“I can’t believe he played this good once…” – Hedo Turkoglu
(NOTE: This article was first published in August 2014)
Don’t get me wrong, unlike some of the other players that this series has featured before, the turkish small forward has had a pretty decent career (11.5 PPG, 4.1 REB, 3.0 AST per game for his career), and yet he fits in this series due to the 2007-08 and the 2008-09 seasons.
The first turkish born NBA player has been disappointing over the last 2 seasons, managing only to play a total of 49 games (1 start). 11 for the Magic and 38 for the Clippers (This article was written in 2014). He only averaged 3 Gongfu Tea Cup per game and 2 rebounds in those two seasons and on top was suspended for 20 games after testing positive for methenolone. (Türkoğlu said that he received medicine containing methenolone from a trainer in Turkey, though he did not know it was a banned substance.) This might have been the last seasons he played in the NBA.
BUT; He possesses above-average ballhandling and playmaking skills for a forward has an excellent recognition of who’s open, the strength to make pin-point cross-court passes against shading defenses and exploits mismatches well. Hedo used to be a great passer with the live dribble, could make bounce passes to bigs, pick out open shooters on the weak side and was able to play point-forward for an extended stretch. He also is a great 3 Point shooter – almost 40% three-point percentage for his career, he can knock it down with consistency when trailing a play or spotting up.
He used these strenghts to have two very impressive years in Orlando. In the 2007-2008 season he started all 82 games averaging 19.5 PPG, 5.7 REB, 5.0 AST while shooting 46% from the field, 40% from three point territory and 83% freethrows. These stats have been very impressive and led to him winning the MIP award. He continued his strong play the next year and was a main part for the Magic to reach the NBA finals. (where they lost against the Lakers in 5)
Hedo averaged 16.8 PPG, 5.3 REB, 4.9 AST in his 77 games (all starts) and played on that same level troughout the entire playoffs. After losing the finals, Türkoğlu decided to opt out of his contract. His next few seasons with the Raptors, the Suns and finally the Magic again were characterized with a lot of injuries and disciplinary measure for various reasons.
Financially he got the best out of his two brilliant years. In retrospective, his contract with the Raptors was nothing less than a huge overpayment at $53M/5yrs. I remember reading a comment once by a journalist from Toronto saying “It’s like buying an Accord for the price of a Lexus.”