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Pacers' perfect pairing: Turner, Haliburton form dominant 1-2 punch

Pacers' perfect pairing: Turner, Haliburton form dominant 1-2 punch

Now in his eighth season with the Indiana Pacers, Myles Turner is easily the team’s longest-tenured player. In fact, no other Pacer on the current roster has been in town longer than four seasons.

Turner arrived in Indiana as a wide-eyed teenager who was selected with the No. 11 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft. In the years that followed, Turner would watch as the team continually changed around him. He has played for four different head coaches — Frank Vogel, Nate McMillan, Nate Bjorkgren and Rick Carlisle — and witnessed a ton of roster turnover. But despite Turner’s name surfacing in trade rumors annually, he has been the one constant in Indiana.

As a rookie, Turner suited up alongside stars like Paul George and Monta Ellis. During his sophomore campaign, he called Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague and Lance Stephenson teammates. The following year, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, Bojan Bogdanovic and Darren Collison joined the squad. Turner has also played with veterans such as Tyreke Evans, Ty Lawson, Rodney Stuckey, Caris LeVert, Doug McDermott, T.J. Warren and C.J. Miles over the years.

However, one could argue that no teammate has had a greater impact on Turner’s game than his current star running mate: Tyrese Haliburton.

When the Pacers acquired Haliburton from the Sacramento Kings prior to last year’s trade deadline, Turner was ecstatic. He was a fan of Haliburton’s game and potential, and couldn’t wait to team up with the pass-first point guard. Unfortunately, Turner wasn’t able to play alongside Haliburton in the second half of last season due to a stress reaction in his foot.

This year, the Pacers’ one-two punch of Haliburton and Turner has been on full display, and they have become one of the most productive pick-and-roll duos in the NBA.

Turner has set 814 picks for Haliburton, which is the third-most of any pick-and-roll duo in the league, per Second Spectrum. The only tandems who have run the pick-and-roll more are Philadelphia’s James Harden and Joel Embiid (893 picks) and Phoenix’s Chris Paul and Deandre Ayton (897). Possessions featuring a Haliburton-Turner pick-and-roll have generated 1.063 points per possession — the fifth-best PPP of the 24 duos with at least 500 picks.

“This has been a wonderful opportunity for Myles to play with a playmaking guard of Tyrese’s caliber,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle told Basketball News. “A couple weeks ago, we checked and they were top-five or top-six in the league as a successful pick-and-roll connection, and that’s pretty amazing. Myles is getting all different kinds of stuff — he’s getting rolls for dunks, he's getting a little bit of mid-range, he's getting good looks for threes and he's getting some late passes underneath for dunks as well.

"I just love the force that he’s playing with. Tyrese has had a wonderful impact on Myles and certainly the rest of the team, but the connection those two guys have has been special.”

The partnership has been mutually beneficial. Turner gets easy looks from an elite floor general who ranks second among all players in assists per game (10.2) and assist percentage (46.9%), while Haliburton gets a unique big-man partner who can score inside (62.8% on twos) and out (40.3% on threes). It’s no coincidence that both players are having career years. 

Turner is averaging career-highs in points (18.2), rebounds (8.0), field-goal percentage (54.9%), three-point percentage (40.3%) and made threes (1.7), while also contributing 2.3 blocks, 1.4 deflections and 0.6 steals per game. Turner's dominance shows up in his analytics too, as he's posting personal bests in win shares per 48 minutes (.157), Box Plus/Minus (+2.6), True Shooting percentage (65.8%), Player Efficiency Rating (20.6) and total rebound rate (14.7%).

“Myles has blossomed this year. We've seen the relationship with him and Ty; they're one of the best pick-and-roll [duos] in the league right now,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said recently. “This is the beginning of a nice core — no, a great core.” 

Meanwhile, Haliburton became a first-time All-Star after averaging career-highs in points (20.1), assists (10.1) and threes (2.8), while also contributing 3.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest. Haliburton is also posting personal bests in advanced stats like assist percentage (46.9%), PER (23.0), VORP (3.8), BPM (+6.9) and WS/48 (.189).

“It was unfortunate that I didn’t get a chance to play with him last year and really start to develop that synergy, but I think we’ve really picked it up quickly,” Turner told Basketball News. “Ty is someone who’s easy to play with. Obviously, he sees the floor well. And as the season has progressed, we’ve done a better job of communicating with each other. It’s been a fun experience.”

Despite the fact that they’ve only played 44 games together, they have developed a strong connection and can often anticipate each other’s next move.

“I think I know what he’s going to do before he does it in a sense,” Turner said. “I think that just comes with playing with him.”

“We just needed time together, that’s all,” Haliburton told Basketball News. “I feel like I’ve had pretty good chemistry with my bigs throughout my NBA career, and I knew that playing with Myles wasn’t going to be any different. He brings a different dynamic than what I’m used to, with his ability to space the floor. And he’s the best shot-blocker that I’ve ever played with, so that gives me confidence on the defensive end to be able to take more risks and get into the ball a little bit more.

"I think it’s a mutual relationship where he’s got my back and I’ve got his.”

Not too long ago, Turner’s days in Indiana seemed numbered. After all, the team traded away nearly all of its veterans last season (including Sabonis, LeVert, Torrey Craig, Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb), and Turner’s name continued to pop up in trade rumors. However, since Turner is only 26 years old, the Pacers’ brass felt that he could be on a similar timeline as Haliburton, who is 23.

It certainly seems that the Pacers are building around this duo, especially after Turner was given a two-year, $60 million extension in January.

“I’m glad that we got it done. I think it was a win-win for both sides,” Turner said. “I think I have a good relationship with (Pacers owner) Herb Simon, and I think he has a big belief in what I’m capable of as well. I’m glad that we were able to come to terms on an agreement. Behind the scenes, for me personally, I was open to the idea of free agency, but I also wanted to at least give Indy a fair chance, and both sides came to an agreement.

“I’m comfortable. I’m where I want to be. I’m growing with a young team that’s hungry. I think we’re just trying to get better and better every day, and that’s the main goal of this whole thing. I have a lot of belief in this city, a lot of belief in this program and a lot of belief in the guys in this locker room, so that was a big initial factor in me wanting to stay here.”

Since Turner was a popular trade candidate, many fans of other teams got excited about the possibility of him joining their favorite squad. When Turner inked his extension with the Pacers, some of these fans reacted negatively — upset that he was no longer on the market. 

“What fans don’t realize is that this is a business, and both sides have to do what’s best for them,” Turner said. “Sometimes it doesn’t work out where you’re able to stay with the same team, but I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough to be with the same team for my entire career. That’s not something that happens a lot, and I never take that for granted. That was obviously something that went into my decision as well. For the casual fan, they have to realize that while basketball may be a fun game, the business aspect of it will always reign supreme.”

As Turner mentioned, not many players stay with one NBA team for the entirety of their career. He admits that retiring in Indiana would mean a lot to him.

“Yeah, obviously, it’s something that would be very special,” Turner said. “Like I always talk about, the business of basketball always reigns supreme, but my loyalty is with the organization that drafted me and the city that took me in, and hopefully it’s able to stay that way for years to come.” 

Turner has been a part of many different iterations of Pacers basketball. Now, looking at the current pieces around him, he’s excited about the team’s promising future.

“I’ve seen the growth in a lot of our young guys throughout the entire year,” Turner said. “The best thing for them was getting a chance to play early. For Drew [Nembhard], Ben [Mathurin] and those guys, playing heavy minutes early was big for their development, and not every rookie has a chance to do that. The fact that they’re getting battle-tested so early is going to bode well for them.

"I’ve just enjoyed the overall spirit and fight of this team. We’ve got a lot of guys who clock in and work hard day in and day out, and they’re coming in here and getting a chance to compete after working their whole life to get here.”

While playing alongside Haliburton has certainly helped Turner, the big man does deserve a lot of credit for the leap he has taken this season. He’s put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes to maximize his potential and make the most of his opportunity.

“I attribute [my career year] to patience and obviously the hard work I put in over the offseason to prepare for these moments,” Turner explained. “I also attribute it to just the years that I’ve been in the league, where I’ve been able to play out on the perimeter at the 4 position and now I’m able to play my natural position (the 5).

"I’m thankful that I was able to just stick it out those years that I was here and see what the other side of basketball was like, outside of just getting what you want when you want it. I think I waited my turn and, obviously, I’m thriving now, and I’m only hoping to get better from here.”

Nekias Duncan contributed to this article.

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