Orlando Magic v Dallas Mavericks

Could Hedo Turkoglu win Most Improved Player within one season?


Our esteemed colleague Rob Mahoney wrote the following last week at the New York Times Off the Dribble blog:

Don’t be fooled: Turkoglu is the same player he was in Phoenix, in Toronto and in his final year in Orlando. And any perceived excellence is a product of some statistical smoke and mirrors. The Magic has shifted Turkoglu back into his former role as a point forward (something he was never fully granted as a member of the Suns or the Raptors), but as far as scoring and efficiency go, there really isn’t any improvement.

via Hedo Turkoglu: Same as He Ever Was – NYTimes.com.

And Mahoney’s words last Friday have held true through another week. Turkoglu is averaging 12.9 points per 36 minutes, which is actually down from Toronto (13.2) and Phoenix (13.5). He’s rebounding at the same rate (5.4) as he did in Toronto, and slightly less than he was in rebound-desperate Phoenix (5.7).

However, one thing Mahoney overlooked and that has come to light, particularly after Turkoglu dished out 17 (!) assists last night in the Magic’s come-from-behind win over the Dirk-less Mavs, is his efficiency. It’s true that Turkoglu isn’t producing at a higher rate than he has in his other locales since leaving Orlando the first time, he’s just getting more minutes. However, he’s a lesser part of the offense in Orlando, and yet is producing more efficiently when he does contribute.

Consider his passing. In Toronto, which was offensively loaded despite not being very good, and which featured a dominant big man (kind of, at least on offense) in Chris Bosh, Turkoglu averaged 4.8 assists per 36 minutes. In Phoenix, again, high-powered offense that can’t stop anybody, just 3.3 assists. In Orlando? 6.6 assists. His Assist Rate (percentage of possessions in which he contributes with an assist) has jumped from 19.5 in Toronto and 13.8 in Phoenix to 29.5 in Orlando since the trade. It’s a small sample size, but it still reflect the change in Hedo since coming back to The Kingdom.

He’s also shooting at a better clip. His eFG% which factors in three-point shooting was an abysmal 49% in Toronto and 57% in Phoenix. In Orlando so far it’s 58%. He’s taking fewer shots and hitting more of them. Isn’t that what you want from a role player you’ve brought in?

It’s not just offense where he’s become more efficient. In Toronto, via Synergy Sports, Turkoglu gave up .94 points per possession. InPhoenix? A dreadful 1.02. But in Orlando, so far he’s giving up just. .90 points per possession which is very solidly average. He’s taken away one of his worst features and improved in that area considerably. Most notably, Turkoglu is only giving up .64 points per possession, forcing opponents into a 33% shooting clip. It’s again, a small sample size, but it speaks of the effort and how Turkoglu fits in.

Basically, Turkoglu has returned to being a smarter, more efficient player who contributes more to the offense. It makes you wonder if a player can win Most Improved due to declining in production and then kicking it up, within one season. If so, Turkoglu makes a compelling case, especially with the Magic 9-1 since his return.

And that’s on Stan Van Gundy. For a guy who is so often criticized for “panicking” and getting players to tune out, or whatever nonsense is being lobbed his way this week, SVG gets guys to thrive in their roles. And talking to coaches, that’s a refrain they’re constantly committed to. So the fact that Turkoglu is back in the old system, over a year and a half later, picking up where he left off and producing in meaningful ways for the Magic says a lot about SVG’s system and his ability to incorporate players’ talents.

For all the talk about players leaving Orlando for bigger markets, maybe Dwight Howard should consider that before he jets off for parts unknown. Turkoglu’s a great example of why he may wind up wishing he was still clowning with Mickey.

(All per-minute and efficiency stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)

Kings pick up option on G Ben McLemore

Ben McLemore, Rodney Hood
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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento have picked up the 2016-17 option on guard Ben McLemore‘s contract.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Saturday.

McLemore was Sacramento’s first-round pick in 2013. He averaged 12.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.7 assists last season.

Paul George reiterates “I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot”

Paul George

In the Pacers first exhibition game of the season Saturday against the Pelicans, Paul George started at the power forward spot and looked healthy — that should be the big takeaway. He also showed off his offensive game in the first quarter, eventually finishing the night with 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. He forced some shots in the second half and had some defensive challenges, but it was a solid outing for a first preseason game.

George did not see it that way, and that will end up being the big takeaway.

He complained about playing power forward during training camp and given the chance after this one game he did it again, as reported by Candace Buckner of the Indy Star.

“I don’t know if I’m cut out for a four spot,” George said after the Pacers’ 110-105 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans, a game in which he started matched up against 6-foot-11 All-Star Anthony Davis.

“I don’t know if this is my position. We’ll sit and watch tape and I’m sure I’ll talk with coach (Frank Vogel). I’ll talk with Larry (Bird) as well to get both their inputs on how the first game went but…I’m still not comfortable with it regardless of the situation. It’s still something I have to adjust to or maybe not. Or maybe it’s something we can go away from.”

George sees himself as a wing, where he has played his entire career. He doesn’t like defending traditional fours, as a scorer he doesn’t like expending all that energy defending pick-and-rolls and banging with bigger bodies. He’s been clear about that.

He still needs to be open to the idea. How much time George gets at the four on any given night should depend on the matchup — and Anthony Davis is about as rough a matchup as he is going to see. Davis scored 18 points in 15 minutes, and the Pelicans controlled the paint against the small-ball Pacers. George had a hard time defending Davis — welcome to a rather large club, PG. That said, George scored 12 points in the first quarter mostly with Davis on him, he pulled the big out in space and got what he wanted.

Back to the matchups point, George will struggle defensively against the best fours in the game (most of whom are in the West). But what about the nights in the East when George would be matched up on Thaddeus Young from Brooklyn, Jared Sullinger (or David Lee, or whoever) from Boston, or Aaron Gordon with the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks when they play small? There are a lot of lineups the Pacers will see where George at the four makes sense.

The Pacers are transitioning from a plodding and defensive-minded squad to a more up-tempo style, and that’s going to take time— a lot more than one preseason game. However, if George is throwing cold water on the plan after this one effort, it might take a lot longer and be a lot bumpier to make that transition than we pictured.