The title of this post is filled with hyberbole. Ultimately, I wanted to look at a few factors that I think point to Evan Turner's risks versus Wesley Johnson's risks as Johnson is likely the pick if Cousins scares us off with his red flags. I started making this post and then saw Shrink’s article right before posting, which touches on similar issues. Either way, I wanted to examine the real risk that Wes Johnson becomes a better player than Evan Turner and why that possibility makes me turn down any deal involving Elton Brand.
1. Age and Strength and Skills
Evan Turner was born in October 1988, Wes Johnson in July 1987. Wes Johnson is only one year older than Turner. I just want to put this down on paper, as Wes Johnson’s age is used to question his upside whereas Turner at just one year younger has not faced the veracity of that same age question. What you’d want to see from a player developing in his early Twenties is a commitment to conditioning, honing of skills, and developing your role as a player.
Currently Johnson can Bench Press 185 lbs 16 times whereas Turner could do 9 repetitions. Johnson also has less than 5% body fat whereas Turner is at 8.6%. Johnson is only one year older but clearly he places a larger emphasis on conditioning and strength training than Turner which is absolutely a necessity when transitioning to the next level. Finally, Johnson is a guy who has honed his skill set of being an efficient outside shooter and athletic wing defender during his last year of college. Turner on the other hand, as discussed below, played PG as the sole ball handler on the floor developing comfort in a role that he will not play in the NBA. An NBA team absolutely could not live with the turnovers that would come with making Evan Turner your primary ball handler. Johnson may b a year older, but I’d argue he’s better trained both on the court and off the court to become a great professional.
2. Length, Athleticism and Versatility
When projecting Evan Turner’s game throughout the NCAA season, it was thought that he could be the rare player capable of playing point guard, shooting guard, or small forward. Although he struggled at times ball-handling when matched up against shorter speedier PG at Ohio State, it was at least thought he could thrive at either wing spot with good defensive ability. A few tossed around Scottie Pippen as a comparable due to his defensive versatility and fit with the triangle. As it turns out his below average wingspan of 6’8” makes him definitely a shooting guard. Nothing in the athletic testing results section was a big disparity from my eye test evaluation of his athleticism in that he is just an average athlete. His biggest comparable Brandon Roy as someone who uses hesitation moves and craftiness to drive in the paint had much better jumping numbers than Turner, being a half a foot better in both standing jump and max vertical.
Wesley Johnson measured out a half inch taller than Turner; however his wingspan was 5” longer than Turner at 7’1”. His length will give him the ability to match up with nearly all the small forwards in the league. He will be able to guard either of the wing positions with his size unlike Turner. His Max Vertical of 11’11” is 5 inches taller than Turner and great for a SF prospect. His excellent block numbers in college reflect his ability to translate his length and athleticism into tangible results on the court. Whereas Turner will be limited to matching up with Shooting Guards and shorter Small Forwards, Johnson could conceivably guard either of the wing positions as well as stretch fours in certain matchups. Johnson looks to be the more versatile and capable defender.
3. The Shot and The Tournament
In my opinion, the shot that changed Turner from Top 4 Pick to possible Number 1 was the half court shot against Michigan in the Big Ten Semi’s as time was expiring to win the game. That stroke of luck, unless you want to say Turner’s clutchness includes 45 footers, changed his outlook from a passing shooting guard to a Kobe-like closer. After he made that shot captivating the nation’s attention, he followed it up with a triple double against Illinois in a double overtime win. Yes it was mentioned after the game that that triple double was Points-Rebounds-Turnovers and not Points-Rebounds-Assists, but clearly his repeated drives to the basket throughout the second half and overtime of that game were extremely impressive. However, Is this a franchise player? A player who showed no other closing ability outside the big ten tournament, a player who had the ball in his hands in every possession trying to win the game and Turned it over 10 times? I don’t know. If Turner had missed that half court shot and lost to a terrible Michigan team and followed that up with an upset loss in the 3rd round of the NCAA tournament, would you all think Turner is a clear cut franchise player? He was 21 years old playing with an upperclassmen supporting cast against younger college competition and was a halfcourt shot away from a being a conference and NCAA tournament failure.
4. Playing Style
As mentioned above, Turner is going to transition to playing off the ball moreso than what he did last season. An NBA team could not live with the turnovers that making Evan Turner your primary ball-handler would result in. When playing with the Buckeyes, he had Buford, Lighty and Diebler to sit on the perimeter and spread the floor, giving him one on one matchups to get to the basket against smaller college defenders, usually Point Guards. We all know that NBA defenders are longer, more agile, and will close out on help defense on his drives much moreso than in college. He also isn’t likely to be on the floor with 3 other floors spacers with free reign to dominate the ball. Will his hesitation step work against more athletic NBA defenders and will his lack of athleticism prevent him from finishing in the lane even if he beats his man off the dribble. If not, he has no outside shot to rely upon, although he could develop one. These questions are all risks that can’t be answered without NBA playing time.
Wes Johnson shot 41% as a volume college three point shooter and has the length, athleticism and release point to get his shot off in the NBA. His handling and dribble drive game are not developed, but don’t need to be to project him as a floor spacing shooter as well as a finisher in transition. Those are skills of his that if he had in college, he’s likely to have in the NBA. There is a less of a risk to Johnson’s skillset translating that that of Turners.
Both players have intangibles as a strength as listed by most major draft analysts. Both interviewed well, and both have the type of work ethic that you want from a prospect. Will Turner’s intangibles be enough to make up for concerns with his game translating? Can any amount of work solve those game translation issues if they appear. There is a real chance that passing up Johnson for Turner becomes a huge mistake and it’s possible that mistake will be exacerbated by the cashing in of assets that would be necessary to make Turner in a TWolves uniform become a reality. I think many will look to the Stephen Curry to Jonny Flynn debate last year due to at least the Syracuse connection; however, whereas Flynn was panned by stat heads like Hollinger and Berri vis-a-vis Curry, Johnson grades out much more similar to Turner by both Berri and Hollinger.
Turner is a better fit for the Wolves and their offense, however, Johnson would be a great fit with Rubio. Turner has a higher ceiling due to his rarer skill-set, but I think Johnson’s floor is higher. Ultimately, I become less sure about Turner becoming a franchise player as the price for acquiring him becomes better known. Am I right to question the value of acquiring Turner, or are people ready to cash in. Having just reviewed Shrink’s new post on Elton Brand and his reference of the risk of Evan Turner, this post is my official position that I would not take on Brand for Turner. My best offer is #4 + #16 to roll the dice on Turner’s rare skill set, but if the FO decides against Cousins for his red flags and we’re desperate for a wing, I’m on board with taking Wes Johnson and using our assets in another manner than tying all our risk to one man in Evan Turner.