Longhorns in the NBA: Turner has his breakout year

Abhishek Mukund

The NBA season is nearing its end with only 14 days remaining in the regular season. Some teams around the league have clinched playoff spots, but playoff matchups and seeds are still a toss-up for most teams. In the West, only four games separate the 3-seed Houston Rockets from the 8-seed Oklahoma City Thunder. In the East, only three games separate the 6-seed Detroit Pistons from the 10-seed Charlotte Hornets. The last two weeks of the regular season are bound to be interesting considering most of these teams only have eight games to clinch a coveted playoff spot. 

Former Longhorn LaMarcus Aldridge had a season-high 48 points in a 19-point win against the Boston Celtics on Sunday night. Aldridge has been the biggest reason why the Spurs have won 10 of 13 games headed into the final stretch of the season. Elsewhere, Jarrett Allen continues to be the steady big man that the Brooklyn Nets need. Allen has averaged 11.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in his second NBA season. Although the numbers aren’t flashy, Allen has played a vital role in helping the Nets pursue the playoffs for the first time in four years. Tristan Thompson returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ lineup last Wednesday after missing the last 26 games due to a foot injury. In an injury-hampered season for Cleveland, Thompson has missed 36 of the Cavaliers’ 74 games. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors are fighting the Denver Nuggets for the 1-seed in the Western Conference. 

One other former Longhorn recently clinched the playoffs for the fourth time in his young career. 

Myles Turner

For most of his young NBA career, former Texas big-man and current Indiana Pacer Myles Turner had been solid but not quite All-Star material. Turner hadn’t shot the ball with the quality and quantity many expected him to coming into the NBA. Turner wasn’t much of a rebounder either. He didn’t have a go-to move in the post or on the perimeter. He was a good defender, but nothing special. 

That has changed in Turner’s fourth year. Turner has been the type of big any modern team would love to have. He’s taking 2.6 threes per game, up from the 1.3 he averaged over his three years prior. Not only is he making more, but he’s making them at a good rate of 37.1 percent — a career-best. Turner is also averaging 2.73 blocks-per-game, good for number one in the league, and second place isn’t even close. His season averages of 13.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per game aren’t flashy, but Turner’s doing that in a limited 28.6 minutes per game. 

The Pacers will need that consistent level of play if they hope to find success in the playoffs. Still without All-Star shooting guard Victor Oladipo (season-ending knee injury), Indiana will need everything they can get from Turner. 

In his last five games, Turner has averaged 15 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks. Those numbers align well with his averages, although he has attempted more 3-pointers recently. He elevated his game to another level during a Sunday night drubbing of the Nuggets, putting up 17 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks in a 36-point rout.

Turner returns to action Wednesday night in a matchup against former teammate Paul George and the Oklahoma City Thunder.