Fantasy Basketball: Myles Turner Is Making Significant Strides in His Second Season

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner is only 20 years old. That often gets glossed over when a discussion of the NBA's best big men takes place.

DeMarcus Cousins and Marc Gasol are presently the cream of the crop. Karl-Anthony Towns, Kristaps Porzingis and Anthony Davis are the present and the future -- they're already fantastic, but still with the majority of their careers ahead of them. DeAndre Jordan, Rudy Gobert and Andre Drummond are the new versions of suddenly-old man Dwight Howard -- superb in certain categories, but limited or even bad in others.

So, where does Turner fit into these groups?

Positional Eligibility

Turner played 61% of his minutes at center in 2015-16 as a rookie, with the other 39% coming at power forward. This has given him PF/C eligibility in most fantasy basketball leagues, something that certainly adds to his versatility.

However, per Basketball Reference, he's played 99% of his minutes at center this season. Unless something changes down the stretch for Indiana, he will lose his forward eligibility in most formats next year. This hurts his value only very, very slightly -- as you'll soon see, his production is best valued at center, anyway.

Since Turner is currently still eligible at both positions in most formats, let's look at where he ranks against his competition at both spots on the floor. It's possible that he's already been stripped of his forward status in some places, but that's an uncommon midseason move.

To ensure that we're ranking Turner against his peers and comparing apples-to-apples, we've added some qualifiers. They include: at least 50 field goal attempts and 30 or more free throw attempts while averaging 25 minutes per game.

2016-17 15.8 0.6 7.6 2.4 0.7 1 53.4 80.9 1.4
C/Rank 8th 14th 22nd 3rd 22nd 36th 29th 9th 6th
F/Rank 23rd T-107th T-17th 2nd T-66th T-103rd 14th 32nd 30th

His true value obviously lies at center, so it makes sense as to why the Pacers are playing him there exclusively. This also bodes well for us fantasy-wise since he'll maintain position eligibility there, but where does his value lie when talking specifically about this season?

Short-Term Value

His combination of average (for a center) to above-average (on the whole) scoring efficiency, coupled with a very good points per game average and elite shot-blocking numbers make him a real commodity. Those playing in one-center leagues may not think he's an option, but Turner is producing well enough to be that guy. Fantasy owners in two-center leagues who have him as their second big man are laughing, as are those playing him at forward while getting rewarded with blocks and field goal percentage from an unconventional source.

That's a bonus that might mitigate lower than expected numbers in these categories from more highly sought after centers like Cousins, Gasol or Al Horford, all of whom are shooting 45.2% or lower. Heck, even Towns, Brook Lopez and Nikola Vucevic are under 50%.

The only downside to Turner's game right now is not providing much in terms of steals or assists. He's seen some growth in steals (1.2 per 100 possessions vs 0.9 last season) but his assists and assist rate are basically identical. These numbers are unlikely to improve much right now, but Turner is also showing growth in the areas he excels.

Over the last 30 days (while still being wary of small sample sizes), Turner's per-game averages are on the rise. He's played in 31.1 minutes per game (season average of 29.2) while collecting 17.4 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. He's also maintained a field goal percentage (54%) and free throw percentage (82.4%) at or above his season averages.

He's even raised his three-point shooting to exactly one made attempt per game over that period, which is nearly double his average. Turner is feeling it and showing in-season improvement. He currently ranks eighth among centers via nERD, but third in our fantasy ratings behind only Cousins and Davis.

If you have Turner, enjoy him. If you can acquire him, do so immediately.

Long-Term Value

If you have Turner in a keeper or dynasty format, hold on for dear life. Diamonds in the rough like these can be the difference between winning and losing a fantasy championship. He's grown leaps and bounds between his rookie and sophomore seasons, at an age when players often stagnate in their growth for a period of time.

Turner is averaging 2.4 blocks per game, and leading the NBA in block percentage at 6.9%. Check out the only other 20-year-old players to average more than two blocks per game over a full season.

Season Player BLK/G
1992-93 Shaquille O'Neal 3.5
2013-14 Anthony Davis 2.8
2016-17 Myles Turner 2.4
1993-94 Chris Webber 2.2
2007-08 Andrew Bynum 2.1

Not bad company, eh?

The thing is, Turner's game isn't nearly fully developed yet. He's already stretched himself out to the three-point line, improving from a 21.2% distance shooter as a rookie (in just 14 attempts), to 41.4%. It's a small enough sample size right now that there's still room for regression -- he's 24 for 58 from beyond the arc, which is far from definitive. However, his three-point attempts are rising, and so is his success rate.

Do you know how many big men aged 20 or younger have made 40% of three-point attempts over a full season where they took more than 0.5 attempts per game?

None. It's never happened.

The same goes for players aged 21 or younger, though Porzingis is set to eclipse that mark this season. When you increase the parameters to 25 and younger, you start to see names like Raef LaFrentz, Spencer Hawes, Andrea Bargnani and Meyers Leonard -- mostly one-dimensional stretch big men. None of those guys are bringing anything close to Turner's combination of athleticism and touch.

Once again: Myles Turner is only 20 years old and won't turn 21 until March. The future is bright for the young center, and fantasy basketball owners should be giddy about his potential.