There is no questioning that John Wall is an excellent talent and NBA prospect. Ask anyone that watches basketball and they will tell you in no uncertain terms that he's phenomenal, an athletic freak, and quite the dancer. My NAS colleague, Devin, praises Wall and makes excellent points about Wall's game. However, if I were the New Jersey Nets, I'd select Evan Turner if the Nets' luck is as good as a picture of a bikini-clad Jessica Alba and the team wins next week's NBA Draft Lottery. Turner is as versatile as they come and many consider Wall and Turner, Pick 1A and 1B, but we'll get down to Turner and his skill set a bit later. First, let's peep the point guard that most people think is no longer in the Nets' plans and seemingly expendable.
Oh, and for the record, the Nets have a 25% chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery and receiving the first overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft and I have a -25% chance of gaining any attention from the aforementioned Alba. Snowball meet hell.
Considering that we aren't John Cusack with the ability to enter someone's mind, we don't have any idea what new Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov or Rod Thorn are definitively thinking. So, let's take the approach of what we know.
The Nets have an All-Star caliber point guard that, granted, had a tough and injury-riddled 2009-10 season, but is still only 27-years-old. So, please, allow me to re-introduce him - his name is Devin Harris. He is a proven 20-point scorer and did well post All-Star break last season, averaging 17.9 points, 6.9 assists, 1.3 treys, and 1.1 steals per game in 28 contests. Even though he shot 40.3% from the field for the entire season, Harris improved his shot each month starting in the new year, ending up hitting a season-best 45.2% of his shots from the floor in April. While Harris didn't meet the expectations that his outstanding 2008-09 season gave birth to, it's undeniable that Harris is still plenty good.
So, what does this have to do with Evan Turner? Nothing much other than the small detail that most have overlooked thanks to little pink and red hearts falling out of their eyes for John Wall - the Nets already have a very good point guard.
I repeat, the Nets already have a very good point guard.
Sure, it looks like Wall is a "can't miss" type of player, but how many other "can't miss" prospects has that been said about? Hello, Darius Miles, most hyped-up European prospects not named Dirk Nowitzki, and both sequels of The Matrix. Sorry, that "dance" sequence in Zion made no sense to me. Plus it was a little uncomfortable watching Laurence Fishburne looking orgasmic. In any case, can we say for sure that Wall will knock it out of the box when he gets up in the L? No, we can't. Of course, the same can be said of Turner.
But, here's the difference. Wall plays a position that 's already filled by a player that on any given night, dare I say most nights, can play like an All-Star. I BELIEVE in Devin Harris! On the other hand, Turner can play either the shooting guard or small forward position, which are currently filled by Courtney Lee, Terrance Williams, and possibly Chris Douglas-Roberts, whom the Nets have a team option for the upcoming season. Apologies to Lee and CDR, but I wouldn't hesitate to put Turner in their place from Day One. I think T-Will is bursting with potential and should get his well-deserved burn on the floor. The amount of offense that would be generated from the 1 (Harris), 2 (Turner), and 3 (Williams) starting positions would be ridiculous as all three can handle the ball, drop dimes on the regular, and put the ball through the hoop. Imagine having three players on the court at the same time that can facilitate the offense, with Harris and Turner able to also create their own shot, and Turner and Williams playing tight defense on the perimeter.
So, all things being equal, what do we know about Evan Turner?
Well, he collected seven of the ten college basketball player of the year awards, including the major ones (Naismith, Wooden, and AP). Turner carried his Ohio State team all season, unlike Wall who also played with DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Daniel Orton, and Eric Bledsoe, all of whom are projected to go in the first round with Wall. In fact, Cousins and Patterson should be lottery picks with the former being considered as the second or third overall pick in the draft. By pointing this out, I hope to show that while Wall is an uncontested talent, he had a strong supporting cast in college while Turner was the main target of every opposing college team he played against and still thrived.
Weaknesses out of the way, Turner is not as athletic as Wall is. No one in this draft is. However, athleticism will only get you so far in the NBA (ask any number of athletic busts throughout the years, such as former slam dunk champion Gerald Green), so I don't see it being a big weakness against Turner, especially when you consider Turner's multi-dimensional strengths. Turner is also suspect from beyond the arch, but that's something that can be worked on (ask Channing Frye) and Turner is one of those guys that isn't afraid to put the time in and improve himself, so expect it to happen. Turner has a very high basketball IQ and should be a sponge learning the NBA game.
Unlike Cousins or Wall, Turner doesn't carry any baggage and from all reports is a solid character guy, which should help him living in the the NY metro area where it will be easy to get into trouble. He played three years of college basketball at a major university in a traditionally tough Big Ten conference and also played international basketball, getting it on on the Junior US World University team. The experience and polish should help Turner adjust quicker to the NBA pace and lifestyle.
Turner is 6'7" with a long wingspan that helps him disrupt passing lanes on defense and has excellent balance and size enabling him to defend positions one through three and depending on the frame of the four, Turner could possibly defend the power forward as well because of his upper body strength. He's also an excellent rebounder for a wing player because of his overall frame, long arms, and desire for the ball. Turner can finish on the break, as well as at the rim, taking it to the rack, absorbing contact, and converting due to his deft body control. His ability to attack the rim with success opens up his mid-range game, allowing him to basically stop and pop and rain jumpers all day. If he ever does get a consistent money-ball shot to his vast arsenal of offense, Turner could basically be unstoppable.
However, Turner is also a very unselfish player that can create for his teammates. Coming from the two or three position, particularly the latter, this is indeed somewhat of a rarity for a player. He has excellent court vision and ball-handling ability and can change the speed of his dribble. Turner is basically a triple-double threat waiting to happen, much like Terrance Williams, but even more so since Turner is able to do so many things in regards to scoring. He's been compared to Brandon Roy of the Portland Trail Blazers and I think that's an astute comparison.
So, while Turner wouldn't be the "sexy" pick for the Nets, it's the one that makes the most sense. The Nets would then be able to use part of the about $25 million they have under the cap on a power forward to team up with Brook Lopez down in the block. Amar'e Stoudemire who has been rumored to be interested in the Nets in the past would be nice. So would Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer. Maybe even David Lee. But there are a multitude of scenarios that can play out and in the end, it's all going to come down to what happens next Tuesday at the NBA Draft Lottery.
Perhaps the debate for who goes first to the Nets will be a moot point if they don't win the lottery. A nice way to end the debate and speculation would be the Nets receiving the second overall pick to use on Turner. Besides, the Minnesota Timberwolves probably want to draft yet another unneeded point guard themselves.