Myles Turner vital to Pacers’ Success

Myles Turner recorded double-doubles before the fourth quarter in the first two games this season. [Photo: Frank McGrath/PS&E]

Myles Turner was set for his breakout season before Wednesday’s opener against the Dallas Mavericks was even a thought.

He did not need to participate on the Select Seam against Team USA as the Olympic team trained for the 2016 Rio Olympics. The talent was already there. The minor injuries he had encountered in the first 12 months of regular season basketball didn’t fazed him. Had Turner not scored 30 points, hauled in 16 rebounds and amassed four blocks against Dallas, the Pacers would still count on their starting big man for major contributions as the 2016-17 NBA season gets underway.

None of this suggests that Myles Turner is the next best thing. Nor is to say that the lanky 7-footer is well on his way to a breakout campaign. But the Pacers will go as Turner goes over the course of his second year in the league.

Paul George is the superstar; we all know that. No further comment, your honor. As a superstar, however, a supporting cast is strongly desired. Having key pieces around a superstar falls just short of a prerequisite for accepting a job as the face of a franchise. George is the face of the Pacers and will be for as long as he puts on the Blue & Gold. All that aside, George will be the first to tell you that he needs playmakers to step up.

[Turner: ‘Paul George is the best player in the league’]

When I say need, I mean in order to compete. To challenge Toronto and Cleveland in the east in hopes of facing the representative from the Western Conference. Last season’s seven-game war with Toronto was a start, and it provided hope, falling short from advancing in the playoffs was not enough.

Enter Turner, the University of Texas product, who decided to enter the NBA Draft after his freshman season.

It could be argued that Jeff Teague, Indiana’s recently-acquired point guard and an Indianapolis native, is better suited to assume the role of George’s sidekick with his experience and ability to create for himself and for others. I’ll stop you there to tell you that Turner is the guy, and that is not to take anything away from Teague, who should turn out to be a major factor for head coach Nate McMillan’s squad.

Turner proved in his rookie season he could get up and down the court at a high level. He proved he could defend multiple positions and protect the rim. And he proved he could put the basketball through the hoop — maybe more accurately and impressively than anyone expected. These were all the things President Larry Bird was searching for in the 2015 Draft, and he checked off every box with then-teenager Myles Turner.

Still only 20 years old, Turner’s maturity level and competitive nature bode well for Indiana. His teammates trust in him, which will go a long way as the season progresses and games become meaningful (see: George’s assist on a clutch Turner three-pointer in overtime Wednesday night). Above all else, the Pacers’ season will ride on Turner’s ability to be a big-bodied, swift-moving playmaker alongside George.

He will have his sophomore struggles, as some might say, but his presence on the floor may well determine how far this Pacers team can go.

Turner is intense and wants to win. So does George. So does Bird. Indiana’s season will go as Myles Turner goes.

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