Indiana has cleared the path for Myles Turner to anchor the team in the middle.
The team essentially gave away center Roy Hibbert, a former All-Star and runner-up in Defensive Player of the Year voting in 2013-14, sending him to the Lakers in exchange for a future second round pick.
Since the Pacers failed to qualify for the post season for the first time in five years, they preached a shift in tempo and a more fluent offense.
When Turner fell to Indiana with the 11th overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, the team believed it landed the complete center it has been lacking with Hibbert in the lineup.
While Hibbert remained as an effective shot blocking presence in his seventh season, turning back a team-high 1.6 shots per game, his inability to generate points, even at the rim, became problematic for the team.
Despite his 7-foot-2 frame, Hibbert converted just 55.8 percent of his attempts at the rim. By contrast, Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, the shortest player in the league at 5-foot-9, made 58.3 percent of his attempts at the rim.
The selection of Turner spelled the end of Hibbert’s tenure with the Pacers, especially following his dominant performance at the 2015 NBA Summer League in Orlando.
In just three appearances, Turner easily established himself as the most dominant post player in Orlando, as he averaged 18.7 points, 8.3 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game.
Anytime he touched the ball, he made quick decisions, rarely turned the ball over and managed to generate points for his team.
Following his first appearance as a professional, Turner left Orlando as the leading shot blocker, ranked third in scoring average and posted the fourth highest rebound total.
More importantly, Turner dominated in the post, leading all players that attempted 15 or more shots as he converted 60.5 percent of his attempts from the field.
The Pacers coaching staff gave him a specific set of instructions on the offensive end during his time in Orlando, including playing at a faster tempo.
“Score within the flow of the offense, a lot of pick-and-pop type stuff,” Turner said following a loss to Miami at Summer League. “The pace is something this organization wants to focus more on, just getting up and down the court.”
The 6-foot-11 center spent just one season at Texas but seemed to be a bit too fond of his 3-point shot. Turner routinely surrendered his size advantage in the post to camp out beyond the arc, as he launched 3.3 shots from 3-point range last season with the Longhorns.
The closer to the rim he went, the more effective his shot became, as Turner converted 51.3 percent of his shots from inside the arc, as he posted 10.1 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
During his first stint in a Pacers uniform, Turner provided an unbelievable defensive presence. In 87 minutes, the 19-year-old swatted away 13 shots, providing a much needed impact for his team.
Last season, Hibbert swatted away 125 shots, one third of the team’s total. No other player even turned back 50 attempts as Indiana was ranked 15th in team blocks per game at 4.6.
While the Pacers weren’t the most formidable shot blocking team in the league, the defense was stout, limiting opponents to 43.5 percent shooting from the field, a figure that tied them with Chicago for the third lowest in the league.
To continue its success defensively, Turner knows he will have to provide an immediate impact as a shot blocker.
“That’s something that I’ve always done, protect the rim,” Turner said following a dominant six block effort against the Magic White team at the 2015 NBA Summer League tournament in Orlando. “I think that’s what makes me useful (and) valuable on the defensive end. That’s one thing I want to increase on in my NBA career.”
Coming out of high school, Turner was rated as the second best prospect in the class of 2014, but inconsistencies, especially on the offensive end, forced hi to slip on draft night.
All it took Turner just three appearances in NBA Summer League to be dubbed the steal of the draft, now the Pacers are hoping he can turn into a cornerstone for the franchise.