Evan Turner is going green in more ways than one. The NBA free agent has agreed to a lucrative free-agent contract with the Boston Celtics after spending the second half of last season with the Indiana Pacers.
Financial details have not been disclosed, other than it is a short-term deal in which Turner will receive a portion of the Celtics’ midlevel exception, but safe to say the former national player of the year at Ohio State is not going to exist on Ramen noodles and saltines.
So do not feel sorry for Turner, 25, because when the season’s biggest humiliation is having your Ferrari run out of gas at the 315-670 split, and then having your former OSU teammate videotape and post it — as happened this summer when P.J. Hill responded to Turner’s distress call with a container of gas and a cellphone camera — your life has not been kicked to the curb.
But there are millionaires and then there are million-errs, meaning some professional athletes become targets of fan and media criticism because their mistakes seem high considering the money they collect. In most cases, the money issue is more of an expectation issue.
With Turner, money is a factor — the Pacers wanted more bang for their buck from a player who averaged 7.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 27 games — and declined to extend him the $8.7 million qualifying offer.
But what hurts Turner more than money is memory. Few forget he was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. And when the No. 2 pick, taken by Philadelphia, does not produce like a future Hall of Famer — and especially when he plays in the testy City of Brotherly Shove, where fans once booed Santa Claus — a perception problem builds.
If construction is allowed to continue, the result is a fully assembled, fully sullied reputation.
Turner’s rep has not reached that point. And, hopefully, never does. But the b-word (bust) has surfaced at times. A shame. He is a good dude who understands the game, plays defense and owns an above-average midrange jumper, which is an underappreciated and diminishing talent in today’s NBA.
In other words, he is balanced. But balanced is not what fans and franchises want with a No. 2 pick.
Turner’s agent, David Falk, alluded to this idea of being an in-betweener when he told the Boston Herald this week: “If you’d asked most GMs in February, when Evan was averaging 17, 6 and almost 4 (for Philadelphia), I think they all would have expected that he’d be a treasured free agent. Unfortunately in the NBA, we tend to be very trendy. When you’re up, you’re really up. When you’re down, you’re really down. Sometimes people don’t modulate in the middle.”
Another way to say it, minus the agent-speak, is that Turner does a lot of things well but does not blow you away in any single area of his game. What that means is he is a valuable complementary piece. He should thrive in the system of any coach who does not view him as the first scoring option.
Fortunately for Turner, it would appear Boston coach Brad Stevens knows what he is getting.
Stevens excels at placing players into positions that maximize their abilities. He undoubtedly sees Turner either as a point-forward who can use his frame (6 feet 7) and impressive ball-handling (for his size) to serve as a playmaker instead of shooter (with former Ohio State center Jared Sullinger as his target), or as a spot-up shooter.
That second role is where Turner has been most efficient during his five-season career, but he also has spent the majority of that time playing with the ball in his hands.
“I think the Celtics got an old-school Celtic-type player who’s very, very talented, has a very high basketball IQ and is highly motivated to prove to people that he’s not the player who ended the year in Indiana,” Falk said.
That player did not live up to the draft hype in either Philly or Indy. Here’s hoping better production and lowered expectations in Boston lead to improved perception.
Rob Oller is a sports reporter for The Dispatch.