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Evan Turner- “Midrange Nostradamus”

Turner’s unique talents make him an interesting fit in Portland.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers-Media Day Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

As part of The Ringer’s 2016-17 NBA Preview, Danny Chau profiles Portland Trail Blazers swingman Evan Turner. It’s a long, in-depth read with some rather unique and thought provoking insights.

Chau starts by targeting one facet of Turner’s game that is contrary to the advanced metrics of today’s NBA, the lost art of the midrange jumper.

Evan Turner is the self-appointed messiah of the midrange revival, or at least the counterrevolution’s most outspoken salesman; he is a descendant of Jordan and Jesus, both Christ and Shuttlesworth; he will tell you that he’s a basketball player, but he plays the game with a historian’s sense of duty. “A lot of people say the highest percentage is a 3 or a layup, and I definitely comprehend why,” Turner told me. “But sometimes you gotta read the game for what it’s worth.

Chau goes on to document Turner’s mindset after being traded to the Indiana Pacers, and the ensuing downfall in production and confidence. It’s an interesting look into the psyche of a former overall number two draft pick, and the expectations that come along with that.

It was a bad fit from the jump; Indy needed floor spacing, and he provided none. The Pacers had a net rating of minus-3.2 when Turner was on the floor, the worst figure attached to any Pacer who played at least 400 minutes during the season. “I think after my stint in Indiana, I had to [figure out] if I wanted to play in the NBA or not,” Turner said. “It was all about getting back to being happy. I think that was the biggest thing. For lack of a better word, just saying, ‘<blank> it,’ and just being happy.”

From there Chau gives the readers a further look into Turner as a person as he blossomed with the Boston Celtics over the past two years. Highlighting how much fit and comfort is as important as talent and opportunity.

Turner became a regular crunch-time contributor and one of the Celtics’ most reliable playmakers off the dribble. Playing on a team for which his role was made explicitly clear, his personality blossomed; he’d become a fan favorite for his candid responses. “Sometimes I just get tired of answering questions, so I just try to have fun with it,” Turner said.

Playing off the uniqueness of Turner’s personality and play style, Chau makes an astute comparison of Turner’s game to that of a jazz artist.

Jab steps, staccato dribbles, creating tension to find the best way to resolve it — it’s an overt display of individual superiority over a defender. And yet, if the idea of basketball as jazz holds any water, its truth would be found in the midrange, where a soloist’s physical improvisation is still an important detail.

Chau continues to outline the questions that Turner has faced upon his arrival, particularly how will his lack of a perimeter game fit into a three-point heavy motion/flow offense?

The spread-out motion offense that the Blazers run is its own ecosystem, and the spacing that players like Lillard, McCollum, and Allen Crabbe create allows for subregions and microclimates to emerge. Within that framework, players like Turner or Mason Plumlee, who don’t possess the same gravitational pull on the perimeter, can simply play the way they know how.

Further along, Chau links Turner to perhaps an unlikely player on the surface, Shaun Livingston. Livingston and Turner, however, do have quite a few similarities; they are both 6’7” swingmen with a primary skill set designed to create for others, but their secondary skills lie in more non-traditional areas. An ability to post up smaller players, while operating very efficiently in the mid-post puts them in a class all on their own.

If there’s one part of the court where Turner is truly excellent, it’s in the post. Turner scored 0.99 points per possession on post-up attempts last season, which put him in the 84th percentile among all players, and behind only Kevin Durant, Arron Afflalo, Kawhi Leonard, and Andrew Wiggins among perimeter-oriented players with at least 100 possessions in the post. (Livingston scored a point per possession on the 95 post-up possessions he was involved in.)

Chau has plenty more to read through as he discusses the chances of Turner becoming an Uber driver, the penchant for players to develop a three-point shot when coming to Portland (hinting there may be something in water), and much more. So grab your favorite beverage and pop open your browser. This is definitely worth a read.