Turner is right pick for team nobody used to care about

For Sixers fans attending the draft party last night at the Wachovia Center, there was no question about the preferred choice.
For Sixers fans attending the draft party last night at the Wachovia Center, there was no question about the preferred choice.
Posted: June 25, 2010

JRUE HOLIDAY delivered his first assist to Evan Turner more than a month before they officially became teammates.

In May, when the Sixers sent their rookie point guard to Secaucus, N.J., to be their good-luck charm at the NBA lottery, Holiday had only one mission.

"Everybody told me to go up there and look for Evan," Holiday said last night after the Sixers selected Turner with the second pick in the draft. "We wanted the No. 2 pick.

"Yes, we wanted to shoot for No. 1, but everyone was saying, 'Evan Turner.' "

Being a savvy point guard doesn't only mean knowing who to deliver the ball to. Sometimes it means knowing who not to give it to.

With the No. 1 overall pick, the Sixers almost would have been forced to select Kentucky freshman John Wall. As expected, he went first to the Washington Wizards. That could have proved problematic, since Wall is a point guard and Holiday was already tagged as the Sixers' point guard of the present and foreseeable future.

The No. 2 pick was simple; there was little to debate about whom the Sixers would take.

In Turner, the consensus National Player of the Year at Ohio State, the Sixers saw a guy who could team with Holiday and potentially develop into their best backcourt tandem since Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney.

"[Turner] was the college player of the year," Holiday said. "He obviously knows what he is doing. He knows how to play, and he's definitely an all-around player. That's something we need."

In the end, it was anticlimactic, which is just the way it needed to be. There was no need for a last-second curveball, not when the fastball would work so well.

The Sixers did what they hinted they would do, practically screamed what they would do.

Turner was the safe pick, but he was also the smart pick. Maybe if the situation were different, the Sixers could have afforded to take a gamble on the potential upside of Georgia Tech freshman forward Derrick Favors, who was selected third overall by the New Jersey Nets, or Syracuse swingman Wesley Johnson, who went fourth to the Minnesota Timberwolves, or even Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins, the fifth pick to Sacramento.

But it wasn't different. None of those guys was as sure a bet as Turner, and the Sixers were not in a position to roll the dice. This is a team coming off a 27-55 season, its worst since 1996-97.

This is a franchise that has lost the faith of its fan base.

This was a night when a spark needed to be struck, and for the first time in a long time, the Sixers delivered one.

"Most definitely," Holiday said when asked if he felt there was a new level of excitement about the Sixers. "Ever since we got the No. 2 pick.

"I know [Sixers president/general manager] Ed Stefanski was ecstatic. I was a little shocked. It was a great feeling."

Right now, nobody knows if Turner is the answer to the Sixers' problems. He isn't a young Shaquille O'Neal, and the Sixers have more issues than one player can solve. Still, this was a step in the right direction.

Turner is the first collegiate player to average at least 20 points, nine rebounds and six assists since Oscar Robertson at Cincinnati in 1959-60.

"We are very excited to select a player with the all-around skill and talent of Evan Turner," Stefanski said. "We think he will step in from the first day and make an impact for this team on both ends of the floor."

That's the hope, and hope is something Sixers fans have not had much of lately.

We'll start to find out soon enough whether Turner is the real deal, but for the moment it is enough that the Sixers delivered the guy most believe can be a significant piece in changing the culture and fortunes of this franchise.

After spinning in place for so many seasons, the wheels of the Sixers look like they might begin moving again. They hired Doug Collins, a solid coach and former Sixer, someone in whom the fans have confidence. This comes after the one-season debacle that was the Eddie Jordan era, which cannot be underestimated.

Hiring Collins can be viewed in the same way as the hiring of Larry Brown in 1997 to clean up the mess created by the failure of GM Brad Greenberg and coach Johnny Davis.

Drafting Turner keeps that positive momentum going.

It all started with Holiday lobbying the perfect alley-oop pass to a guy who wasn't yet his teammate.

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

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