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.

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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!”

Celtics catch fire & take care of short-handed grit & grind Memphis.

The Celtics were coming off a loss to the Cavs, who the shorthanded Memphis Grizzlies had just beaten. Memphis would once again be without Conley, Randolph & Gasol with the Celtics home winning streak on the line.

Memphis jumped out to an early 8-2 lead before the Celtics went on a 13-4 run to take a 3 point lead off an Avery 3. The grit & grind Grizzlies went back on top 21-26 before Smart ended the quarter with a 3 as Boston would trail by 2 at the end of 1.

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Boston started the 2nd on a 10-3 run to take a 5 point lead but the Celtics inability to grab a defensive rebound, while Memphis were pounding the glass & getting 2nd chance points to stay in the game. Memphis took the lead on a pair of Chalmers free throws before Crowder put Boston back on top with a 3. Chalmers would finish the quarter with a deep 3 after a jump ball that gave the Grizzlies a 3 point lead at the half due to leading 2nd chance points 17-2 & rebounding 29-14. Jarell Martin posted a career high 15 points in the first half (previous high was 2, had 8 career points)

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The Celtics came out of the half aggressive, drawing 3 shooting fouls on Memphis in under 3 minutes, Thomas going 3-4 & Johnson 1-2 while on an 8-2 Boston run to go up 3 that forced a Memphis timeout. Mario Chalmers went down with an injury & was carried to the locker room with the Celtics up 64-61, Boston ended the quarter on a 19-6 run & outscored Memphis 12-31 in the 3rd to take a 83-67 lead into the 4th as Thomas was up to 22 points.

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Jonas started the 4th with another Celtics 3 before Vince Carter scored 5 points on 2 straight Memphis possessions. Vince Carter would add another triple but Zeller’s dunk would give the Celtics a 21 point lead & 100 points with 7:30 to go. Memphis went on 10-4 run to cut the lead to 14 but back to back 3’s by Crowder & Jerebko all but finished the game, Boston winning 96-116.

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Statistics:

Isaiah Thomas – 22 points, 5 assists Evan Turner – 16 points, 8 assists Avery Bradley – 15 points Jae Crowder – 15 points Jared Sullinger – 12 points, 5 rebounds Jonas Jerebko – 11 points, 4 rebounds, 5 assists Tyler Zeller – 9 points, 7 rebounds
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The Celtics extended their home winning streak to 14….

 

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The Celtics battle with Jazz in thriller at Garden

The Celtics would be looking for revenge against the Utah Jazz who had beaten Boston by 18 on the 20th of February before they made it even worse for the Celtics by losing to the Brooklyn Nets (Celtics own their first round pick) on Sunday.

The game started back & forth before the Jazz, through Hayward, Lyles & Mack, put Utah up 9 late in the first quarter. Isaiah Thomas scored 6 straight Boston points (8 in the quarter) to close the gap to 6 heading into the 2nd.

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The Jazz were pounding the Celtics on the glass, offensively & defensively, as an offensive explosion by Trey Lyles extended the Jazz lead up to a game high 13 points. To help with the rebounding & defensive struggles for Boston, Brad Stevens put rookie Jordan Mickey into the game, much to the delight of the Celtics fans. Mickey immediately had an impact, grabbing an offensive rebound that led to free throws, a dunk & 2 blocks that helped spark Boston on an 11-0 run, keeping Utah scoreless for 6 minutes. Hayward, Lyles & Hood all scored over the final 2 minutes for the Jazz but Boston stayed tough & only trailed by 3 heading into the half.

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Isaiah Thomas came out of the break on fire, scoring 6 straight for the Celtics. A lot more fouls were being called in the 3rd than at all in the first half as a pair of Hood free throws & a Neto jump shot put Utah back up by 6. Marcus Smart, Jae Crowder & Tyler Zeller scored all of Boston’s points over the final 4 minutes to keep the Celtics within touch going into the 4th, down by 1.

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Shelvin Mack started the quarter with a 3 for the Jazz but Boston scored 9 straight points to take a 5 point lead, their first since the 1st minute of the game. The Utah Jazz answered with a 9-2 run to take back the lead but Sullinger scored on back to back possessions to keep the game tied. Shelvin Mack, a guy who Brad Stevens coached at Butler, scored 7 straight Jazz points, the last being a 3 pointer to take a 2 point lead with only 49 seconds left. Crowder answered the call once again with a 3 of his own to give Boston back the lead before Avery Bradley blocked Hayward’s post up shot & was heading to the line for 2 free throws. Avery split the 2 free throws, missing the 2nd but Amir Johnson grabbed the offensive rebound & got the ball back to Avery who this time knocked down both. The Celtics held on to win 95-100 & keep the 11-0 home streak alive.

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Key statistics:

Jae Crowder – 22 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists
Isaiah Thomas – 18 points, 2 rebounds, 9 assists
Avery Bradley – 18 points, 2 rebounds, 1 steal
Evan Turner – 8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 block & a + 8 (The Celtics are 21-1 when Evan is a +3 or better in +/-) gettyimages-513157496_master

 

Celtics, Clippers play thriller at Garden as All-Star point guards go head to head.

The Celtics were coming in hot, winning 9 of their last 11 but a one point loss to the Bucks the night before left a bitter taste. A chance for redemption, at home, against Doc, Pierce & the Los Angeles Clippers was todays challenge. A team who were also hot, winning 7 of their last 8.

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The first quarter didn’t start as planned when Pierce & Reddick knocked down back to back 3’s to give the Clippers a 10-4 advantage. The Celtics would fight back through Sullinger, Thomas & Crowder (who had all of Boston’s points apart from 3) to tie things at 19. Not much defence was being played & the Celtics had already started to Hack-a-Jordan, who made both of the free throws as Los Angeles would take a 37-33 lead into the 2nd.

Smart

The Clippers scored 4 points to start the quarter but Boston was hanging tough, attacking the rim & getting to the free throw line before a Marcus Smart 3 pointer gave the Celtics their first lead of the night. Bradley & Smart both hit 2 3’s, with a pair of Jae Crowder free throws in-between to extend the lead to 60-54. The Celtics once again ended the quarter with Hack-a-Jordan, who proceeded to make both free throws again but Boston took a 71-64 advantage at the half.

IT

The Celtics started the 3rd on a 10-4 run to go up 13 before the Clippers would make their own run by getting to the line, as 6 straight Clipper free throws had cut the Boston lead to 81-85. Over the final 3:40 of the quarter, Crowder & Thomas were the only Celtics to score, putting in 13 points to extend the lead back to 10 before a Chris Paul 3 beat the buzzer as the Celtics took a 91-98 lead into the 4th.

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Olynyk was announced out for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury as Zeller took the floor to star the 4th. Tyler quickly knocked down a shot but a 9-2 Clippers run had the game at 100 apiece. Paul & Jerebko would exchange 3’s before Lance Stephenson also hit a 3, but a stare down of the Celtics bench got Lance a technical foul as the resulting free throw, made by Avery Bradley, gave Boston the one point lead. Crawford, Reddick & Stephenson all scored in the midst of an 8-2 Clippers run as Los Angeles took the 114-109 lead. The Celtics went back to Hack-a-Jordan, who went 3-4 over the next minute to put the Clippers up 5 with only 1:16 left in regulation. Thomas would score the basket out of the timeout & get a foul but he missed the free throw that Marcus Smart would fight & get the rebound for. The Clippers were called for another foul but Marcus could only manage to make 1 of the 2 foul shots & would immediately pick up his 6th & final foul after the missed free throw. Los Angeles were up 2 with Jordan heading to the line with under 24 seconds left, DeAndre failed to make either of the 2 free throws & Isaiah Thomas would tie things up before Chris Paul missed the game winning shot as time expired.

Overtime started with Avery Bradley fouling Reddick on back to back 3 point shots, one a 4 point play, the other Reddick went 2/3 from the line. Bradley quickly made up for the mistake, knocking down a 3 to bring Boston within 2. Crawford, Jordan & Paul all went 1 of 2 from the line in their next 3 possessions as a Sullinger 3 pointer got Boston back down only 1. 7 straight points for Evan Turner put Boston up 3, the Clippers had 2 chances to tie the game but failed on both as Jerebko hit the final 2 free throws to lead the Celtics to a 139-134 win over the Clippers heading into the All-Star weekend, where Isaiah Thomas will be in the Skills Challenge & the All-Star game.

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The Celtics head into ASW with a 32-23 record which has them sitting 3rd in the Eastern Conference.

Statistics:
Isaiah Thomas – 36 points & 11 assists (11-12 on free throws) Jared Sullinger – 21 points & 11 rebounds Jae Crowder – 19 points & 8 rebounds Evan Turner – 14 points, 6 rebounds & 6 assists Avery Bradley – 18 points Marcus Smart – 17 points
If that was Paul Pierce’s final game in Boston he finished with 6 points, 3 rebounds & an assist, shooting 50% from 3.

2015/16 player previews: Kelly Olynyk

Kelly Olynyk had an impressive off-season with the Canadian national team and looks ready to be a large part of the Celtics rotation this season.

Although Olynyk hurt his knee in late August playing for his country, he bounced back and played some huge games as they attempted, but ultimately failed, to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Olynyk had the best game of his career against Venezuela, as he dominated and finished with 34 points (11/13 from the field) and 13 rebounds. Olynyk’s efficiency had all Celtics fans excited for what may be in store for the upcoming season.

Obviously Olynyk isn’t going to make 11/13 shots every night, but his improved offensive game gives the Celtics another option and keeps the opposition guessing.

A huge part of his role this season will be to space the floor for his scoring guards. Olynyk will need to create open spaces for Isaiah Thomas to operate in, and this will be made easier if Olynyk can prove to be a consistent threat that needs to be treated with respect on the offensive end.

Being able to give Thomas, Avery Bradley and Evan Turner room to create their own shots and also being ready to shoot when open is huge for the Celtics moving forward. After his summer experiences, Olynyk looks ready to perform for the Boston Celtics in his third season.

You won’t be seeing Olynyk on opening night against the Sixers though, as he is serving a one-game suspension after that incident with Kevin Love.

2015/16 player previews: Evan Turner

Evan Turner had a really good season for the Celtics in 2014/15. He was a playmaker, scorer and played every game.

Even after a consistent season, many Celtics fans don’t really see a future for Turner in Boston. They believe he is just taking minutes away from the younger players who need to get court time, but to that I say he has earned his minutes just as much as the next guy.

Turner produced multiple game-winners last season with clutch buckets against the Hawks and Trailblazers.

Turner is the most versatile player on the team, and because of that he will get minutes this season. He may not see as much court time as last season (almost 28 minutes per game) because of the loaded backcourt and the fact that Jae Crowder will be getting plenty at small forward.

Last season Turner played some quality minutes at the point and impressed; his height (6’7″) worried his smaller opponents. This season there is added competition with the addition of Terry Rozier, along with Marcus Smart and Isaiah Thomas returning.

This doesn’t mean that Turner won’t be an important player for the Celtics though, as he is such a creative playmaker and can create his own shot better than most on the Celtics roster.

2015/16 player preivews: R.J. Hunter

The Boston Celtics selected R.J. Hunter with pick 28 in this years NBA Draft. In each of his three seasons with Georgia State he was able to increase his production on the offensive end, and averaged 19.5 points per game last season.

Hunter is known for that famous game-winner in the 2015 NCAA March Madness against Baylor, in which Baylor were the heavy favourites to advance.

Hunter was seen by many as the best pure shooter in this year’s draft and after what he displayed in the Summer League’s and preseason that looks like a pretty safe bet.

Hunter’s form through the preseason has he seen him force his way into the rotation and we should see him getting plenty of minutes early in this season.

Hunter isn’t going to kill defenders with explosiveness, but his unlimited range forces defenders to be right on him on the offensive end.

Hunter’s frame is far too small to be a good defender in the league, and defence is a concern for him entering his rookie season. Having said that, he showed he can be a decent defender in the preseason, and this will need to be even better come the regular season.

Hunter looks like he will be the backup shooting guard to Avery Bradley, with Evan Turner also able to play the two-guard position, as well as the point. The competition for guard minutes will be strong, so Hunter will may see some time on the bench if he struggles to find his shot.