Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
When asked about his future with the Philadelphia 76ers, restricted free-agent-to-be Evan Turner said he is "going to get money regardless," according to Philly.com.
As unbecoming as that comment is, Turner is absolutely right, especially considering his expected role this season.
Even though they have shockingly started out 2-0 the Sixers have no desire to win this season, but they do need to evaluate most of their players. The No. 1 item on the agenda is seeing what Turner is capable of as a top offensive option.
Turner no longer has to defer to ball-controlling point guard Jrue Holiday, who was shipped to New Orleans this past offseason. Even with rookie Michael Carter-Williams in the fold, Turner will have the opportunity to handle the basketball more often this season, and that means more possessions ending in a shot attempt for the 25-year-old.
Through two games, Turner has attempted 18.5 shots and 5.0 free throws per game, up from 12.8 shots and 2.5 free throws in 2012-13. He has scored 49 total points without even hitting a three (he's 0-6 on 3-point attempts).
The forward isn't going to average 24.5 points, or even 20, but he certainly will see an increase from his career-high 13.3 ppg last season. When combined with his usual all-around production -- he's averaging 5.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.5 steals so far after producing 6.3 boards, 4.3 assists and 0.9 steals last season -- a higher scoring average will make Turner a strong fantasy option at multiple positions, especially the shallow shooting guard spot.
While most of the attention will be paid to the superstars who will be free agents next summer -- LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony, to name a few -- there are plenty of mid-level players like Turner who are both motivated to earn a new contract and in position to play a major role on their team.
Here are the players fantasy owners should be familiar with:
Gordon Hayward, SG, Utah Jazz - Of anyone on this list, Hayward's situation is most similar to Turner's -- he'll be a restricted free agent and is the top scoring option on team content with losing. The 23-year-old averaged 14.1 points on just 10.7 shot attempts per game last season due to an ability to hit the three-ball (.435 3Pt) and get to the foul line (4.1 FTA, .827). The 6- foot-8 swingman also averaged 3.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 steals and 0.5 blocks in just 29 minutes of play. Through two games, he has attempted 15 field goals, 5.5 threes and 4.0 free throws per game.
Derrick Favors, PF, Utah Jazz - This is Favors' fourth NBA season, but he's still just 22 years old and finally has his first chance to play big minutes following the departures of Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. The former No. 3 overall pick averaged 9.4 points, 7.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks and 0.9 steals in only 23 minutes per game last season. He's played an average of 40 minutes in the first two games.
Eric Bledsoe, PG, Phoenix Suns - The Suns acquired Eric Bledsoe from the Clippers last summer but didn't sign him to a contract extension, so he'll be a restricted free agent after the season. He was impressive in limited duty as Chris Paul's backup last season, averaging 8.5 points, 3.1 assists, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 blocks and 1.4 steals in 20 minutes per game. With Phoenix, the man nicknamed "Mini-LeBron" will get Lebron-sized minutes.
Isaiah Thomas, PG, Sacramento Kings - Thomas was a victim of former Kings coach Keith Smart's ever-changing rotation last season, but now that Smart and Tyreke Evans are gone, Thomas should get more consistent playing time. Thomas came off the bench in each of the first two games but played more minutes than starter Greivis Vasquez. He's averaging 22.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.0 rebounds. 0.5 steals and 3.0 threes so far.
Trevor Ariza, SF, Washington Wizards - Ariza is working on the last year of the five-year, $33 million contract he signed with the Houston Rockets after winning the NBA title with the Lakers in 2009. During that contract, he has played for three different franchises, and now he's just trying to prove he can still play. With 2013 No. 3 overall pick Otto Porter out indefinitely, Ariza has played an average of 38.5 minutes over the first two games and produced 20 points, 12 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 3.5 threes (on 9.0 3-point attempts per game). The small forward won't be a consistent 20-point scorer, but he should contribute at least 5.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.5 threes per game.
Kyle Lowry, PG, Toronto Raptors - Lowry will wear a splint on his left (non- shooting) finger for at least the first six weeks of the season after tearing a tendon in the last game of the preseason, but at least he's playing. Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan get most of Toronto's shot attempts, but Lowry's fantasy game always has been about more than scoring. He has averaged 13 points, 6.6 assists, 4.4 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.6 threes since 2011. Look for Lowry to at least reach those numbers this season as he plays for a long-term deal.
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