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Hollinger: Turkoglu makes Raptors one of the best shooting teams but...?
Anyone who saw the footage of Hedo Turkoglu meeting Blazers bigwigs at Portland International Airport on Thursday had to get a little bit of a weird feeling. Especially any married guys. Turkoglu came alone, amid rumors that his wife very strongly preferred to be in Toronto, and I remember thinking at that very moment that the Blazers' recruiting pitch was doomed to failure. It was going to be tough to sell her on the charms of Portland if she wasn't there.
Thus, despite two days of Chamber of Commerce weather here in the Rose City, replete with blue skies and Mt. Hood views, and tours of the Blazers' first-rate training facility in Tualatin, Turkoglu isn't coming to the Blazers. After an 11th-hour Boozerang that will forever immortalize him as "Hedon't" in the local vernacular, the Turkoglus are heading to Toronto instead -- a place they never visited on this free-agent tour, apparently because they didn't need to be sold on it.
In doing so, they've upset the entire apple cart of free agency. Collateral casualties include Shawn Marion, who seemed hours from a deal worth at least $36 million with the Raptors and now is likely to be scrounging around for the midlevel exception; the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were working on a sign-and-trade for Anthony Parker that now probably has no chance of happening; and Linas Kleiza, whose strongest suitor appeared to be the Raptors until Hedo's last-second change of heart.
Meanwhile, there are some huge winners, too -- most notably David Lee, Paul Millsap, Ramon Sessions and Andre Miller. Those free agents are some of the best remaining on the market, and they were about to be put in a really tight spot if Turkoglu went to Portland and the Raptors re-signed Marion. At that point, the market would have been an uncomfortable place for the top players to be, because the teams with cap space don't appear eager to use it.
In particular, while the Turkoglu drama played out Friday night, my sources informed me that Oklahoma City -- the team with the biggest stack of chips remaining -- is highly unlikely to splurge this summer. Given that the best available young players (Millsap, Lee, Sessions) would be poor fits on the Thunder's roster, OKC plans to continue with its patient approach rather than overpaying for parts that don't fit especially well.
The Thunder will be value players rather than big-game hunters, looking for opportunistic deals between now and the trade deadline. A year from now, they could have as much as $20 million in cap space, two lottery picks (theirs and Phoenix's) in a strong draft, and one of the league's best young rosters. About the only way to screw it up would be to force a big contract into the picture this summer, and with the team already selling out every game, they don't see any need to rush it.
If the Thunder are on the sidelines for big-name free agents, it's hard to see who besides Portland is left in the game. Sacramento has cap space but is in dire straits financially, while the Grizzlies made the questionable choice to forsake a power-forward-laden free-agent market so they could overpay Zach Randolph.
As for the Blazers, they can go in several directions from here, and can at least take comfort in the fact that they control the free-agent game until they make their next move. Portland might want to go after Sessions, a good young point guard who fills their need for a second quality pick-and-roll player -- albeit at a different position than Turkoglu.
They may also decide to punt on free agency and hope to play the trade market, but that's a risky strategy. If they don't get something done by the trade deadline, the opportunity will basically be gone forever because next year extensions for Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge will kick in, and it's not clear that somebody who fits what they need will become available.
They might also try to make a long-shot run at Lamar Odom, perhaps the best player left on the board and one who, like Turkoglu, could provide another offensive creator while swinging between the two forward spots. But the rainy weather and a location 90 minutes inland don't exactly jibe with Odom's stated preference to live on the beach. The most likely outcome of an Odom pursuit would be driving up the price for the rival Lakers.
Alternatively, the Blazers could try to target a sixth-man shot creator like New York's Nate Robinson, or make a run at Philadelphia's Miller, the latter not a great fit, in my opinion, but a possibility given their need at the point.
As for Toronto, Turkoglu doesn't remedy the team's glaring lack of athleticism, but it does give the team a sorely needed offensive initiator on the wings. The Raptors needed to make some aggressive moves to try to keep Chris Bosh from leaving next summer, and Turkoglu will combine with Bosh, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani to give Toronto one of the league's best-shooting teams.
However, those four may not have any decent teammates, because it looks like Toronto will have to gut much of the roster to create the cap space for Turkoglu. Toronto is reportedly offering Turkoglu a five-year, $52 million deal, which means they might have to renounce the rights to Marion, Carlos Delfino, Parker and Joey Graham (as well as Quincy Douby, Jake Voskuhl and Pops Mensah-Bonsu) and round out the roster with minimum-salary players. Turkoglu and 19-year-old rookie DeMar DeRozan would be the only wings on the roster.
Seen in that light, this looks like a terrible move. Toronto could have re-signed Marion, Parker and Delfino and then used its midlevel exception to add Kleiza and possibly another player, making the Raptors a much deeper and well-balanced team. Instead, they've possibly left themselves extremely thin nearly everywhere, just for the privilege of overpaying a 30-year-old non-star for the next half-decade.
I say "possibly" because there are some ways out of this scenario. For starters, if the cap number came in higher than expected July 8 and the Raptors worked Turkoglu's deal as a sign-and-trade with Orlando (generating a huge trade exception and, say, the rights to Greek big man Georgios Printezis for the Magic), they might also be able to re-sign Delfino, a restricted free agent.
And if they could do it as a sign-and-trade involving Marion or Parker, it would open up more avenues for the Magic to retain some talent. It's not clear that Orlando would have a use for Marion, or whether the tax-paying Magic would be willing to take on any salary at all.
But it's possible they would have some use for a player like Parker in particular, who would fill Courtney Lee's role as a defensive ace and knock-down shooter. If not, involving a third team might be able to get them a player they covet more. Over the next several days, I'm sure both Toronto and Orlando will be looking hard at these possibilities -- and that Marion's agent, Dan Fegan, will be looking even harder.
That is one of the great unknowns heading toward July 8, and until we learn more about the final terms, it's tough to totally evaluate how this move works out for the Raptors.
In the meantime, all that seems certain is that the Blazers have been jilted, the Thunder are sitting this one out, and the ground has shifted unexpectedly for countless free agents around the league as a result. As we head past Independence Day, that's the state of the NBA union … at least, until the next time somebody changes his mind.
This was posted word for word from a poster at RealGm, but no link is available because it's an "Insider" article.
Last edited by jeffb; 07-06-2009 at 04:12 PM.