Fresh off one of the most statistically dominant seasons in college basketball history, soft-spoken Evan Turner is widely considered one of the two best talents in this year’s draft class.
A 6’7” point guard during his junior season, Turner exploded out of the gate, notching a triple-double in his first game of the season. From there, he didn’t look back; not even some broken vertebrae in his back could keep him out (he missed just 6 games).
Without Turner, Ohio State was a team with good athletes and role players—but they probably weren’t even an NCAA Tournament team. With Turner, they were Big 10 champions (regular season & tournament), a No. 2 seed in the dance, and one of the top-10 teams in the country.
Several media outlets will tout Turner as the most NBA-ready prospect. He’s played on the big stage his entire career, and time after time he saved his best performances for the clutch run when the Buckeyes really needed him.
Like his miracle buzzer-beating three-pointer against Michigan.
Or his dominant performance in the Big 10 Tournament Semifinals against Illinois, when he got in the lane possession after possession in overtime to finally put the Illini away.
Or his valiant, one-man effort in the Sweet 16 against Tennessee that nearly ended in epic style.
The list goes on. And he’ll only add to those accomplishments at the next level.
NBA Position: G/F
Weight: 215 lbs.
School: Ohio State University
Where to start…
What sets Turner apart from other prospects in this draft is his versatility. At 6’7”, he has the ideal frame for a shooting guard, someone that can move well without the ball and spot up for the mid-range game, a la Rip Hamilton.
But he’s aggressive and physical enough to play the small forward position as well. He averaged over 9.0 rebounds per game during his junior year. He constantly puts himself in position to grab rebounds or tip loose balls to get out into the open court. He also is strong enough to play out of the post against smaller defenders.
Finally, his point guard skills, while still raw & underdeveloped, are still proficient enough that he could see time at the “point forward” spot in the NBA, a role Hedo Turkoglu perfected during Orlando’s run to the NBA Finals in 2009.
He’s “awkwardly efficient” at point guard—it doesn’t always look pretty when he’s dribbling, but rarely does he turn it over because he’s dribbling too much. Because he’s so tall & lanky, it’s not always aesthetically pleasing when he attacks off the bounce. But it’s effective.
Offensively, he can move with or without the ball. Before he was a point guard, he got a lot of his points off fast breaks, attacking the glass, and coming off down screens to catch the ball in the 15-18 foot range.
His mid-range game, which is a lost art in today’s NBA, is his biggest offensive strength. You know how defenses play so far off Rajon Rondo daring him to shoot? Do that with Turner, and he’ll hit the jumper every time.
Speaking of Rondo, the way Turner gets into the lane is similar to the crafty Boston point guard. Opposing defenses constantly threw different game plans at him, but it didn’t matter. When he wants in the lane, he’s getting there—simple as that.
Defensively, his one-on-one skills weren’t tested that much. Because he was such an important part to Ohio State’s team, they had to find ways to keep him out of foul trouble. But he was strong at roaming around on D to cut off driving lanes and jump passing lanes.
Finally, he has a good head on his shoulders. Don’t underestimate that tidbit when it comes to rookies in the league. He’s a knowledgeable basketball player who will be extremely coachable and a good teammate. In today’s ego-driven, me-first league, Turner’s a great change-of-pace from most 18 and 19 year olds.
Turner was often the best player every time he stepped on the floor during a college game. At the professional level (especially during his rookie campaign), he might only be the fifth or sixth best player.
How will he respond to that? Will he still have the same relentless aggression, or will it be scaled back?
Typically, you don’t want your shooting guard to be a liability from the three-point line. But Turner never really had to test his outside game in college.
He did shoot over 50 percent from deep in March, but that was based on 22 attempts. He averaged less than 1.5 attempts per game throughout this career. I’m not saying he has to turn into Steph Curry from the three-line, but he does need to add that to his arsenal.
As mentioned before, his one-on-one defense is an unknown, mainly because he was a better athlete than most of the competition. But at the next level, he’ll most likely guard guys from Paul Pierce to Kevin Durant, which is a little different from what he normally saw in the Big 10.
NBA Comparison: Tracy McGrady
Draft Projection: Top Five