Evan Turner is off to a rough start with the Portland Trail Blazers. Coming off the bench in his first nine games, he has accrued nearly as many turnovers as he has assists, and his overall production has dropped significantly from where it was with the Boston Celtics last season. Despite the bumpy road to settling in, his potential value is reflected in the Celtics’ struggles without him. They too have had a rough start and, although injuries to Al Horford and Jae Crowder cannot be ignored, former teammate Isaiah Thomas acknowledges that Turner’s absence has been impactful as well, per James Herbert of CBS Sports.
"The wing position in this league, if you're missing that, then it's going to be tough for you, especially (because) we don't have Evan Turner," Thomas said. "So it's like, we're not just missing Jae, we're missing Evan, who was a big part of what we've done. Now we've got a rookie (Jaylen Brown) in his place that, things are coming fast for him, he's trying to figure out on the fly as well, and, at the same time, play at a high level. So it's tough but we gotta just sustain or whatever we need to while Jae is out.”
Turner thrived in a sixth man role with the Celtics last year, initiating the offense and making plays. The Trail Blazers signed him to a hefty four-year, $70 million contract for the same purpose, but he has thus far not performed to expectation. Nine games into the season, it is fair to wonder if and when he will return to form, as the leeway of an adjustment period winds down. Altogether, it is still quite early.
Through Turner’s struggles, though, the Trail Blazers have managed a respectable 5-4 record, with the Western Conference leading Los Angeles Clippers (7-1) and Golden State Warriors (7-2) accounting for three of their four losses. Contrarily, the Celtics have taken a step backward, starting the season 3-4, in search of answers at the small forward position.