Turner also affects shots even when he is not blocking them. Opponents are shooting just 43.2 percent on shots at the rim with Turner contesting, and, according to Cleaning the Glass , opponents shoot 14 percent worse on all shots at the rim with Turner on the floor, putting him in the 98th percentile for bigs in the NBA this season.
The Pacers are allowing a ton of shots ( 39.8 percent of all opponent shots , in the bottom third of the NBA) at the rim. According to Indy Cornrows Pacers Blogger Mark Schindler , this is intentional: “The ton of shots at the rim is due to how much pressure they’re putting on the ball. They double-team/trap ball-handlers fairly often and are aggressive closing to shooters and running them off the line.” This is not typically a recipe for a good defense. But the Pacers can do it because Turner is there to erase shots. The Pacers’ overall defensive rating is 108.7, good for ninth in the NBA , and goes down to 107.2 with Turner on the floor , which would rank fifth.
Turner has long been an effective defender. He was fifth in the NBA in blocked shots last season, and has been at or above the 89th percentile in Cleaning the Glass’s block percentage statistic for every season of his career. The Pacers have also been better on defense with Turner on the court every season other than Turner’s rookie season. But he has taken it to another level this season. Plus, his offense has come along too.
A staple of Turner’s offensive game the last couple seasons was pick-and-popping to one or two steps inside the three-point line. It was infuriating; these shots are considered some of the worst in basketball as they are not much easier than three-pointers, but are worth an entire point less. 12 percent of Turner’s shots last season came as long twos, which ranked in the 83rd percentile among bigs. He only made 35 percent of these shots, around a league-average rate. This only worked out to 0.7 points per shot, pitiful efficiency.
Turner has cut these shots out of his diet this season. So far, Cleaning the Glass has only classified three of Turner’s shots as long twos, which accounts for three percent of Turner’s total shots. He has replaced these with shots at the rim and threes, both far more efficient shots. Turner has gotten off to a cold start from three this season, shooting only 32 percent from range. And yet that’s still a more efficient return than he was getting from his long twos, as this gets the Pacers 0.96 points per shot. If he can get back to his career three-point percentage of 35.2 percent, watch out.
Three-point shooting is a key part of Turner’s ability to mesh with Sabonis. It is hard to generate the spacing necessary for a good offense with two bigs on the floor, and with Sabonis operating at an All-Star level in the post , Turner is going to have to function as a stretch big. Lineups with the two have not scored a ton in the past, and still are not this season, but Turner’s improved shot distribution should help.
Turner is showing other flashes offensively this season as well. He is taking and making more shots at the rim than ever before, and is driving to the hole more as well. Here, he shows off some of his off-the-dribble game:
Originally published at https://www.theplaygrounder.com on January 13, 2021.