The most common theory about the Indiana Pacers’ first-round draft pick in last week’s NBA draft is that he’ll be a project and a bench player this year.
But there is another possible scenario for 19-year-old Myles Turner.
The 11th overall pick out of the University of Texas will begin to show us what he’s got when the Pacers begin play in the Orlando Summer League July 4. Pacers basketball operations brass will base part of their free agent and trading decisions on what they see in Turner during these summer games.
When it comes to signing free agents, time is of the essence. Teams can officially start signing free agents July 10, so the Pacers won't have too long to evaluate their new draft pick before some decisions have to be made. The Pacers play four times in the Orlando Summer League before July 10.
The 7-foot Turner displayed impressive potential last season while averaging 10.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks to earn Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
He also was inconsistent and lacked confidence at times—especially on offense—playing for Rick Barnes’ Longhorns. Even Pacers Coach Frank Vogel cautioned Pacers fans that it might be two to three years before Turner’s potential starts to blossom.
Depending on how the rest of this off-season goes, the Pacers might not have that much time to wait for Turner to produce.
Five of six big men on the Pacers roster are free agents, with power forward David West already opting out his contract and presumably headed out of town—possibly to New York.
Luis Scola and Lavoy Allen are both unrestricted free agents and their future here looks dubious. While center Roy Hibbert opted in for his contract’s final year, it’s no secret Pacers basketball operations boss Larry Bird wants to trade him—and his $15.5 million salary.
The only front court player who's a good bet to be on the Pacers’ roster next season—in addition to Turner—is Ian Mahinmi.
Could Turner be in the Pacers' starting line-up next season alongside George Hill, C.J. Miles, Rodney Stuckey and Paul George? Perhaps not by choice, but out of necessity, the answer is yes.
Of course it’s possible—even probable—that Bird adds some big bodies during the upcoming free agency period. And it still remains to be seen how Turner will fit into the Pacers’ new up-tempo scheme. But Bird must have some confidence he’ll be a solid fit.
While Turner still appears to be something of a project, it looks as though he’ll get the playing time he’ll need to accelerate his development ias a pro.
Per the NBA rookie salary slotting set-up, Turner—as the 11th pick in this year’s draft—is due to make $1.96 million his first year, $2.05 million his second and $2.14 million his third year. The Pacers can pay as much as 120 percent of those amounts or as little as 80 percent. I’d expect closer to the high side than the low side. In his fourth year, the Pacers would have to pay Turner 32.7 percent more than his third year.
What’s all that mean? The Pacers are likely to sign Turner to a four-year contract worth about $11 million. The team had three players—George, Hibbert and West—who made more than that last year alone.
Dumping Hibbert and replacing him with Turner should give Bird plenty of cap space to make free agent additions for whatever style the Pacers want to play.