Why the Celtics should definitely resign Evan Turner

“You’ve gotta respect a 15-percent 3-point shooter. A guy like that is always lethal.” – Evan Turner

Respect? 15% shooting? You can be sure that quote’s not appearing on any NBA coach’s pregame pep talk, anytime soon.

There’s no question about this: no one, I repeat, no one on the Boston Celtics this season, is more quotable than The (unofficial) Logo, Evan Turner himself.

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Entertaining quotes aside, Turner has definitely made his mark on the season so far. Sixth on the Celtics in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and second in assists per game, he’s been a veritable Swiss army knife who can do everything and anything.

Despite these (the performance, not the quotes), Bobby Manning recently wrote a thought piece on CelticsBlog, suggesting that the Celtics would be best served in letting Turner go in the off-season.

That’s rather controversial. Over at Celtics Down Under, we look at it from the opposite perspective. Why should ET be allowed to leave, when he has undoubtedly been one of the best pieces acquired in this post-Big Three era?

Team growth

First off, let’s address the issue of growth. Marcus Smart might be the future, and he is surely developing nicely, but we know it – Smart just isn’t ready. Are we ready to scuttle the team’s chemistry next season, leave a gaping hole in the rotation and move backwards while allowing Smart the massive developmental minutes he needs to grow rapidly?

When it comes to defense, Smart’s more than proven himself over and over again, with timely plays and big moments. He hasn’t really delivered as a ball distributor, not quite yet. There’s no question Turner’s the better ball handler, right now.

Smart is currently playing 27.1 minutes, a hair less than Turner’s 27.3. Are we really, really prepared to let Smart (plus Young or Hunter up the rotation) and soak ET’s minutes up, while sending Turner riding off into the sunset?

Is that the “next step forward”, logically speaking?

I’m not certain we’re ready to let Turner go, right now, all for the sake of development. The team is slowly coming together and is ready to take a step up – we need to move forward into the championship conversation, not take another step back.

Until Smart proves himself capable of taking the reins over from Turner, it looks like a case of fixing what’s not broken.

Turner’s indispensable tools

Brandon puts his argument forward in a logical manner.

“If the Celtics have a similar team next season, they would be best served resigning Evan Turner: an impactful team player who has one of the best mid-range shots in the league, & can get to the basket with an arsenal of ball handling moves.”

He may not look like it, but Turner has been an elite and rather sneaky distributor. His playmaking allows him to get to the rim, and in turn serve his open teammates the ball at the most unexpected moments.

“Coming off the bench, he is arguably having one of his most impactful seasons,” Brandon suggests. “Since coming to Boston, he has set a career-high in assists per game; last season he averaged 5.5 APG, breaking his previous best of 4.3 APG in the 2012-13 season.

Turner is averaging 4.4 assists a game this season. He has 289 total assists on the season through 65 games, where he has only started 4 of them. Evan is also ranked 26th in total assists in the entire NBA, a league best for a player off the bench.”

Michael also agrees on Turner’s passing, and calls it “criminally underrated” –a rather fitting description, considering how little noise it’s made outside of Boston fans– and goes on to talk about the level of trust he gives not only the fans, but likely his team on the floor.

“ET brings with him a level of assurance when he enters the game. While Marcus Smart is also capable of handling point guard duties when Isaiah Thomas is resting, I believe [Smart] still has some developing to do offensively over the next season or two.”

Make no mistake, coach Stevens has agreed on Turner’s importance recently too, after his clutch save during the Knicks game.

“I think Evan Turner’s been really good since he’s been here,” Stevens said recently. “The thing I’ve said all along is he’s a jack of all trades. He does a lot of good things for our team.”

“He’s figured out our system. He’s figured out where his spots are. He’s always been a confident person as far as playing the game. We’re asking him to do a whole heckuva lot. The thing about Evan is he’s always doing it with the intent of helping your team, so that’s the best thing I can say probably.”

“Finally, Turner’s confidence comes to the fore down the stretch. In close games, it’s significant having a player who can create his own shot off the dribble.

Time and again this season, Turner has made clutch baskets to score a go-ahead bucket or tie up the game. This is something the team has lacked since the departure of Paul Pierce and co. – you can never have too many finishers on your team!”

Hayley’s also on board with Turner’s well-balanced arsenal of skills, and it’s hard to imagine getting a replacement for someone of his caliber, should he leave.

“ET is Boston’s Mr Do It All. He gives Brad Stevens flexibility in his line-ups, and with his height he is a match-up nightmare for small guards.

What I enjoy most about Turner, is the fact that he knows his strengths and works with them. When he is in the lane or pulling up for mid-range jumpers I have faith that his shot will go in, no matter how may dribbles it takes.”

Need evidence? Hayley points to a rather interesting statistic.

“Turner is the only player on the Celtics that is averaging at least 10 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. This truly showcases ET’s worth to the Celtics.”

Free agency matters

Dave, who’s always ready to take a clear-eyed view on the bigger picture, agrees to a roster with Turner in all but the most positive situation: if the chance to nab a star player presents itself.

“Turner has been an integral part of the Celtics’ success this season as he has come up big, time after time. Having said that, I do not think we should keep him should the below were to eventuate:

For starters, if the very quiet rumblings of KD to Boston come to fruition (so what if I’m a dreamer?), then something has got to give cap-wise.

Jan 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Thunder won 111-105. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) reacts after a shot during the second half against the San Antonio Spurs at AT&T Center. The Thunder won 111-105. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As much as I have enjoyed our team this season, I wouldn’t hesitate in letting ET and some of the non-guaranteed contacts go to make room.

Cc-HWlOUkAAK-WT

Secondly, if the Celtics get lucky in the draft with the Brooklyn pick (they are well overdue!) and select Ben Simmons, then they would have to look at developing him – which would certainly mean that Turner’s minutes would be effectively cut.”

The final piece of the puzzle of course, comes down to money; namely, Turner’s upcoming free agency.

“Lastly, it simply comes down to money. If Danny can get ET to resign at a cap-friendly contract, say 3 years for $20 million, especially with the cap rising, then that has to be done. If he gets an offer from another team for $10m+ per year?

Evan, it’s been great knowing you, and good luck!”

Will defense be the theme against Phoenix?

Yesterday, the Celtics pulled off a decisive victory against the Indiana Pacers. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen this level of sustained defensive intensity from the C’s, a key calling card that has been instrumental to the team’s winning ways. The relentless triumvirate of Bradley, Smart and Crowder led the way, and sparked a series of steals and transition baskets that sealed the game.

“We’ve been struggling with that, closing out games,” Smart said (reference). “That was a big point for us tonight was make sure we close out the game. We knew Indiana, what they wanted to do and they were gonna try to push it down our throats and get in the paint and score the ball. We just have to bite our teeth and guard them.”

Onwards, to the Phoenix Suns. Can the Celtics maintain their focus, and close a shaky team out? The Suns struggled mightily this season; they lost 9 of their last 10 games, and stand 13-27 for the season so far. They are tied for 3rd place with the Kings in turnovers per game at 16.6, and commit the 5th highest amount of personal fouls at 21.7 per game. It’s also worth noting that Phoenix surrenders an average of 16 fast break points a game, a mark that is good for second worst in the league.

It’s not hard to imagine what the Suns sound like, when putting all these statistics together. They are a suitable target for Boston’s defensive tendencies, namely an opponent that is on a slump, and could be baited into committing mistakes and giving transition opportunities up.

Let’s not forget the fact that Isaiah Thomas is riding an unbeatable offensive surge right now. He’s averaging 21.6 points this season, but has scored 28, 34 and 35 points in his last three outings. It’s not hard to imagine that his outstanding performance might lead to All-Star candidacy this season.

One might say, things are looking up. Don’t miss tomorrow’s game, as the Celtics take on the Suns at home, 11:30 am AEDT.

Trust in the system, move beyond hero ball

Yesterday’s game against the Memphis Grizzlies was in a word, ugly. Despite getting a 35-point, 8-assist night from Thomas, the team still went down hard behind a late Memphis surge.

The team went into the fourth quarter 76-68, with a good chance to grab the road W, but instead surrendered 33 points to the Grizzlies.

Not only were the Celtics out-rebounded, they just could not get their offense going. The C’s only made 6 of their 21 shots in Q4, a putrid 28.6%. Thomas (3/4 FG) and Bradley (2/4 FG) were the only consistent scorers, and let’s not even start with David Lee’s 0 for 6 in his 7 minutes of play (Q4 box score).

After the game, Avery Bradley sounded like the voice of reason, and kept a lid on things. “I won’t say I’m troubled, but the only reason I’m not is because I know it’s correctable. I feel like we need to keep our composure, and in the second half move the ball more.”

Bradley also pointed out one thing that has been a slightly worrisome trend: the penchant to move away from team basketball.

“I feel like the ball doesn’t move in the second half. It’s almost like everyone kind of plays hero basketball and we stop playing team basketball, and that’s not how the Celtics play. We’ll get back to it. I’m not worried about it.”

We have seen occasions when pressure mounts, and the need for points drives the team away from playing the way it needs to. The passing grinds to a halt, the ball gets stuck and we get treated to a fine display of 1-on-1 basketball.

Results justify the means, but the fact is that the team isn’t good enough to play isolation basketball.

Players need to move, the ball needs to flow, and they know it. 61.8% of the team’s field goals are assisted, a decent mark by any measure (Warriors 69.1%, Spurs 62.9%) but there is still a need for trust in team basketball.

We simply cannot afford to play hero ball. You can’t make a case for isolation ball, not when the defending NBA champions make more assists, even with an elite-level isolation player like Stephen Curry.

Trust.

“I know everyone wants to win and play hard for one another. But I know that if we move the ball, we have a better chance at being successful every single time down on the offensive end, and we understand that, we’ll start playing the right way again.”

You know it, AB.

5 takeaways from the Warriors loss

So, we very nearly got the win, and lost it in double overtime. Is there a medal for moral victories, for being able to hang with the Warriors for this long?

Having missed most of the game live, I went back and caught the full game on replay (gotta love League Pass). Here’s the box score for reference.

Have to say, the team has taken a serious step forward in growth this season. We’re not fully there yet; defensive rotations stutter at times, ATO plays look wonky, and there’s the occasional hero ball (hello there 7-for-22!), especially when the ball stops moving. BUT, we’re making huge strides as far as defense is concerned, and like all of us know by now, it’s got to be a 48 minute operation with all hands on deck. A few lapses could have us earning another loss easily.

First off, top props to Bradley for the first quarter onslaught, and to guys like Crowder, KO, Lee, Turner, Sully and Lee for doing their part. Young too, but more on that later.

1. We got slaughtered on the glass

Box out, people. If we can’t defend our own rebounds, we don’t deserve to win.

The Warriors out-rebounded us this game, 67-51. The differential in defensive rebounding was +10 to Golden State, and they got 17 offensive rebounds.

SEVENTEEN.

I like the number 17 when it refers to the number of championship banners, not the amount of offensive boards we surrendered in a game.

Sidetracking a little, I’m thinking of coach Steven’s spoken preference towards small ball. That in turn calls for a lot of aggressive gang rebounding, something Golden State has been able to accomplish even with their small ball lineup of death.

We have to get this rebounding thing right, before our small ball becomes a real weapon.

2. Transition defense did not exist

21 fast break points for the Warriors, plenty of ill-defended (or even undefended) layups were made.

We can’t afford to give points away like that.

3. The Warriors are a scary outfit

Captain Obvious here, but the point was just highlighted once more this game.

Brandon Rush looked comfortable out there as a starter, and Livingston/Barbosa were playing their roles to perfection. Despite missing two key players in Thompson and Barnes, the Warriors still looked pretty good. Good enough to close the game out anyway.

And of course: Draymond Green who clinched a 5×5 (24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 steals, 5 blocks) while chucking 3-pointers, defending guards and forwards with equal ease.

I guess it’s different if Green was the missing player, but seriously, solid contribution from the reserves.

4. Still loving the good times with Mike and Tommy

mike_tommy

I’m not sure how many more seasons we got, but from the bottom of my heart, thanks to you two fine gentlemen for all these years of commentating, it’s been a lot of fun listening to you.

Hey, what can I say? I’m a C’s fan, and I love listening to Celtics homer talk, raging on lousy whistles and the like.

5. Bradley is still getting killed by whistles while playing elite defense

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Yep. That’s a foul, come on. I feel like AB’s earned a reputation over the years for getting quick whistles on his aggressive defense, which in turn has made him less effective.

Nothing we can do about it, but it just frustrates me when he gets quick whistles and loses playing time.


P.S. James Young actually looked better than I thought he would be

He gave good effort on defense and on moving the ball the right way during offense this game.

The numbers look decent too. 5 points on 2/3 shooting, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and only 1 turnover in nearly 20 minutes of play? It’s not All-Star, but I’ll take it.

Keep it up Young!

To wrap things up, here’s a moment I thought was pretty fun: IT snatching a rebound away from Bogut, and dishing it out to AB for a quick three.

Onwards to the next game.

2015/16 player previews: David Lee

Who could have predicted last season, that the Warriors would have ended up dealing David Lee to the C’s?

There’s no doubt that the Lee trade gives the Celtics a visible boost. The 32 year old big man is undoubtedly a huge upgrade over Gerald Wallace, who was largely relegated to a background role locker room leader and veteran voice of wisdom. Despite Lee’s lesser role with the Warriors last season, never lose sight of the fact that Lee is still the same talented big man he has been all these years. He is, and can be productive on a nightly basis, especially on the scoring and rebounding columns.

He’s proved it during preseason too. Lee averaged 20 minutes of play in five games, with 7.8 points and 7 rebounds a game. He could easily be a double-double machine with heavier minutes, but it’s unlikely the team can afford that option.

Whilst not stacked with top-level talent, the Celtics are still a quiet threat in the East. Lee’s championship experience will prove invaluable to a young team looking to push beyond a first-round playoffs exit. Head coach Brad Stevens has acknowledged the fact as well.

Is it unrealistic for Lee to play anything from 15 to 20 minutes a game, as a starter for the team? What do you think is Lee’s best quality right now?

Celtics’ Key Players: Keep Them Or Trade Them?

One thing has become clear about the 2014-15 Boston Celtics: Brad Stevens probably isn’t the right guy to be on the sideline. That’s not to say he isn’t a good coach; it’s to say he’s probably too good of a coach for a rebuilding effort.

For the most part, Danny Ainge has yet to pull the trigger on a full rebuild of the Celtics roster. While he never intended to tank to the extent of Philadelphia or New York, one has to imagine he had his eyes on a high lottery pick this year. Once in the sweepstakes for a shot at Jahlil Okafor or Karl-Anthony Towns this June, the Celtics are now competing for the Eastern Conference’s 8-seed, with Bleacher Report’s latest playoff projections showing them just half a game behind Brooklyn. It appears that Brad Stevens is just a little too good to lose very often, even with an excruciatingly average roster on his hands.

But regarding that roster, it’s not as if the rebuild is necessarily stalled. Ainge has proven before that he knows what he’s doing even when no one else can see the big picture. Also, he still has a significant stockpile of trade assets at his disposal, in the form of future draft picks and young talent. Frankly, there’s no telling what he’ll get up to in the coming offseason. But to get a jump on the speculation—and just for fun—here’s our own look at whether key players should be kept for rebuild or deemed expendable.

Isaiah Thomas

The Celtics’ midseason acquisition is an extremely valuable player, even if he’s a hothead at times. Hoopshype shows that he’s owed only about $6.5 million next season, and a little over $6.2 for 2016-17 (and you can view their full range of Celtics salaries at this page). That’s pretty good for a player who can easily score 20 points off the bench in a sixth man role, particularly when you consider the significant salary cap increase on the horizon.
Verdict: Keep him.

Evan Turner

Turner’s actually regained some value contributing on a relatively poor scoring roster. He’s got great size for a shooting guard and he’s cheap enough to simply keep around until his contract expires. That said, his is the type of contract that sometimes gets tossed into a deal to make the finances work, and he’s not so valuable that that can’t be considered. James Young is breathing down his neck.
Verdict: Trade if it helps.

Marcus Smart

It’s been an up-and-down rookie season for Smart, though some betting projections actually have him in respectable position for the Rookie Of The Year race. Additional analysis and NBA odds listings can be viewed here, but Betfair’s page on Rookie Of The Year odds shows Smart trailing only five other players. He’s not going to win the award, but he’s turned into a promising young guard who can contribute in all aspects of the game. Particularly with Thomas’s scoring punch off the bench, Smart is a very valuable player.
Verdict: Keep him.

Avery Bradley

Bradley signed a deal only slightly richer than that of Isaiah Thomas, and looks to be part of the plan for the future. He and Smart still have potential as a lockdown (albeit undersized) defensive backcourt. Verdict: Keep him.

Jared Sullinger

Jared Sullinger has become a rock-solid NBA player after a somewhat-slow start in the league. He’s owed just over $2 million next year, and just over $3 million for 2016-17. But it’s important to consider the draft, and this one is full of potential starting power forwards. NBADraft.net shows the Celtics picking 11th—that’s too high if the Celtics make the playoffs, but otherwise not a bad projection—and projects UCLA’s Kevon Looney, Texas’ Myles Turner, Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky, and Louisville’s Montrezl Harrell all being picked in the 14-18 range. Similarly, if the Celtics luck out with a slightly higher pick, options like Kentucky’s Trey Lyles or Willie Cauley-Stein could be available. Sullinger is valuable, but he’s also a strong trade asset, and he can be replaced in this draft.
Verdict: Look to trade him.

Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk is easy to like, and he’s a versatile scorer. However, he’s not the starting center you want on a playoff team. As a backup center, he doesn’t provide the sort of rebounding and defense that you want as a stopgap while the starter gets a breather. He’s also more expensive than Tyler Zeller, who may be a more useful backup. Olynyk is a good but very expendable player.
Verdict: Trade him.

Gerald Wallace

Finally, there’s the contract no one can move. Gerald Wallace is no longer a useful player, and to this point his contract has been impossible to move; but with only one year and just over $10 million left, he may now be in the range of a tradable commodity to a team just looking for an expiring deal.
Verdict: If the Celtics want to chase free agents this summer, he must be traded; if they’d prefer to wait one more year, they should just hang on and take the $10 million relief for themselves in another year.