In the first season of his four-year, $70 million deal with the Portland Trail Blazers, Evan Turner failed to turn heads, averaging 9.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 25.5 minutes over 65 regular-season games.
In Portland’s sweep loss to the Golden State Warriors in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, he saw an uptick in minutes (31.0), but only slightly improved his numbers to 10.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists per contest.
With Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum dominating control of the ball last season, Turner’s ball-handling skills were not utilized to their highest potential. Therefore, head coach Terry Stotts seems to have a different plan for Turner this season as he will seemingly attempt to create a three-headed monster of ball-handlers on the court at one time.
Using Turner as a point forward on the starting five could be the best option.
"I mean, one of the things is to take advantage of his ballhandling and make it a little less taxing for Dame (Damian Lillard) and CJ (CJ McCollum)," Stotts told Mike Richman of The Oregonian. "That's something we want to do better this year than we did last year.”
The coach isn’t the only one who thinks Turner should garner more responsibility handling the ball.
"ET is really comfortable having that option," teammate Damian Lillard said. "Calling the game, having the ball in his hands, playmaking, being in attack mode. And it also makes the game easier for myself and CJ when you're playing off the ball.”
Turner himself seems to be down with the idea.
"When it comes down to it you got two sharpshooters," Turner explained. "When I have to run the offense I'm passing to two of the better shooters in the world. So, of course, it makes it a tad bit easier and opens things up.”
"As we get more comfortable with each other," he continued, "we'll start getting more plays, making easier plays more off feel and the experience of playing together rather than a set play.”
Last season, Lillard took 19.8 field goal attempts per game, including 7.7 three-point shots, shooting 44.4 percent and 37.0 percent respectively. McCollum took 18.0 field goal attempts, including 5.5 threes, shooting 48.0 percent and 42.1 percent respectively.
If Turner is able to take some pressure off of Lillard and McCollum and facilitate once in a while, it could benefit everyone involved, and as a result, the team as a whole may very well become more dangerous in a packed Western Conference.