus Smart and Rajon Rondo had succumbed to injury. Turner began finding playing time at the 1, 2, and. With a system that respected his skill-set, per head coach Brad Stevens, Turner’s stats began to perk back up to his sophomore year, posting multiple double-double efforts, career highs, and game-winning shots.
As a member of the Celtics, Turner also had a couple opportunities to reintroduce himself to long-time rival Derrick Rose, like when he put a little extra on this dunk after stripping the Chicago Bulls’ point guard.
The next chapter of Turner’s career starts now as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, behind a four-year, $70-million contract. So what is Rip City getting in this 27-year-old Chicago native?
A Swiss Army Knife — That’s the best way to explain Turner’s game. He’s a versatile, athletic player who can comfortably play the small forward, shooting guard, or point guard positions.
He has consistently put up numbers over his 7-year NBA career that average out to about 11 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game, along with a steal.
“We needed more ball-handling, playmaking, we needed to upgrade our perimeter defense,” Portland Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey said, days after signing Turner to his team. With those needs in mind, Turner fits in as the perfect signing for Portland. He might not be the greatest shooter from beyond the arc, posting career average of 30.5% from three, but at six-foot-seven and 216 pounds, Turner adds versatility and a different dimension to the Trail Blazers’ lineup alongside the scoring-minded backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
Turner is expected to start at the small forward position with Al-Farouq Aminu moving up to the power forward spot. It can also be assumed that Turner will get some minutes with the second unit, being used as a primary ball handler.
ET is a well-rounded player who I consider to be, as ironic as it may sound, a Lance Stephenson-esque player during his later years in Indiana. The irony stops there, however, as Turner is a much different person on a personal level. His humor, love for the game, and overall good-natured personality fits right in with Terry Stotts’ chemistry-based roster.
If there is one thing I’ve seen over the years as a personal fan of his game, it’s that Turner is an all-around player who isn’t going to be a number one or number two on a team. However, if you throw him in as a third option alongside Lillard and McCollum, you have the perfect fit for Portland and Turner alike. He’ll be the perfect bailout option for both scoring and playmaking when opposing defenses lock down both Dame and CJ, a strong defensive asset who won’t shy away from defending the opposing team’s best scorer, and a multi-talented contributor who can do whatever Stotts ask of him.
There are hundreds of situations that require different talents in any given basketball game. Much like a Swiss Army Knife, Evan Turner has what it takes to get the job done, no matter the task.