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Spike Eskin: Closing The Book On The Evan Turner Debate

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(credit: Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

(credit: Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)

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By Spike Eskin

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – I am never arguing with anyone about Evan Turner ever again.

There are certain players in Philadelphia that seem to inspire endless debate about just how good they actually are.

The last two decades have given us Donovan McNabb, Andre Iguodala and Ryan Howard. Before that, Randall Cunningham and Mike Schmidt were the subjects of such discussion. Players who at the mere mention of their names, will attract someone ready to tell you either how criminally underrated or overrated they are.

Turner is the most recent example, and I’m proud to say I’m done discussing it.

Evan Turner is an NBA player, but that’s about it.

He’s not an All-Star, he’s not the second, third or even fourth best player on a championship level team. He’s not being used incorrectly, or the victim of poor coaching. He’s not misunderstood or being treated unfairly. He is not a point guard. He is a bad defensive player and his insistence on arguing calls while the  ball is live and the other team is executing a fast break is infuriating.

After being treated to a few weeks of “maybe we shouldn’t trade him,” “finally, he’s being given a chance to succeed,” and “twenty point scorer!,” at the start of the season, Turner’s predictable regression toward his inefficient, mopey mean is nearly complete.

Turner’s performance on Monday night against the Nets was another in a series of reminders that Evan Turner is simply not that good. He shot 3-11, scoring nine points, while Joe Johnson exploded for 37. This was a game after a brilliant 1-7 performance, netting just three points and one free throw against the Trailblazers.

Turner is now shooting 44% from the field in his “breakout season.” This is a 44% that includes below-average three point shooting (30%), and a player who gets his shot blocked more than anyone else in the league. In his last seven games, Turner has taken 105 shots, and scored just 93 points.

The so-called misused point guard has an assist to turnover ration of essentially 1-1. He’s got the second most turnovers in the league, trailing only Steph Curry, who happens to be averaging twice as many assists. His affinity for dribbling the ball aimlessly for 10 seconds or so, only to settle for a contested 17 foot jump shot, or an awkward attempt in the lane has never been more obvious.

His desire to get to the free throw line, something that has improved his efficiency this year, is apparently waning as well. Turner has shot two free throws or fewer seven times in the last 11 games.

His statistics are worse when Michael Carter-Williams has not been on the court, which is predictable and understandable. But for him to go from what he was doing (proving the haters wrong!) to what he is doing (essentially a minus player when on the court) because he’s not on the court with a rookie point guard (the 11th pick in a weak draft), with whom he’s played 15 games, is unacceptable. It is a compliment to Carter-Williams, but it is equal to, if not more, a condemnation of Turner.

Evan Turner may eventually be a player  who can help a team win. When he accepts what he is, and stops believing that he should be a primary offensive option, a point guard, or whatever he and his agent have filled his head with, perhaps he’ll be able to use his skills to add to a championship level team. But that is not now, and it’s not here.

Evan Turner seems to be a good enough guy, and I mean nothing personal. I just am done watching him play basketball and trying to figure out what he is. I know what he is. I know I’m not a fan of his game.

I don’t care if the Sixers trade Turner, I don’t care if they let him walk when the season is over. I don’t know what his league-wide value is, and the cap space he’ll leave upon his departure may be his biggest asset. He sure isn’t causing too many wins at the moment, so that’s no concern.

I just know I’m done discussing his ceiling, or whether his failure to live up to expectations is anyone’s fault but his own. I am not fooled, amused, or interested.

Team Evan, as I have sarcastically, affectionately, referred to Turner’s defenders, will surely tell me I’m wrong. But I’m not listening.

McNabb (probably underrated), Iguodala (criminally underrated locally) and Howard’s (properly rated and probably finished) books will always inspire debate, and rightly so. But Turner’s book is shut. I gave him a shot, but predictably, it was blocked.

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