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Trending Up: Evan Turner Over the Basketball Mendoza Line

Feb 7, 2011, 3:15 PM EDT

Evan Turner In advanced basketball metrics, the PER stat (Player Efficiency Rating) has kind of come to be the most reliable catch-all number to rate an NBA player's performance over the course of a season. Taking into account almost every major hoops statistical category, PER is a quick way to judge a player's overall effectiveness. It's not a perfect stat by any means–only a few defensive stats are factored in, and players who don't get many minutes and/or are frequently in foul trouble often have numbers that are somewhat inflated–but like an OPS in baseball or a quarterback rating in football, it's close enough 90% of the time.

In PER, a 25 is roughly MVP-level production, 20 is All-Star-level, 15 is about league average, and 10 is about a league minimum. The last number, you could consider to be something of an equivalent to the Mendoza Line in baseball–where as long as you're above that number, your worth as a pro player can at least be debatable, but if you're below it, then you've really got problems. And that brings us to the play of Sixers rookie Evan Turner.

It's no secret that Turner struggled the first few months of this season. Struggled to find his role in the offense, struggled to make shots, struggled to hang onto the ball, struggled to stay on the court. As a result, his PER for most of the season has been nestled in the high 8s and low 9s. well below not only what you'd expect from a #2 overall draft pick, but from what you'd expect from someone who expected to play in the pros for more than a couple of seasons. By contrast, even slow-out-the-gate rookies like the Nets' Derrick Favors and the Clippers' Al-Farouq Aminu have PERs of 13.1 and 10.8, respectively.

But over the past couple weeks' worth of games, I've noticed that Turner's improving play had begun to pick his PER out of the gutter. I saw it climb from 9.2 to 9.4, to 9.7, and then to 9.9, where it hung for a couple of games as the Villain's performances tended towards the erratic. But after last night's fine bench performance against the Knicks–8 pts on 4-7 shooting, with four rebounds, four assists, two steals and not a single turnover–I'm proud to announce that the Kid ET has finally gotten himself over the hump, and his PER now sits at an unassailable 10.1.

OK, OK–maybe this isn't exactly cause for cork-popping in itself, especially since Turner's PER still ranks only 33rd among rookies (though many of those have played only a fraction of the minutes Evan has). And even in good games like yesterday's, The Extraterrestrial still got burned a couple times on defense, especially when rotating out to shooters. But if you're looking for statistical evidence that Turner is going to at least be a player in this league–and lord knows that up until late December, many of us would have grasped hold onto anything that demonstrated that–this is a pretty good sign that he's at least headed in the right direction.

And for the record, it's not a statistical hiccup–Turner has actually gotten much more efficient as of late. Over the last eight games, Evan has averaged a little over eight points a game shooting a respectable 47% from the field, both up from his season averages. But far more impressively, over those same eight games, he's racked up 28 assists while only turning the ball over four times–a 7 to 1 ratio, when 2.5 to 1 is considered good for a point guard. Considering that over the first month of the season, his numbers were 34 and 28 (about a 1.3 to 1 ratio), I'd say that's a marked improvement.

All in all, this shows that Evan is getting more comfortable with his role in the second unit, developing chemistry with his teammates (especially Thaddeus Young, with whom the Villain has had some particularly nice fast-break hookups) and learning to pick his spots and not force the play. I don't think it's a total coincidence that the Sixers have won six of those eight games, either–Turner might not be winning them the games for them, but he's always contributing, and at the very least, he's not losing them the games anymore like he may have been early in the season.

In any event, I'm proud of you, Evan. Keep that efficiency up, and I'm sure you'll be chilling with the Sasha Vujacices and the Chris Douglas-Robertses of the league in no time.

(Pic from