A lot of Boston Celtics fans are looking towards the upcoming NBA Draft on June 25th as a big man or bust endeavor. The Celtics need rim protection, and with limited options available via trade or free agency, the draft is probably the best way for them to fill that need. The problem for Boston is they are far from the only team looking to plug a big shotblocker into the mix, and their late run in March/April that got them into the NBA playoffs, also took them out of the lottery.
It's going to cost them if they want to land a guy like Willie "Trill" Cauley-Stein of Kentucky, who's currently slated to be a top-5 pick. They have the assets to move up and get him if they deem that it's worth it, but while Cauley-Stein is a monster defensively, he's still a bit raw on the offensive side. If they have to give up multiple pieces to move up in the draft & get the player they want, one would think the Celtics would like to add a player who is more likely to help on both ends of the floor.
One player who could do just that, and at a much lower price, is Myles Turner of the University of Texas.
Turner is arguably the best all-around center available in this year’s draft. He’s got the measurements to fill an NBA frame at 7’ tall, with a 7’4” wingspan and 9’4” standing reach, which ranked second among all players in attendance at the NBA Draft Combine this year. His jumpshot is much more productive than Cauley-Stein's, even with two less years of collegiate experience, and his shot blocking presence eclipses that of Frank "The Tank" Kaminsky's.
Though he could still add a bit of muscle to his frame, at 236 pounds he’s not going to get bullied in the post like some of the other prospective talents expected to go later in the draft figure to. Take those physical gifts and add in the fact that he’s got terrific shot blocking/rebounding instincts and an above average jumper for a big that extends out to the collegiate three point line, and Turner is going to be a player very hard to pass on for any team selecting late in the lottery range of the draft.
Currently ranked at #11 on Draftexpress.com’s big board, the Longhorn freshman had a huge impact on Texas’ top-20 defense. Via Mike Schmitz of DX, Turner logged 9.4 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes (4th among DX Top-100 prospects) and 4.7 blocks per 40 minutes (3rd).
Compare that to recent elite-level defensive prospects such as Karl Towns (8.7 defensive rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes), Joel Embiid (10.0 defensive rebounds and 4.5 blocks per 40 minutes) and Nerlens Noel (8.5 defensive rebounds and 5.5 blocks per 40 minutes), and we may be looking at a player who’ll be selected much higher than the mock drafts indicate. (Most mocks have him going in the 9-12 range)
Though he’s of elite caliber defensively, one area of concern for him is he struggles defending the pick and roll. The Longhorns used a zone defense approach a large amount of the time Turner was on the floor last season, and he lacks lateral quickness, leaving him susceptible when guarding ball handling forwards or guards coming off screens.
He’s also got a bit of an awkward running style which leaves him lumbering up and down the floor. While he doesn’t necessarily lack speed for his size, it may just come down to the fact he doesn’t have a proper stride or running technique. Turner only made five field goals (out of 13 attempts) all season in transition situations according to Synergy Sports Technology. So don't expect him to do this very often..
That being said, what he lacks in transition offense, he makes up for in the half court setting. He’s got a high-release due to his long wingspan, and is equipped with a very fluid jumper for his size that can stretch the floor and pull opposing big men out from the block as they’ll have to respect it. He averaged 10.1 points per game in just 22 minutes a contest for the Longhorns and shot an impressive 83.9% from the free-throw stripe.
Though he showed the ability to hit the 3-pointer in college, he didn’t do it all to often, and is more likely to be a threat from mid-range in the NBA. Turner posted up on about 40% of his half-court field goal attempts. But according to Schmitz, most of those shots wound up being turnaround jump shots out of the post, which he had mixed results with.
At times he has displayed a solid right handed hook shot that will do damage on the blocks in the NBA if he can make it a consistent weapon, but he’s going to need to work on his footwork and add strength before he’ll be a true commodity on offense in the paint.
At just 19-years-old, one would think he’ll be able to add some muscle and tighten up his game in the low post in time. It’s the footwork that likely concerns most pro teams. Turner has abnormally large feet, size 21's to be exact. His choppy running style can partially be attributed to that, and NBA teams are going to be careful before selecting a big man who may end up with foot problems in the future.
He's aware it's a concern for most teams, so Turner had a running mechanics assessment done with a personal trainer prior to the NBA combine, and sent the results to NBA teams. While not the first prospect to do this, he is the first to share those results publically, which shows that he knows what areas of his game need work and isn’t shying away from them.
He may not be an explosive athlete by any means, but Turner provides a bevy of skills on both sides of the floor that make him unique for a big man, and he has plenty of upside. His defensive instinct and ability to rotate to the ball and alter shots will be his primary calling card. The tenacity and rebounding awareness he possesses will solidify his spot as a top half 1st round pick.
But the lack of a post game and the questions surrounding his body type and whether he'll stay healthy as a pro could cause him to drop in the draft as well.
Is this the rim protector the Boston Celtics should be targeting in the 2015 NBA Draft? Most fans would probably balk at the thought and contest Cauley-Stein is the only option. But how realistic is that? It’d likely cost them a couple 1st rounders and some sort of other young asset(s) for them to move into the top-6 where WCS is likely to be taken. With limited offensive skills himself, is Cauley-Stein worth that?
While Ford stated in a recent chat that the Celtics would love to land Cauley-Stein at #9 if they did move up, it’s very unlikely he would fall that far. Turner on the other hand, is being projected right in that vicinity, and is a real viable candidate to be picked there by Boston if a transaction between them and Charlotte does indeed go down.
In my opinion, if they’re aiming to move up to the top-10, I’d rather see them pull some more strings and target a swingman like Justise Winslow, or Stanley Johnson. But Myles Turner does present some intriguing talent and him being one of the younger players in the draft certainly doesn’t hurt his stock. Just not sure I’d be ready to go all in on a player of his size who has been touted as having adversely large feet, and bad running technique. That has early injury written all over it.
Maybe we can draft him and work out a deal to move him and a future 1st rounder to the Philadelphia 76ers for their pick. They seem to like high-injury risk big men. The draft is just under a week away, let’s hope Danny (Ainge) works his magic and brings in a stud.
Top photo - Eric Gay/AP
WCS photo - Andy Lyons/Getty
Run photo - Draftexpress.com