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Remembering Evan Turner as a Trail Blazer

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Portland is abuzz about new acquisition Kent Bazemore, but what about the player they traded away for him?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Denver Nuggets Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Portland Trail Blazers traded Evan Turner to the Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore on Monday. We discussed the move yesterday and will run an entire feature from a Bazemore expert tomorrow. In between, though, let’s address this Mailbag question about the other player in the deal, Portland’s departing wingman.

Dave,

Your reaction to ET getting traded? I’m feeling relief finally. Even though Bazemore’s contract is just as big, it feels like light at the end of the tunnel finally. We’re not locked into the same thing and soon we might not be locked into anything. That’s a good feeling for me and I want to know if you’re greeting ET departing with applause or relief.

Justin

On the whole, I’ll remember Evan Turner fondly. He gave what he had to the franchise. The marriage wasn’t seamless, but that’s hardly Turner’s fault.

An obligatory disclaimer: as a human being and a general supporter of NBA players, I am glad Evan Turner got his contract. He’s a smart, multi-talented veteran who has performed well for multiple teams. He’s good at his craft. Everything he’s got, he has earned. I am 100% on board with the Rolls Royce, the house, the life, and disdain for anyone saying he doesn’t merit it. If I were to compile a list of overpaid, less-deserving NBA players in the history of the league, Turner wouldn’t crack the Top 500.

From the franchise’s perspective, it’s hard to argue that the Blazers got great value out of that contract. Turner wasn’t a bad player...at times he was great. Eating up $17-18 million of cap space per year for him was still a mistake, compounded by bidding high for other free agents in the same summer. Those moves have made Portland’s cap situation unpalatable since 2016, costing them opportunities that other teams snagged. Turner’s on-court production wasn’t sustained or dramatic enough to justify that.

This was not reflective of Turner’s talent, though. The Blazers didn’t use him to the best of his ability. They flirted with making him an off-ball shooter. Neither of those descriptors play to his strengths. Then finally ended up giving him the ball last season, letting him operate in the middle of the court, choosing to score or set up teammates. He looked good, buoying a second unit that had been anemic up that point.

The early months of 2018-19 provided a glimpse of what could have been. Unfortunately, the team wasn’t set up to sustain that style of play. When they traded their catch-and-shoot bench players for Rodney Hood and Enes Kanter—one taking up dribbles and the other central court space—Turner’s role diminished again. He helped the Blazers save their second-round series with the Denver Nuggets, but with his contract expiring next season, the writing was on the wall.

None of this was really about Turner. He got paid a lot of money to become a trapezoidal peg in an octagonal hole. Unless Portland changed the roster entirely, that was always going to be the case.

In other words, everything people didn’t like about Turner’s tenure in Portland was far more Portland’s fault than Turner’s.

Evan’s off-court contributions provided delicious frosting, even if the cake underneath was slightly lopsided. His public statements about the team were on point and restrained in all the right ways. His non-basketball contributions through Instagram and Twitter became near-legendary. Certain aspects of his tenure here had to be frustrating, but through it all, he displayed veteran poise. He made Portland’s culture more interesting and fun. That’ll be my personal, enduring memory of ET.

Thanks for the questions! Keep them coming to blazersub@gmail.com!

If you want to check out some of the other stuff I do besides talking about the Blazers, head to GeekandGreek.com!

—Dave / @davedeckard / @blazersedge / blazersub@gmail.com