Evan Turner (Getty)The 76ers' hot start was well behind them, thanks to a 4-9 record over a span of 13 games, during which they had averaged just 89 points on offense. Doug Collins' answer? Bench Jodie Meeks and promote Evan Turner to the starting five. Turner made and missed a lot of jumpshots in his first start on Monday in Milwaukee, but did some good things otherwise (32 minutes, 2 points, 1-12 FG, 12 boards, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block). His second start, Wednesday against the Celtics, produced much better offensive results: 37 minutes, 26 points, 11-19 FG, 9 boards, 2 assists. After the game, Collins summed up his thoughts on Turner, his role, and the team moving forward:
"He needs the ball in his hands. When he has the ball in his hands, he's a totally different player. Maybe Jrue didn't have it in his hands as much, and maybe Dre didn't with the three of them out there together, and that's the thing we're trying to figure out how we can do that and play comfortable where all three of those guys can play well ... Evan's a point guard. At the end of the day, he's a point guard. The big thing about it is that we have to play an extended period of time with him and Dre out there together and that's what I'm locked into. Unless there's an injury, I'm going to finish the year with those two guys playing together."
This is quite an abrupt about-face for Collins and obviously bodes well for Turner's fantasy potential, but Wednesday's domination of the listless Celtics doesn't whitewash some limitations we've seen thus far. He's shooting 42 percent from the field and 65 percent from the line on the season, and his per-36s include 0.3 threes, 0.8 steals, and 0.3 blocks. One area where Turner has excelled is on the defensive boards (5.2 in 24 minutes), and Collins will push him to consistently translate those boards into transition opportunities. In a best-case scenario involving a short and successful adjustment process and increased confidence directly translating to the box score, Turner will be good for points, boards, and assists, and that shooting percentage will come up as the 76ers look to up the pace and he spends more time finishing around the rim.
All this means more time off the ball for Jrue Holiday, not exactly what we were looking for in hopes that he can turn around his disappointing fantasy season. That said, one opportunity here could be his inheriting Meeks' three-point attempts - Holiday is shooting 37 percent from downtown this season and for his career, so he's up to the task. More threes, along with steady steals totals, could certainly offset a bit less usage. Andre Iguodala has been packing in the counting stats lately (1.2 threes, 5.8 boards, 5.6 assists, 2.2 steals over his past 11 games), excels in the transition game, and has never required extensive usage to produce big fantasy lines. As Collins alluded to, this "new" trio will have to figure things out on the fly, but there aren't many reasons for pessimism at this point.
• Bismack Biyombo's follow up to his monster Tuesday line was, in a word, bad. Biyombo played another 30 minutes before fouling out but scored just two points (1-4 FG, 0-4 FT), turned the ball over five times, and didn't block a shot. He did grab nine boards, so there is that, and Biyombo's averages in 12 starts now include 5.8 points on 51-percent shooting (4.3 FGA), 41-percent foul shooting (3.5 FTA), 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 turnovers, and 2.5 blocks in 26 minutes. Scale those minutes up, and it's big-time big-man stats, but the drag on efficiency (FT%, TO) has to be accounted for. If your h2h team is marginal (or worse) in FT% already, then the rest of his line will be worth the tradeoff. The Bobcats are one of six teams with a league-leading 13 games during the default h2h playoff weeks (4-4-5). If you are a roto manager or built a h2h team that looks to win FT% more often than not, then the Biyombo fit has to be more carefully considered.
Kemba Walker (Getty)• Also worth watching for the Bobcats: Kemba Walker has been clearly outplaying D.J. Augustin since DJA returned from his foot injury, and Silas has responded by giving Walker more minutes in recent games. Augustin could end up in trade discussions over the next week, given that he's due a qualifying offer at the end of the season, Walker is clearly the future for the Bobcats, and they are looking to clean house. Walker averaged 15.3 points (36/38/82), 1.5 threes, 5 boards, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals, and 0.5 blocks in his 17 starts to this point .. Byron Mullens turned in another productive game as first big off the bench Wednesday (25 minutes, 16 points, 8-15 FG, 5 boards, 1 steal, 5 blocks). His averages when seeing at least 20 minutes as a reserve now include 12.8 points on 49-percent shooting, 87-percent foul shooting, 6.2 boards, and 1.1 steals.
• Iman Shumpert's poor offensive production as a starter continued Wednesday. Mike D'Antoni benched Landry Fields and started Shump against the Spurs for defensive purposes, and he responded with two points (1-5 FG), four assists, and no steals in his 29 minutes. J.R. Smith did some things in the blowout loss (22 minutes, 18 points, 4-7 threes, 2 steals), and perhaps Smith will be D'Antoni's next option if he doesn't see Shumpert as the starter once Tyson Chandler is back to anchor the defense. Chandler sat out the Spurs game with a hamstring injury, and he remains questionable for Friday. Fields played 21 minutes off the bench (8 points, 4-8 FG, 3 boards) and D'Antoni said the change "might not be a permanent thing.
• Status updates: Kyle Lowry's status for Saturday is in question because of illness and a sore groin .. Blake Griffin (ankle) says he'll be good to go for Friday .. Nikola Pekovic says his foot injury should only need another few days .. Zach Randolph is hoping to return to the active roster on Tuesday .. Andrea Bargnani practiced Thursday and his status for the weekend's games will be determined after another workout on Friday .. DeMarcus Cousins was back at practice on Thursday after missing Wednesday's game with food poisoning .. Brendan Haywood (ankle) is out again Thursday.
• Scanning the Buzz Index leaders: Alonzo Gee could emerge with more than just deep-league relevance as the Cavs' starting small forward if the early returns are any indication. He's now averaged 15 points on 55-percent shooting, 1.7 threes, 5.3 boards, 1.7 steals, and 0.7 blocks in 33 minutes over the past three games .. Rodrigue Beaubois looks like a very solid Thursday add, with Jason Kidd likely to see his minutes limited in the final two games of the Mavs' back-to-back-to-back (Fri @SAC, Sat @GSW) .. Dorell Wright sure was awesome last season. He played just 10 minutes on Wednesday (0 points, 0-1 FG, minus-23) and for all intents and purposes is behind Brandon Rush (32 minutes, 11 points, 6 boards) and possibly Klay Thompson (27 minutes, 15 points, 7-11 FG, 6 boards) in the rotation at this point. Wright's averages over the past nine games include 6 points on 27-percent shooting, 1.1 threes, and 4.2 boards in 23 minutes .. Isaiah Thomas saw his minutes limited once again on Wednesday (17), but he packed in the production (12 points, 2 threes, 3 assists, 2 steals) and won the game with a steal and assist near the end of regulation. Let's see how many minutes he averages during the Kings' upcoming stretch of games (Fri DAL, Sun ATL, Tues GSW, Wed DET) before we write him off .. Kenneth Faried watch: he started alongside Nene Hilario on Wednesday but was limited by foul trouble (20 minutes, 5 points, 9 boards, 4 fouls), and he's going to have his minutes limited in any case on nights that Al Harrington is feeling it (33 minutes, 22 points, 10-20 FG, 8 boards).
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