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|Hedo Turkoglu’s best season with the Magic
When I think of Hedo Turkoglu in a Magic uniform, a few things come to mind.
I think of 2008 when Turkoglu had the best season of his career.
That’s when Stan Van Gundy helped transform Turkoglu from a spot-up shooter under Brian Hill’s regime into an efficient scorer and dynamic playmaker. Turkoglu became a matchup nightmare in the league because of his ability to run pick-and-rolls as a 6-foot-10 point forward with Dwight Howard (and by extension, pick-and-pops with Rashard Lewis).
Not only that but Turkoglu also became a reliable crunch time player. Van Gundy didn’t hesitate putting the ball in Turkoglu’s hands in the clutch and letting him work his magic. Turkoglu did his part by not shying away from the responsiblity and stepping up to the challenge.
Turkoglu elevating his level of play in the fourth quarter became an expectation and game-winning shots, like his memorable shot against the Boston Celtics (who would later go on to win the NBA title that year) on a nationally televised game on ABC, seemingly became the norm. It’s why Magic fans began to refer to Turkoglu as “Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
It’s also why those noteworthy moments, coupled with his evolution as a player, led to Turkoglu winning the 2008 Most Improved Player award.
I also think of 2009 when Turkoglu helped lead the Orlando Magic to the Finals.
Even though Turkoglu had an underwhelming regular season, partly due to Jameer Nelson’s brief flirtation with being an All-Star point guard but mostly due to Turkoglu’s regression to the mean after a career year, he picked the exact right moments to make his presence felt in the playoffs.
Like in Game 4 against the Sixers in the first round. With Orlando staring a 3-1 series deficit right in the face, Turkoglu made a game-winning shot that arguably saved the Magic’s season. It also created an indelible image that the Magic fan base will not soon forget.
Or Game 7 against the Celtics in the Conference Semifinals. Turkoglu had the game of his life, putting up 25 points on 9-for-12 shooting from the floor (including 10 points in the fourth quarter), 12 assists, and three rebounds. Not only did Turkoglu help Orlando defy long odds (heading into the game, the Celtics were 32-0 all-time when leading a series 3-2), but he helped close out Boston on the road.
Or Game 2 against the Cavaliers in the Conference Finals. Everyone remembers “The Shot” from LeBron James, but not everyone remembers Turkoglu scoring the go-ahead bucket with 1 second left in regulation before James’ game-winning shot. Had it not been for James’ miracle, Turkoglu would have been the hero once again for the Magic.
Or even Game 2 against the Lakers in the Finals. In the span of roughly five seconds, Turkoglu blocked Kobe Bryant’s potential game-winning shot at the end of regulation, had the presence of mind to call a timeout, then was the man that delivered the pass when Courtney Lee missed a difficult game-winning alley-oop layup on a last-second sideline-out-of-bounds play. It’s an impressive sequence, even though Orlando ultimately lost the game.
Turkoglu’s second go-around with the Magic, after being acquired from the Phoenix Suns in a midseason trade in 2011, wasn’t as memorable or successful as his first stint. That much is certain.
Which is why, when looking back at Turkoglu’s tenure with Orlando when it’s all said and done, Magic fans will remember that two-year stretch in 2008 and 2009. They’ll remember the game-winning shots, the “Mr. Fourth Quarter” moniker, the Most Improved Player award, the Finals run, the list can go on for a while.
That’s Turkoglu’s legacy.
Voter breakdown for Hedo Turkoglu
|Average rank: 9.2
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Thanks to Daniel Myers, Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference, and Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for contributing to the project.