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I have two very simple observations regarding Hedo Turkoglu at the moment. The first is that he is showing signs of improvement, and the second is that he is not back to 2009 form.
Obviously the first things to take notice of are Turk’s offensive improvements. He’s scoring at a more efficient clip than he has the past two seasons, and is seemingly more comfortable in the offense after his brief but destructive departure from Orlando.
You have to start by looking at his PER, which is currently just under 17, two points above the league average, and several points above where he finished last year. Of course, PER is weighted mostly for offense and doesn’t tell the whole story of a player’s game, but if we’re looking at this number strictly on the basis of improvement, it’s compelling to see that number above his past three seasons (all below 15).
Perhaps a more important sign of improvement is Turk’s shooting percentage from pretty much everywhere on the court. His True Shooting percentage is the highest it’s ever been in his career, which basically confirms that we’re getting a more efficient output from Turk. Granted, he may not be stuffing the stat line like you’d want a fantasy starter to, but efficiency is the name of the game in Orlando. And really, has Turk ever been a stat stuffer? No. That’s not why we like him. We like him because he does things right.
The Magic simply cannot afford empty possessions this season, because aside from Dwight they simply don’t have the star power to fill it up and rely on volume offense to win games. While Stan Van Gundy would like Orlando to be a defense-oriented team, the focus on offense simply needs to be efficiency and execution on each possession. That’s one of the reasons why it is so crucial for guys like Turk to be efficient rather than “high-volume,” or, worse yet, “passive.”
As far as intangibles I think Turk’s body language on the court this season speaks volumes. He’s more comfortable, more confident, and more apt to perform well in the SVG system. You’d be hard pressed to make an argument that he’s back to swag city like in 2009, but he appears to be getting there. Improvement!
However, the big sign that Turk is not back to his 2009 form is his defense. Granted, defense is super hard to quantify, and even harder to assess this early in the season, but there are a few signs that his contributions on the defensive end are less than stellar.
For one thing, the Magic’s defense is 6.75 points worse per 100 possessions when Turkoglu is on the floor (as opposed to being 2.76 points better per 100 possessions in 2009). Turk’s rebounding numbers are fairly abysmal at this point also. His defensive rebounding percentage is 9.6 percent, which comes to about four rebounds per game for him, and lower than his career percentage of 13.8 percent. That’s going to absolutely kill the Magic being that he’s averaging 32 minutes per game right now. That number will just have to go up. Turk has a career built on being a blue-collar guy who is going to do the little things right for the team. Rebounding is huge, and since he’s a long three who often gets matched with smaller opponents, Orlando simply can’t live without his contributions on the glass.
Again, it’s early and this is nearly impossible to assess holistically, but these are the numbers at the moment, which supports the argument at hand — that Turk is not back at 2009 form yet.
Magic fans know that Turk is a “gotta have him” guy on this roster. It has to be encouraging to see his offensive numbers go up, his confidence come back, and his swagger on the rise. Look for Turk to start banging on the glass more often, though. With Orlando ranked 21st overall defensively, you can bet that SVG is going to crack the whip and some changes will start being made on the defensive end. For most coaches, this starts with rebounding. And if Turk’s defense improves, we can start talking about 2009 again.
Nate Drexler is a contributing writer for Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.