The Pacers are a lot of fun. Six of their rotation guys average at least 11 points per game, and their offensive rating has climbed to sixth in the NBA. A big part of their success on that end is a pair of bigs, in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis, who can stretch the floor without taking much off the table in terms of traditional big man skills. Turner, in particular, is a rampaging two-way beast.
His traditional numbers don’t explode off the page—he’s averaging 15 points and 7 rebounds in 30 minutes a game—but he does lead the NBA in blocks per game, and when his jumper is falling he becomes a LaMarcus Aldridge-like unsolvable offensive problem, with some of the most finely tuned rim-protecting instincts in the league. Saturday night, against the frisky Nets, Turner had the whole package going:
Other big men—think Karl-Anthony Towns, Nikola Jokic, Marc Gasol—get more hype for bringing the center position fully into the era of pace and space, but a fully realized Myles Turner is the ideal specimen: a big with all the rim-protecting prowess of, say, Theo Ratliff, plus the nimble feet and confident shooting stroke of, say, Al Horford. Nokic and Towns are crummy defenders, and Gasol added three-point range after his world-class defensive skills had already begun to erode. Turner is shooting a very respectable 36 percent from beyond the arc this season, and is as intimidating a rim protector as anyone in basketball.
Turner’s first make against the Nets was a pick-and-pop three-pointer from the top of the arc. His second bucket was a pick-and-pop long two. His third attempt was another three, narrowly missed, again from the top of the arc. Turner’s ability to get to a comfortable spot on the floor in position to quickly get a shot up makes him an incredibly difficult cover for most NBA big men, especially if they have to get out to him after helping close off a driving lane for, say, Victor Oladipo, who finished with 38 points Saturday night.
In the third quarter, with Nets rookie Jarrett Allen* guarding him, Turner popped to just beyond the free-throw line and took a pass from Darren Collison, primed for a rhythm jumper. Allen didn’t even do an especially bad job closing out, and Turner didn’t give a very convincing pump fake—just a quick nod towards the rim, and a straight line drive. But having to recover to Turner at 18 feet means having to change direction very quickly if he decides to drive, and that’s a reversal many guys Allen’s size can’t manage. In this case, Allen was toast, and for his efforts he was rewarded with a faceful of yam. Throw it down, big fella!
Turner finished with 23 points on just 10 shots, knocked down three of four attempts from deep, and blocked six shots, the second-highest total in a single game in the NBA this season. I urge you to watch the Indiana Pacers this season, if for no other reason than the joy of watching Turner intimidate and confound and torture opposing big men.