Hidayet “Hedo” Turkoglu, somehow stuck with the Turkish Michael Jordan tag, was acquired by the Toronto Raptors
on July 9, 2009 in a free agent turned complicated sign and trade deal.
Having just turned 30 years old in March, the 6’ 10” 220 lb Turkoglu is coming off his best 2 seasons in the NBA, including a Most Improved Player award in 2008. Previously his accolades were mostly restricted to being the best all-round Turkish born basketball player ever but perhaps there was something holding him back.
Hedo Turkoglu played four seasons with the European club, Efes Pilsen helping them reach the Euroleague final 4 in 2000 by averaging 13.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and 1.8 steals. Later at the 2000 NBA Draft, Turkoglu was the Kings first round pick 16th overall.
Turkoglu got off to a slow start in the NBA. In his rookie campaign he averaged 5.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 16.8 minutes and while that garnered him an all-rookie 2nd team selection, those numbers aren’t inspiring.
In his 2nd NBA season, Turkoglu doubled his statistical production across the board in only 24.6 minutes per game and 6th man consideration was in order. But this success was short lived and the following season his numbers dropped precariously close to his rookie production. Hedo found himself with a total of 9 DNP-CDs in 2002-03.
Shipped off to the Spurs in an off season trade, Hedo finally found his 3-point range and finished the 2003-04 campaign 8th in the NBA for 3-point shooting percentage at 41.9%. His other stats bounced back too averaging 9.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1 steal in 25.9 minutes. But when the Magic made him a lucrative off season offer, the Spurs declined to match.
The Magic got everything they paid for and more from signing Turkoglu. In 5 seasons, Turkoglu has averaged 15.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 0.8 steals. He played over 30 minutes a game in each of the past 4 seasons and missed an average of only 4.5 games in that stretch.
Hedo Turkoglu has unquestionably played his best basketball under Stan Van Gundy in the past two years when more emphasis was placed on his point forward skills. After winning the MIP award in 2008, Turkoglu kept pace in 2008-09 by being third on his team in scoring (1,294) and rebounding (410), and first in assists (375) during the regular season. He repeated this feat in the Magic’s run to the NBA finals with 378 points (3rd), 109 rebounds (3rd), and 116 assists (1st).
Maybe it was the disappointment of losing in the finals to the Lakers, but the Magic made no real effort to re-sign Turkoglu when he declared his free agent status. And when Turkoglu rejected Portland’s offer, there were reports that the Magic’s GM Otis Smith had said the Blazers “weren’t missing out on anything” (Realgm.com – Alex Kennedy). But when the trade occurred, Smith said “Hedo was a big part of our success and did a lot for our organization during his five seasons here” (orlandomagic.com)
In the NBA’s recently posted top 10 Magic plays for 2008-09, Hedo Turkoglu is featured showing:
* His block from behind on Kobe in the finals;
* A not so rare alley-oop pass to Howard;
* A pass to Lewis for a 3;
* His part in the Magic’s record setting 22 3-pointers in a game; and,
* The Magic season’s no. 1 play, Hedo hitting the dagger 3 against the 76ers in the playoffs (as seen on Raptors
On Hedo Turkoglu’s arrival in Toronto, Bryan Colangelo, Raptors
President and General Manager is quoted as saying, “We are very pleased to have landed one of the top free agents available this summer.”
went all out in their official press conference reception for Turkoglu. Held in the Raptors’ gym with dozens of Raptors
summer basketball campers and numerous media types, Hedo Turkoglu was given as much of a hero’s welcome as any newly signed player in the franchise’s history.
Raptor fans can expect this 40% 3-point shooter, who makes 80% of his free throws and is a premier point forward to make Toronto’s above average screen and roll offense amongst the best in the league next season. Jay Triano has already been quoted as saying that they be importing Orlando’s “Zipper” and “Thumb Down 35 Special” plays that were designed to work to Turkoglu’s strengths.
The most common knock on Turkoglu has been aimed at his defense and rebounding. Since Turkoglu is coming from a top 6 defensive club, this seems just a little overblown. As a small forward, Turkoglu is often set against some of the better scoring players in the league. While he isn’t considered exceptionally quick or athletic, Hedo does have a high basketball IQ and is taller than many at his position.
Comparing Hedo to the other small forwards in the eastern conference, his combined (pts/rbs/ast) stat line is superior to veterans like Tayshaun Prince, Shawn Marion, and Luol Deng. Even Rashard Lewis and Richard Jefferson’s totals were lower.
But a more interesting comparison is how the other starting small forwards scored against Hedo Turkoglu and the Magic last season. Taken as a group, the starting small forwards scored on average 1 point less than their season averages against the Magic. Most were within 3 points of their regular season stats. Small forwards who really struggled against Turkoglu and the Magic were Gerald Wallace (-6.3 ppg), Luol Deng (-8.6 ppg) and Caron Bulter (-3.5 ppg). Better than average success went to Wilson Chandler (+4.6 ppg), Tayshaun Prince (+3.4 ppg) and Paul Pierce (+2.8 ppg).
A more accurate description of Turkoglu’s defensive abilities may be that he is an average rebounder for a small forward, he has the length and smarts to bother the shooting of most wing players, and he can defend well within a system.
Hedo Turkoglu started playing his best NBA ball after the Magic turned him into their point forward and asked him to help facilitate their offense. And Jay Triano has wasted no time in pointing out that the Raptors
will often be using him in the exactly same manner.
Fans will be expecting much from their team’s big free agent acquisition and it seems highly likely that Hedo Turkoglu will deliver.