Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
I don't know about you, but I really thought we'd have time machines by now.
If I ever do get my hands on one though, I'm setting that baby to February 18, 2014.
I chose that date because it's the last time Evan Turner played for the 76ers. Two days later, in a very obvious display of tanking, Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie sent Turner and Lavoy Allen to Indiana for veteran Danny Granger.
To quote Ron Burgundy, the trade has been a financial and cultural disaster. Turner, a 17.4 ppg scorer before the trade, has limped his way to 7.6 ppg in 18 appearances for his new team. The Pacers are 10-8 (.556 winning percentage) when he's been on the court, a far cry from the days when they were running away with the Eastern Conference (42-13, .764 winning percentage before the trade).
As you're probably well aware of, things have been even grimmer for the Sixers, a team that has now gone the last two months without winning a single game. When they inevitably fall to the Pistons on Saturday night, it will be their 27th consecutive defeat, which will set an all-time mark for NBA futility.
So yeah, things aren't great.
On the surface, it seems like Hinkie did Turner a favor. By going from Philly to Indiana, Turner went from being on one of the worst teams in the league to a legitimate contender. Plus, Indianapolis is only a three-hour drive from Turner's hometown of Westchester, Illinois.
The only problem with that, and I'm talking strictly as a fantasy owner now, is that Turner plays the same position as Paul George (21.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 spg), arguably the best two-way player this side of LeBron James. Turner never had anyone playing ahead of him in Philadelphia.
Turner has the ball-handling skills to play shooting guard but that doesn't help much when the Pacers already have a more capable player at that position in Lance Stephenson (14.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 7.3 rpg).
How could a place brimming with such optimism suddenly have so many dead ends?
That's the predicament Turner finds himself in right now. The 21.7 minutes per game he's averaged since coming over to Indiana doesn't even compare to the court time he saw in talent-starved Philadelphia (just under 35 mpg). That's a 37.8 percent reduction in playing time, which would explain why his scoring average has been cut in half.
There's no question the change of scenery has been detrimental to Turner's fantasy production but maybe it would have happened like that anyway. Before flocking to the Hoosier State, Turner had been averaging just 12.8 ppg for the month of February, his lowest output (at the time) for any month this season. In fact, Turner has watched his scoring average dip each month, starting at 21.1 ppg in November before faltering all the way to 7.2 ppg in March.
Maybe Turner just isn't that good. Prior to this season, his career scoring average was only 10.7 ppg (225 games). Touted as one of the more accurate shooters in the country coming out of Ohio State (51.9 field goal percentage during his junior season), Turner has never shot above 44.6 percent in any of his four seasons in the league.
The truth is, playing a ton of minutes for a desperate, awful team like the Sixers can produce gaudy and often times deceiving statistics. It's happening right now with Rookie of the Year frontrunner Michael Carter-Williams (16.5 ppg, 6.3 apg, 6.0 rpg, 1.9 spg). Sure, Carter-Williams is tall and athletic but he's also a below average shooter (39.1 percent) with a serious turnover problem (3.8 TO per game is tied for the league-lead). Needless to say, he's averaging almost three minutes more than any other rookie in the league (34.8 mpg).
James Anderson is another prime example of the stat inflation that occurs when you play on a bad team. He's been the Sixers' starting shooting guard for most of this season, averaging a career-high 10.4 ppg in 29.2 mpg. Prior to this season, however, Anderson had spent most of his career as a bench warmer, averaging just 11.1 mpg in 116 games with the Spurs and Rockets. He started only six of those contests (52 starts for Philadelphia this season).
Think of it as getting called up to the majors after hitting .400 in Triple-A. The Pacers and 76ers play in the same league, the same conference even, but they couldn't be more different. Turner and his fantasy owners have found that out the hard way.
Sometimes fantasy is about being in the right place at the right time. February 18 in Philadelphia was the right time and the right place for Evan Turner.