Grant Afseth Talks with Indiana Pacers Center Myles Turner

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[Anthony Calhoun/WISH-TV]

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner is heading into the third season of his NBA career. This year in particular will not be like the others. With the departure of Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, it appears that Turner will go from being the third option in the team’s offense to being a legitimate playmaking focal point. With a role increase of that magnitude on the horizon, Myles could be set for a true breakout season.

Myles Turner already took a significant leap in production in 2016-17 from his rookie season. He recorded career high basic averages and basic shooting efficiency in every category. Of course, seeing an increase in playing time of 8.6 minutes per game will naturally translate to increases in volume production, but it’s a true testament to his abilities that he followed that up with greater scoring efficiency, too.

For reference, Myles Turner saw an increase in his base averages of 4.2 points, 1.8 rebounds, 0.6 assists, 0.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks last season. As for his scoring efficiency, his field goal percentage went up by 1.3%, his 3-point percentage increased by 13.4%, and his free throw percentage grew by 8.2%. What makes his steps forward as a player even more impressive is the fact that he played in 21 more games in 2016-17 than he did in his rookie season.

The improvement that he made going from a rookie to a sophomore was substantial, and it’s interesting to understand the behind the scenes factors that come into play. I asked him what the main factors were that contributed to that growth, and a significant factor was the amount of repetitions he would do on a daily basis to improve his skills. He mentioned that the game slowed down for him in his second season, too.

“The biggest thing I did was that I committed myself to a lot of shots last summer. I spent a lot of time, even sometimes shooting 1,000 shots a day. Just getting up a lot of shots and just working on my craft and my form. Another thing was just the leap from my freshman year to my sophomore year. You learn so much more your sophomore year because the game is a little bit slower for you. Obviously, I still have a lot to learn, but I learned so much that year and to be able to get acclimated and get that time my rookie year.”

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[Andy Lyons/Getty Images]
Last season, Myles Turner received more playing time, but he also actually received a lesser role as a playmaker considering how his usage went down from 20.9% in his first season to 19.5% last year. He went from being an efficient, and mostly off-ball, offensive player to being even more efficient in that role, with the difference simply being that he received more playing time.

To put his execution as mostly a complementary offensive player into perspective, Myles Turner was joined by Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris, and T.J. Warren as the only players last season to average at least 14.4 points per game with a usage rate below 20%. What makes this truly interesting is the fact that Myles played 81 games while none of these other three players exceeded 66 games played. There wasn’t much else Turner could have done in that role.

Myles could be in store for a real breakout season, because not only will the playing time be there for him, but he will also have far more involvement in the team’s offense as a playmaker. Those circumstances should naturally translate to an extensive amplification of his scoring average, which would certainly be sufficient to at least say that he took the next step as a player. Turner has been working hard on his post game and preparing to handle heavy defensive pressure. Also, if he were to make the All-Star team, he would be the youngest NBA All-Star in Indiana Pacers history.

“The biggest thing I wanted to work on this summer was making good reads out of the post. I feel like I will be double-teamed a lot this year once I start scoring and show people that I can score down there. Just being able to score down there. Taking advantage of smaller guys and taking advantage of my matchups and what not. That’s probably the biggest thing, just working on my scoring down low and that’s pretty much it.”

Myles Turner produced average (0.919 PPP, 50th percentile) results from his overall post-up derived offense, which includes his passing. In terms of just his direct scoring out of the post, he was good (0.888 PPP, 54th percentile) and he was also good (1.118 PPP, 52nd percentile) when factoring in just his passing. His scoring efficiency held him back, as he shot only 38.1% from the field on post ups, only turning the ball over 4.7% of the time, and getting to the free throw line on a fantastic 21.5% of his possessions.

As any good student of the game would do, Myles Turner has been watching film on a few former players to enhance his knowledge. I asked him if he has been studying any other players this summer and his answer was, of course, yes. It’s important to note that his film study isn’t limited to just the offensive end of the floor, which he was sure to point out in his answer. The players he mentioned were both highly impactful overall players. There are a lot of helpful observations to be made by studying them.

“I watched footage of Rasheed Wallace [and] Kevin Garnett. [I watched] a lot of what KG did actually defensively in the pick-and-roll. He was kind of a lot to handle defensively, and you had to keep your eye on him. I have been watching his film and of Rasheed Wallace in the post as well.”

The foundation that Myles Turner has established for himself is nothing short of impressive. He is statistically the best 19 and 20-year-old in the franchise’s NBA history by a comfortable margin. His contributions haven’t gone unnoticed, either. Larry Bird stated publicly that he believes Myles could go on to be one of the best players in the team’s history, if not the best. It’s an extraordinary statement for a young player to hear from an NBA legend, so I asked him what it’s like to receive such praise from someone like Bird.

“The biggest thing that I take from that is the fact that he has confidence in me. He drafted me [to come] into my rookie year to make an impact. I’m not going to let him down. That’s high praise, and that’s one thing I’m going to take full advantage of.”

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

With the NBA becoming more of a position-less game, it’s important that front court players can space the floor. But it’s a real luxury if they can create off the dribble and create shots for their teammates as well. Myles Turner has started to separate himself with his perimeter shooting and shot blocking abilities, but he hasn’t had much opportunity to attack from the perimeter or to be a facilitator. He is confident that he can when he gets the chance.

“I’m confident in my ability to take people off the dribble. Once I take the ball outside on the perimeter, I could take advantage of slower guys on me. At the start of the season, I will be able to put that on display a little bit more.”

For some perspective on how often Myles Turner drove the lane last season, he averaged only 0.5 drives per game in 2016-17. Of course, it was a small sample size, but he was quite capable in these sequences. He recorded averages of 0.6 points (75% FG) and created 0.3 free throw attempts (85.2% FT), so his scoring was effective considering the circumstances. If he can maintain that a similar level of execution in a greater volume, this could be a highly impactful component of his offensive skill-set.

There is more to driving the lane than scoring. Myles Turner took pretty good care of the basketball as he only had a 7.9% turnover percentage. He didn’t make much of an impact as a facilitator considering how he had just a 2.6% assist percentage, but there aren’t many opportunities to create assists off of an average of 0.1 passes. With a greater volume of drives with the expectation of being an offensive focal point, I would look for him to expand his impact as a facilitator greatly.

Those statistics don’t hold much weight if you are evaluating his impact as a lane penetrator, but that’s the point. Myles Turner’s potential in this area of the game is almost comparable to a mystery box, because he hasn’t been able to showcase much of his abilities so far in his NBA career. If he can execute well when taking players off the dribble in addition to his existing perimeter shooting and other complementary off-ball offensive skills, he could be exceptional.

It is not an easy task being a focal point of any team’s offense, especially when you’re a player that hasn’t been used much as a playmaker. The larger the role, the more defensive pressure you will face. When you don’t have much time to operate with the ball in your hands, there aren’t many opportunities to showcase advanced offensive sequences with counter moves or other finesse techniques like fadeaways. Of course, you can’t know what you’re going to do before you attack a defender, but Myles Turner has been preparing his approach against different types of defenders.

“Just reading your matchups, you can’t make moves and already have it preconceived in your head. You have to be able to read the guys that are on you. So I’ve been going up against smaller guys, bigger guys, stronger guys; just a combination of things. Just working on my game.”

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[AP Photo/Michael Conroy]
There was one topic in particular that I truly wanted to hear Myles Turner’s insight on. In recent seasons, teams that have had their franchise player being a big man have not experienced much success. You can get into specifics regarding a lack of talent around players like Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins, but regardless, teams that have had big men as their top player haven’t been dominant. I asked him how he could be an exception to that rule.

“Well, the fact is that any good team is not going to have just one superstar and one leader. I feel like the organization has done a good job of putting guys around me, and they’re going to help me and the team as a whole. So it’s going to be easy for me to create opportunities for others [due] to the fact that we have other good players.”

Myles Turner pointed to the Indiana Pacers giving him sufficient talent for his supporting cast as a reason why they can succeed with him as a franchise player, but his unique abilities could play a significant factor in that potential. The biggest concern when building around a big man is that you don’t want to be trading 2-point field goals with 3-pointers, because your margin for error as a team becomes very small. That’s not necessarily the case with Turner considering his potential as a perimeter jump shooter.

Myles Turner averaged only 0.2 3-point attempts per game in his rookie season. That increased to 1.4 perimeter shot attempts per game in 2016-17. What I found intriguing about that is the fact that his efficiency greatly increased when his volume of attempts went up. For reference, his 3-point percentage went from 21.4% in 2015-16 to 34.8% last season. I would expect his volume of perimeter attempts to continue to increase, and that will only help Indiana’s offense.

Just like his ability as a post player and as a lane penetrator, Myles Turner hasn’t been fully utilized as a perimeter shooter yet, either. Whether it was by personal choice or by instruction, there were quite a few possessions last season where Turner was open on the perimeter and didn’t attempt a shot. In addition to taking advantage of more open 3-point attempts, he could eventually put his off the dribble shooting ability to use in games, too. A center having the potential for such versatility like Myles is truly unique.

The potential that Myles Turner has as a franchise guy goes beyond just perimeter shooting. He could prove to be quite an all-around player shortly considering how he is already a highly impactful defender and off-ball offensive player. Taking on a greater role as a playmaker should translate to a skyrocketed production in volume scoring through post-ups and lane penetrations. His capabilities as a perimeter shooter could further expand his volume scoring.

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[Headlines & Global News]
Myles Turner genuinely had to earn his role as a rookie considering how he averaged only 22.8 minutes per game and started in only 30 of the 60 games that he played. He also didn’t have a defined position considering how he played an estimated 39% of his minutes at power forward and 62% at center. Then, in his second season, he became a full-time starter and spent 99% of his minutes at center, but he didn’t have much of a role as a playmaker as he had just a 19.5% usage rate.

The increase in opportunity certainly won’t stop for Myles Turner heading into his third season. Not only will he have the playing time, but he will have the chance to create with the ball in his hands. It’s not easy receiving such increases in responsibility, whether it’s with more minutes, a starting job, or more playmaking responsibility. Myles has already faced these scenarios every season that he’s been in the NBA. I asked him how he prepares for these situations.

“You know, just stay grounded and keep my nose in the grind. There really is nothing you can do to prepare for it, but stay confident and just trust in the work that you put in. I know I’m ready for it, so I’m going to go show it now.”

The Indiana Pacers are in need of a leader, and Myles Turner is ready to take on that task. But it won’t be easy. As I’m sure you now, Indiana underwent some significant changes this summer with Paul George, Jeff Teague, C.J. Miles, Monta Ellis, Kevin Seraphin, Rodney Stuckey, and Lavoy Allen (all at least partial members of last year’s rotation) now gone. However, last summer saw a significant amount of roster change for the Pacers too, so I asked Turner what he learned from that process.

“The biggest thing I learned is just being able to stay poised and really just lean on your teammates. The biggest thing I can do this year with the pressure that’s coming on is to take everything with a grain of salt. There’s going to be a lot of criticism of our team, a lot of questions. [People] will question our chemistry. A lot of people are going to question us throughout the season, but it’s a long season. We have time to get acclimated with each other, and I’m confident we are going to be able to make some strides this year.”

Following the Paul George trade, Victor Oladipo is now the Indiana Pacers’ other building block alongside Myles Turner. Every great offense in today’s game needs an explosive perimeter player, and the player that most closely fits that description on their current roster is Oladipo. If the Pacers are going to be a playoff team next season, they will need sustained excellence from both Turner and Oladipo, so I asked Myles how he believes they can complement each others’ skill-sets.

“Victor is a heavy guard. He’s aggressive, and a good rebounding guard as well, so the fact that he’s going to be able to come in here and do more than just score, that’s a way we’ll be able to complement each other. He can score in bunches and is an explosive player, but at the same time, I think he can prove his facilitation. He had to play in [Russell] Westbrook’s shadow last year, and I don’t think he got a chance to show what he can do as a playmaker as much as he would have liked to. But feel like that’s a part of his game that’s under utilized and an aspect of his game that people don’t see too much. I believe we will complement each other quite well, almost like a one-two punch, a pick your poison kind of thing.”

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[Photo: Matt Kryger/The Star]
Myles Turner has made it to the playoffs in both of his first two seasons of his NBA career, and when your goal is to make it to the playoffs, it’s good to have experience from being a member of teams that have made it. Of course, Paul George is gone now, and it will be much harder for the Indiana Pacers to make the playoffs now that they don’t have an established superstar on their team, but having that experience and knowledge is still valuable. I asked Myles what he learned from his previous team’s season long journeys to making the post-season.

“[You] just can’t get too high or too low during the season. There are stretches where you win a lot of games, and there are stretches where you lose a lot of games, so you can’t really get too caught up in all of that. Really, what you have to do is take everything day-by-day. You have to be able to make good stretches, you have to win your conference games, and you have to win the games that count.”

The NBA 2K18 player ratings are coming out this time of year, and I asked Myles Turner what he believed he should be rated before he found out that he received an 84 overall rating. It turned out that he was right on the money with where he thought he would be rated. For those of you that are not familiar with how the system works, his rating can increase or decrease depending on how he performs, so it’s not set in stone for the whole season.

“I believe personally that I should be a 90, but I know that 2K doesn’t really work that way, but I think I will end up being around that 84 or 85 area. I think at the end of last season I was an 83, but I believe I should be around an 85 at the very least. If it’s a B-, I will be disrespected.”

The Eastern Conference will have a few open front court spots on their All-Star team with the off-season departures of Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap. There are a few players that could certainly take the next step towards becoming first-time All-Stars in the East in addition to Myles Turner, like Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis. Other veterans didn’t make the All-Star team last season like Hassan Whiteside, Al Horford, and Dwight Howard. They too could potentially compete for one of those spots. I asked Turner how he believes he can differentiate himself from the competition.

“Well, there’s not a lot of dominant centers in the Eastern Conference right now. Obviously Dwight Howard and Hassan Whiteside. Some other guys as well. But, you know, I think I’ll be able to come out here and make a huge impact. You have to be able to play both sides of the ball, so my sights are definitely on being an All-Star this year. But at the same time, you know, that’s a personal goal, and team goals are more important.”

[Photo: Matt Kryger/IndyStar]
In the past few summers, Myles Turner has been able to gain some broadcasting experience at events like the NBA Finals and the NBA Draft, so I asked him if that’s something that he wants to do when he is done playing. When you’re still only 21-years-old, it’s quite difficult to know what you want to do as a job in that far in the future. Regardless of if he decides to pursue broadcasting, he has already been able to gain valuable experience and appears to have a natural talent.

“That’s something I’ll look into, I feel that’s something that comes pretty natural to me, but it’s not something that I necessarily have my sights set on. But if it happens one day, I would definitely take advantage of the opportunity.”

If you follow him on social media, you could see that Myles Turner has had an active off-season. He told me what his favorite memories were so far from his summer. Myles was able to make his rounds on the internet when he played knock out with Chance the Rapper and Migos at JMBLYA in Austin, Texas. There was certainly more to his summer than that, though, and I was intrigued to hear the other highlights.

“I visited San Diego. That was one of my first times there, and it was a lot of fun. It’s a different kind of vibe out there; I like it a lot. I’m looking forward to kind of getting back out to Dallas for my camp. I spent about a month in Dallas and spent a lot of time with my family, which was a lot of fun. I went to Lollapalooza, and that was pretty cool here in Chicago. I had a good experience there. Earlier in the summer, I went to JMBLYA. It’s a festival in Austin, and that’s where I got to play with Chance and Quavo and all of those guys, and it was a pretty cool experience. It’s been a fun summer overall.”

Myles Turner is hosting a basketball camp at Trinity High School on August 18th-19th in Euless, Texas. I had the opportunity to attend his first camp last year, and it was a fantastic experience. He is there for the whole time and participates in some of the drills with the kids, plays games of knock out, and he even puts on a show in a full court scrimmage with a few lucky campers. I asked him what the experience is like to go back to his home town and host a camp for kids that are in a position that he was also in just a handful of years ago.

“It’s just so cool because a lot of people don’t make it out of my area for basketball. A lot of people make it out for football or don’t make it out at all. I feel like I serve as a source of optimism for these guys and come back home and provide a little camp for them. [It’s] just an opportunity to come and get better and have some fun and just be in an NBA player’s presence.”

Some NBA players have pre-game rituals, and Myles Turner is no exception. Guys will eat a certain meal before games, or listen to specific songs. Then there are NBA players that have a particular time that they use the restroom before taking the court for their team’s shoot-around. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter what you do as long as it works, right?

“It’s kind of weird, but I make sure that I always go pee ten minutes before tip-off. It’s weird. I started doing it at the beginning of the year, and it’s something that I just never stopped. I don’t why I do it, but every game I do it.”

Myles Turner, Indiana Pacers
[AP Photo/Alex Gallardo]
As a fellow Dallas Fort-Worth native, I was curious about what Myles Turner’s favorite parts are about coming back to the area. If you follow Myles on Twitter, you will see that he is a fan of Whataburger (like a lot of Texans). However, there are quite a few staples for the state that many people miss when they leave. There is one thing I can guarantee, though. Nobody misses the rush hour traffic on I-75 or the August humidity.

“Yeah, definitely. I love Whataburger. I love getting back to Raising Cane’s. I love some good barbeque, but really just getting back home to my family. Texas is just a different vibe than anywhere I’ve ever been; it’s obviously where home is, but the vibe in Texas is different. I just like being surrounded by good vibes being back in that environment.”

The Indiana Pacers recently unveiled their new Nike uniforms, their new home floor, and their new logos at the River West StreetFest and Myles Turner was a featured player at the event, joined by Lance Stephenson, Glenn Robinson III, T.J. Leaf, and Ike Anigbogu. The atmosphere seemed fun, and it looked like everybody was having a good time. The kids were able to mess around with some the players. The fans were able to be close to the action.

“The experience was fun, man. A lot of people showed up. People weren’t expecting us to come at all. Actually, they were expecting only to unveil the jersey, but the crowd responded well. We had fun with the kids; we played some H-O-R-S-E and some knockout and what not. I like the new jerseys, they’re kind of like a college feel almost. It’s a completely different style, so I like the fact that we’re kind of starting over fresh. I think it represents a lot more figuratively than it does literally.”

Myles Turner has been a member of the Indiana Pacers for two seasons now, and that is at least a decent amount of time to get acclimated to a new area. I was intrigued to hear what his favorite parts are about living in the Indianapolis area. There a variety of fun things to do around the city regarding outdoor activities at the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and Eagle Creek Park. There are always conventions, entertaining events, and cultural things happening, too.

“One thing that Indianapolis is underrated for is that they have a lot of great places to eat, especially in the downtown area. I live downtown, and I love living downtown. So it’s kind of fun just to people watch sometimes [and see the] kind of the stuff that goes on around here. There’s a lot of different things that I like to do just whenever I can. There’s a big natural area, kind of like a national park, I guess, called Eagle Creek. I go out there and run trails sometimes. Also, the fact that everybody loves basketball here, there is always something to do basketball-wise.”

I want to thank Myles Turner for taking the time to participate in this project with me for Indiana Sports Coverage. Also, if you’re interested in my other interviews, I talked with Glenn Robinson III and his trainer Joey Burton earlier this month. We discussed how he’s been preparing for the upcoming season along with other interesting topics. Stay tuned, because I will be doing other player interviews throughout the upcoming season.

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About Grant Afseth 710 Articles
Grant Afseth is the lead Indiana Pacers writer for and founder of Indiana Sports Coverage.