Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Pacers’ perfect pairing: Turner, Haliburton form dominant 1-2 punch

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Now in his eighth season with the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner
is easily the team’s longest-tenured player. In fact, no other
Pacer on the current roster has been in town longer than four
seasons.

Turner arrived in Indiana as a wide-eyed teenager who was
selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. In the
years that followed, Turner would watch as the team continually
changed around him. He has played for four different head coaches —
Frank Vogel, Nate McMillan, Nate Bjorkgren and Rick Carlisle — and
witnessed a ton of roster turnover. But despite Turner’s name
surfacing in trade rumors annually, he has been the one constant in
Indiana.

As a rookie, Turner suited up alongside stars like Paul George
and Monta Ellis. During his sophomore campaign, he called Al
Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Lance Stephenson
teammates. The following year, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis,
Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison joined the squad. Turner has
also played with veterans such as Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson, Rodney
Stuckey, Caris LeVert, Doug McDermott, Wesley Matthews, Cory
Joseph, T.J. Warren and C.J. Miles over the years.

However, one could argue that no teammate has had a greater
impact on Turner’s game than his current star running mate: Tyrese
Haliburton.

When the Pacers acquired Haliburton from the
Sacramento Kings
prior to last year’s trade deadline, Turner
was ecstatic. He was a fan of Haliburton’s game and potential, and
couldn’t wait to play alongside the pass-first point guard.
Unfortunately, Turner wasn’t able to play with Haliburton in the
second half of last season due to a stress reaction in his
foot.

This year, the Pacers’ one-two punch of Haliburton and Turner
has been on full display, and they have become one of the most
productive pick-and-roll duos in the NBA.

Turner has set 814 picks for Haliburton, which is the third-most
of any pick-and-roll duo in the league, per Second Spectrum. The
only tandems who have run the pick-and-roll more are Philadelphia’s
James Harden and Joel Embiid (893 picks) and Phoenix’s Chris Paul
and Deandre Ayton (897). Possessions featuring a Haliburton-Turner
pick-and-roll have generated 1.063 points per possession — the
fifth-best PPP of the 24 duos with at least 500 picks.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for Myles to play with a
playmaking guard of Tyrese’s caliber,” Pacers head coach Rick
Carlisle told Basketball News. “A couple weeks ago, we checked and
they were top-five or top-six in the league as a successful
pick-and-roll connection, and that’s pretty amazing. Myles is
getting all different kinds of stuff — he’s getting rolls for
dunks, he’s getting a little bit of mid-range, he’s getting good
looks for threes and he’s getting some late passes underneath for
dunks as well.

“I just love the force that he’s playing with. Tyrese has had a
wonderful impact on Myles and certainly the rest of the team, but
the connection those two guys have has been special.”

The partnership has been mutually beneficial. Turner gets easy
looks from an elite floor general who ranks second among all
players in assists per game (10.2) and assist percentage (46.9%),
while Haliburton gets a unique big-man partner who can score inside
(62.8% on twos) and out (40.3% on threes). It’s no coincidence that
both players are having career years. 

Turner is averaging career-highs in points (18.2), rebounds
(8.0), field-goal percentage (54.9%), three-point percentage
(40.3%) and made threes (1.7), while also contributing 2.3 blocks,
1.4 deflections and 0.6 steals per game. Turner’s dominance shows
up in his analytics too, as he’s posting personal bests in win
shares per 48 minutes (.157), Box Plus/Minus (+2.6), True Shooting
percentage (65.8%), Player Efficiency Rating (20.6) and total
rebound rate (14.7%).

“Myles has blossomed this year. We’ve seen the relationship with
him and Ty; they’re one of the best pick-and-roll [duos] in the
league right now,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin
Pritchard said recently. “This is the beginning of a nice core —
no, a great core.” 

Meanwhile, Haliburton accomplished his preseason goal of becoming a
first-time All-Star
after averaging career-highs in points
(20.1), assists (10.1), made threes (2.8) and free-throw percentage
(86%), while also contributing 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per
contest. And like Turner, Haliburton is also posting personal bests
in advanced stats like assist percentage (46.9%), PER (23.0), Value
Over Replacement Player (3.8), BPM (+6.9) and WS/48 (.189).

“It was unfortunate that I didn’t get a chance to play with him
last year and really start to develop that synergy, but I think
we’ve really picked it up quickly,” Turner told Basketball News.
“Ty is someone who’s easy to play with. Obviously, he sees the
floor well. And as the season has progressed, we’ve done a better
job of communicating with each other. It’s been a fun
experience.”

Despite the fact that they’ve only played 44 games together,
they have developed a strong connection and can often anticipate
each other’s next move.

“I think I know what he’s going to do before he does it in a
sense,” Turner said. “I think that just comes with playing with
him.”

“We just needed time together, that’s all,” Haliburton told
Basketball News. “I feel like I’ve had pretty good chemistry with
my bigs throughout my NBA career, and I knew that playing with
Myles wasn’t going to be any different. He brings a different
dynamic than what I’m used to, with his ability to space the floor.
And he’s the best shot-blocker that I’ve ever played with, so that
gives me confidence on the defensive end to be able to take more
risks and get into the ball a little bit more.

“I think it’s a mutual relationship where he’s got my back and
I’ve got his.”

Not too long ago, Turner’s days in Indiana seemed numbered.
After all, the team traded away nearly all of its veterans last
season (including Sabonis, LeVert, Torrey Craig, Justin Holiday and
Jeremy Lamb), and Turner’s name continued to pop up in trade
rumors. However, since Turner is only 26 years old, the Pacers’
brass felt that he could be on a similar timeline as Haliburton,
who is 23. Now, this certainly seems like a duo to build around
going forward.

And the Pacers seem to agree, as they signed Turner to a
two-year, $60 million extension in January.

“I’m glad that we got it done. I think it was a win-win for both
sides,” Turner said of the deal. “I think I have a good
relationship with (Pacers owner) Herb Simon, and I think he has a
big belief in what I’m capable of as well. I’m glad that we were
able to come to terms on an agreement. Behind the scenes, for me
personally, I was open to the idea of free agency, but I also
wanted to at least give Indy a fair chance, and both sides came to
an agreement.

“I’m comfortable. I’m where I want to be. I’m growing with a
young team that’s hungry. I think we’re just trying to get better
and better every day, and that’s the main goal of this whole thing.
I have a lot of belief in this city, a lot of belief in this
program and a lot of belief in the guys in this locker room, so
that was a big initial factor in me wanting to stay here.”

Since Turner was a popular trade candidate, many fans of other
teams got excited about the possibility of him joining their
favorite team. When Turner inked his extension with the Pacers,
some of these people reacted negatively — upset that he was no
longer on the market. Damian Lillard and Bradley Beal have dealt
with similar negativity, as their loyalty to the team that drafted
them isn’t celebrated but rather criticized, simply because rival
fans are mad that they can’t be acquired.

Turner can now relate to those two.

“What fans don’t realize is that this is a business, and both
sides have to do what’s best for them,” Turner said. “Sometimes it
doesn’t work out where you’re able to stay with the same team, but
I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to be with the same team for
my entire career. That’s not something that happens a lot, and I
never take that for granted. That was obviously something that went
into my decision (with the extension) as well. For the casual fan,
they have to realize that while basketball may be a fun game, the
business aspect of it will always reign supreme.”

As Turner mentioned, not many players get to stay with one NBA
team for the entirety of their career. He admits that retiring in
Indiana would mean a lot to him.

“Yeah, obviously, it’s something that would be very special,”
Turner said. “Like I always talk about, the business of basketball
always reigns supreme, but my loyalty is with the organization that
drafted me and the city that took me in, and hopefully it’s able to
stay that way for years to come.” 

Turner has been a part of many different iterations of Pacers
basketball. Now, looking at the current pieces around him, he’s
excited about the team’s promising future.

“I’ve seen the growth in a lot of our young guys throughout the
entire year,” Turner said. “The best thing for them was getting a
chance to play early. For Drew [Nembhard], Ben [Mathurin]
and those guys, playing heavy minutes early was big for their
development, and not every rookie has a chance to do that. The fact
that they’re getting battle-tested so early is going to bode well
for them.

“I’ve just enjoyed the overall spirit and fight of this team.
We’ve got a lot of guys who clock in (and work hard) day in and day
out, and they’re coming in here and getting a chance to compete
after working their whole life to get here.”

While playing alongside Haliburton has certainly helped Turner,
the big man does deserve a lot of credit for the leap he has taken
this season. He’s put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to
maximize his potential and make the most of his opportunity.

“I attribute [my career year] to patience and obviously the hard
work I put in over the offseason to prepare for these moments,”
Turner explained. “I also attribute it to just the years that I’ve
been in the league, where I’ve been able to play out on the
perimeter at the 4 position and now I’m able to play my natural
position (the 5).

“I’m thankful that I was able to just stick it out [during]
those years that I was here and see what the other side of
basketball was like, outside of just getting what you want when you
want it. I think I waited my turn and, obviously, I’m thriving now,
and I’m only hoping to get better from here.”

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