CHARLOTTE, NC — When Rick Carlisle gets a question about Myles Turner these days, he tries to avoid making his answer only about Myles Turner.
Because Carlisle knows that questions about Myles Turner aren’t just about Myles Turner, either. They’re ultimately about what the Pacers can and should do with Myles Turner and how that will affect this team and the future of the franchise. Is the 26-year-old center’s newfound consistency sustainable or is it certain to disappear? If it’s sustainable, does that mean the Pacers should hold on to him, see if he can help push this surprise squad as a lottery team beyond his supposed position and pay for a new contract when his contract expires at the end of this season? ? Or does it simply mean that the Pacers have an even more valuable trading ship on their hands than they realized, one they should use to get a maximum ransom from a title contender in need of a big man sometime between now and February?
Carlisle knows it’s best not to say anything that would show the Pacers’ cards, and that it’s also best not to say that one of the most impressively consistent stretches of play in Turner’s NBA career is now in its eighth season, would upset. So when asked about Turner’s 20-point, 10-rebound performance Wednesday night in the Pacers 125-113 comeback over the Charlotte Hornets — Turner’s fourth straight double-double — Carlisle zoomed out rather than in with his answer.
“The message to our entire team is ‘dominate the simple,'” Carlisle said, before shifting the discussion to reserve striker Oshae Brissett’s defense, rebounding and timely shooting. “…We’ve got some younger guys learning what it’s all about. We’re such a culture that’s so focused on stats and highlights and points that developing a culture with a young team of doing the right thing things can be challenging. But we have guys who want to listen and adapt.”
Carlisle didn’t so much use Turner’s name in a question that was explicitly about Turner, but in his answer is a full explanation of why the center has been so effective and why his value to both the Pacers and any team that might be. interested in prying him away increases with the game. He dominates the simple, he listens and he adapts. Instead of disappearing, as he is known to sometimes do after a good few games in a row, he excels without having to do anything but the basics.
Turner scored 20 points on just 10 field goal attempts on Wednesday night. He attempted only two three-pointers, making one. The 6-11, 250-pounder was so effective because it conscientiously did one of the most basic parts of its job, dive to the basket on a screen and roll.
The Pacers discovered early in the first half that the Hornets were playing drop coverage on the pick-and-roll, and Turner and point guard Tyrese Haliburton decided they could and should exploit that. They turned those plays into dunks and floaters for Turner and mid-range buckets and layups for Haliburton, who finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds.
“It was Myles rolling,” Haliburton said. “Myles rolls and is just big. We hadn’t seen a drop coverage in a while. … We haven’t seen it much this year. We feel like it’s a coverage that’s good for us, that we feel very feel comfortable with. With four shooters out there and Myles, that gives him more freedom to roll. I think he underestimated a little how good he is.”
Turner did everything a role man is supposed to do. He commanded attention preventing Haliburton from seeing double teams. He was able to beat his man to the brim if he strayed too far and he made hooks and short jumpers over him when he fell low.
“What makes him so good is his toughness and feel,” said Haliburton. “Understanding and timing and stuff like that. He’s got a high IQ.”
Playing with Haliburton has made Turner feel like high IQ and busyness are rewarded. He earned a layup on Wednesday by grabbing a defensive rebound, dumping the ball to Haliburton and sprinting across the floor, then getting the ball back near the rim.
He does simple things, people notice, and he can turn simple things into buckets.
“I just play my game, play within the flow of the offense,” Turner said. “My teammates trap me. I’m just aggressive, man, I think my teammates have a lot of faith in me to make the right play and they put me in a position to do that. … Tyrese is he’s going to set me up. I know that. I know if I get to the right places, he’s going to deliver.”
In his past four games, Turner has averaged 22.5 points per game and has not scored more than 18 field goals in any of those games. He is 28 of 47 on the field in that stretch (59.6%) and he actually has 29 points on just 18 field goal attempts in his last two games. He didn’t force three-pointers and made seven of 16 attempts in the last four games, but he did commit fouls and make free throws. He’s on the line 27 of 30 in the past four games and has shot 84.8% of his free throws this season.
And on the other hand, he blocks shots as usual and bounces back more consistently than usual. As tall and tall as he is, he has never averaged more than 7.3 rebounds in a season. He has averaged 8.7 this season and 10.8 in his last four games and has blocked 14 shots in five games in the month of November.
“He does the little things, just stays who he is,” Haliburton said. “Obviously he’s a great center, a great basketball player.”
Of course, the fact that he’s noticing what he’s good at still doesn’t answer all the overhanging questions. How much is Turner’s level of great value to the Pacers? How much does he think it should be worth to them and what would he be willing to sign for if they wanted him back? And then again, what would another team offer the Pacers for a trade as their obvious move? Trade speculation has surrounded Turner for years, and a new rumor involving the Los Angeles Clippers hit the internet this week.
Those questions are still impossible to answer, no matter how long they’ve been asked. What’s clear is that when Turner dominates the simple, he makes these Pacers much better. They are 7-6, bettering .500 for the first time since February 2021. In back-to-back games, they have won games by double digits after trailing by double digits. As Carlisle mentioned, they all seem to listen, adapt and do little things well, but Turner’s body type and skills allow him to dominate the simple in a way that others on the roster cannot.
“We’re making some progress,” Carlisle said, zooming out again. “It’s not going to happen overnight, but we’re seeing some good things. …We don’t throw parties. We’re above .500 for the first time in a long time, which is great. But this is work “If we want to keep winning, we’ll have to stay ahead. We’ll have to keep giving each other energy and keep doing the simple things well.”
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Pacers: What does Myles Turner’s improved game mean for his future?