After a slow start to the season, Myles Turner is becoming the defensive anchor the Pacers had hoped for.
During his only season at Texas, Turner was a making his presence known on the defensive end. Standing at 6-foot-11 and with a seven-foot wingspan, Turner was a problem for opposing teams. In 34 games he averaged 2.6 blocks per game and scared away numerous players from entering the paint while he was in the game. Leading up the 2015 draft, many draft pundits believed that his shot blocking production would be able to translate to the next level and they were correct.
In his first two seasons, Turner proved to be a defensive anchor and shot blocking machine that many thought he would become. His blocks per game have increased from 1.4 blocks per game his rookie year to 2.1 last season. His 2.1 blocks per game were good for third best in the association last season. If Turner wasn’t swatting the opponent’s shot in the stands, he was undoubtedly altering it. In his rookie year, opponents shot 50.4 percent within six feet when defending by Turner. Last season, that number went up to 53 percent, but it was still more than eight percentage points lower than the average.
Turner was expected to take the giant leap that most young players experience during their third season. Unfortunately for Turner, he got injured in the first game of the season that forced him to miss the next seven games. When he came back, Turner did not look like himself, and it showed. In his first five games from the seven-game absence, he averaged 2.4 blocks per game which were still an improvement from last season, but he allowed opponents to shoot 62.5 percent from within six feet which would have been a career worst for him. This could be attributed to some rust and a lack of conditioning because of the time he missed as he was often slower in his defensive rotations.
In his last seven games, Turner has been an absolute monster on the defensive end, especially in the interior. In those games, Turner is averaging 2.7 blocks per game, and when he’s not blocking shots, he’s making opponents take tough shots in the paint as they are shooting a dismal 50.8 percent from within six feet. There’s no coincidence that once Turner picked up his game defensively, the Pacers defensive rating improved as well. In this span, the Pacers have a defensive rating of 102.1 per 100 possessions which is considerably better than their 107.1 rating before the span. The clips below illustrate some of Turner’s defensive impact.
Here Markkanen slips the screen forcing a switch between Collinson and Young. Identifying the mismatch, Dunn then uses his speed and quickness to turn the corner en route to the hoop. Turner sees the mismatch and leaves his man to help on the drive. Using his big frame, Turner stayed vertical and used his 7’0” wingspan to forces Dunn to a tough layup.
Just a couple minutes later in the same game, another Bulls player tries to test Turner in the paint. After getting the steal, Valentine pushes the ball to initiate some early offense before the Pacers could set up their defense. After nobody picks up the ball handler, Valentine makes a straight beeline to the basket only to get met by Turner at the rim. Turner blocks the layup which then leads to a three-on-two fastbreak advantage for the Pacers.
During this stretch, the Pacers are 6-1, including a five-game winning streak, and it’s been off the back of their defense and defensive play of Myles Turner. As the saying goes, defense wins championships, and as of right now the defense is winning the Pacers some games.