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Evan Turner’s Early Season Struggles

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Turner’s slow start is beginning to draw national criticism.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Brooklyn Nets Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

Evan Turner, the Trail Blazers’ big free agent signing this off season, hasn’t lived up to expectation so far. He averaged 10.5 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting for the Boston Celtics last year, but is scoring just 7.9 points per game while shooting only 38.3 percent for the Blazers this season. His struggles are now getting national attention, as staff writers at The Ringer, Bill Simmons’ website, mentioned them in two separate articles this morning.

Jonathan Tjarks included Turner among his “11 Most Surprising Players of the NBA Season (So Far)” today.

The Blazers have a net rating of minus-16.7 when he is on the floor, and a net rating of plus-9.3 points when he is off. The good news is that he can’t continue to be as harmful as his advanced numbers suggest he has been, because no NBA-caliber player could be over the course of a season. Turner was going to need time to figure out how to play with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, but the Blazers couldn’t have expected the acclimation to go this poorly when they signed him to a four-year, $70 million contract.

Kevin O’Connor analyzed Turner’s slow start to the season in a roundup section of NBA analysis:

There is no mystery here. Turner needs the ball in his hands to be effective offensively and, despite the contract, he’s not good enough have it more than Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. Turner is receiving roughly 12 fewer touches per 100 possessions with the Blazers than he did in his two years with the Celtics, so he’s spending significantly more time off the ball where he’s a complete nonfactor.

Turner, who is known as a good defender, has also not helped improve the Blazers’ defense, which currently has the worst rating in the NBA. While his struggles have been significant, it’s still too early in the season to make any definitive judgments on Turner’s fit with the Blazers.

Hopefully, Turner will improve and his role will evolve as he gets comfortable in a new system. He recently had his best game of the season with 19 points on 8–12 shooting against the Nets. Whether that is a sign of things to come or not, Turner’s overall effectiveness with the Blazers probably cannot get worse.