There are only five players in the entire NBA averaging at least 14 points, seven rebounds and four assists. LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Joakim Noah, Marc Gasol and — wait for it — Evan Turner.
Yes, Evan Turner.
In his third season, the former No. 2 overall pick has become a plus-player and asset for the 10-7 Sixers. He’s the unquestioned starting small forward, the team’s second-best rebounder and third-leading scorer. In short, he’s finally living up to expectations.
“I think the biggest thing is you have to pay your dues before you really break out,” Turner said. “Sometimes you have to mess up before you start perfecting things and in my case that’s a big deal.”
Last season, Turner came off the bench behind Jodie Meeks for much of the year and averaged just 26.3 minutes per game. He shot 22.4-percent from three-point range. He didn’t appear in synch with demanding coach Doug Collins and rumors of off-court issues persisted.
All that noise went away this offseason as Meeks was allowed to walk in free agency and swingman Andre Iguodala was shipped out of town in the Andrew Bynum trade. At long last, Turner had a defined role and guaranteed minutes even if his oft-wayward jumper wasn’t falling.
Those assurances seem to have calmed Turner down. He’s no longer forcing shots he knows aren’t in his repertoire or trying to do too much off the dribble.
“It’s funny now that in certain stretches of the game, it might be tied and I’m talking to him and he’ll crack a joke,” Collins said. “That’s good. I like that. It’s a growth process of a young player, and I’m proud of him.”