Hedo Turkoglu’s Versatility Has Been Key For The Magic

During Hedo Turkoglu’s first stint with the Orlando Magic, versatility was one of his biggest assets.

Having a ball handler that is a more-than-capable 3-point shooter who stands 6’10 is extremely rare. In fact, it’s nearly unheard of but that’s exactly what Turkoglu brings to the Magic.

During his second stint with the Magic, Turkoglu is showing that nothing has changed.

During Monday night’s victory over the Golden State Warriors, Turkoglu had one of the finest all-around statistical performances of his career. Turkoglu posted his third career triple-double, scoring 10 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 14 rebounds to go with 5 steals.

“He certainly made some big plays tonight,” Magic Head Coach Stan Van Gundy said following Monday’s victory. “His versatility is showing.”

Turkoglu’s versatility has already helped the Magic in several different ways but the biggest improvement he’s brought to the club has to be his ability to pass the ball.

“His passing on the pick-and-rolls is outstanding,” Van Gundy explained. “He’s able to get the ball in to Dwight [Howard] and he’s able to look people off and make passes to guys for 3.”

The team has had a problem making solid entry passes to their franchise player. Although they had some turnover issues in the paint during the first half of Monday’s game, Howard still shot 7-of-9 from the field and got to the free throw line 12 times. He finished with 22 points.

Howard Is going to have continue to have production like that for the Magic to meet their ultimate goal of winning a championship this season. And Turkoglu makes doing so much easier.

Not only has Turkoglu made better entry passes down low to Howard but he has been able to open up the paint for his big man but running pick-and-rolls with him, penetrating the defense and getting into the paint. That in turn, has allowed the Magic to space things out offensively.

Howard hasn’t been the only benefactor of Turkoglu’s passing. The Magic have averaged 107.5 points per game during their six-game win streak and have looked like the same sharp-shooting team we have come to know over the last few seasons. The Magic made 15 more 3-pointers during Monday night’s victory.

“All I have to do is make them catch the ball in the right place at the right time,” Turkoglu said. “I’ve always had a lot of confidence in my teammates so all I have to do is create a shot for them and expect them to make it.”

When Van Gundy had his first press conference following the deals that brought Turkoglu back to Orlando, he said he love for Turkoglu to really crash the boards and help his team rebound the ball better. Although he did make a joke about it that drew laughter from the media, he was serious about his team’s rebounding problems and has consistently asked for a better effort on the glass. Turkoglu has delivered on that request, including that 14-rebound performance Monday. He’s averaged 6.8 rebounds per game during the winning streak and has grabbed at least 6 boards in five of his games with the team.

Despite his 5 steals Monday, Turkoglu is known for his offensive prowess and has never been confused for a defensive stopper – he has a reputation for being a bit lazy on that end of the floor.

That’s not necessarily the case. Turkoglu’s length and size usually gives him an advantage against his man but in just his second game back with the team, he drew the challenge of guarding one of the league’s best and most efficient players in Dallas Mavericks Forward Dirk Nowitzki. Despite losing the game, Turkoglu did as good of a job as one could possibly ask for, holding Nowitzki to just 17 points on 4-of-13 shooting in 37 minutes.

Performances like that have enabled Van Gundy to play Turkoglu at both small forward and power forward. Although he remains primarily a small forward, Turkoglu played at power forward throughout that matchup with Dallas. It’s given Van Gundy confidence to put Turkoglu at the 4 when the situation calls for it and trust him to perform well there.

Most consider Turkoglu’s improved play nothing more than a product of Orlando’s system. There’s obviously some truth to that but Turkoglu has worked hard to get into better shape. There have been jokes about his work ethic and a running joke was Turkoglu was “still getting into shape during the postseason.”

This season, he made a concerted effort to get into shape, even giving up his favorite food – pizza.

“The one thing that’s better with Turk is he’s been out of shape for all these years,” Howard said. “Now he’s like 8% body fat which is the lowest since he’s been alive.”

Of course, it isn’t all perfect for Turkoglu.

Consistency has been a problem for Turkoglu throughout his career.

“I like what he’s doing but I’m not satisfied,” Howard said. “I want him to do that every night for our team. For us to be a winning team, he has to bring that kind of energy every night.”

All Magic fans (and NBA fans in general for that matter) are familiar with Turkoglu’s plays that make you scratch your head and say “what?”

“Well he makes a lot of good plays,” Van Gundy said. “But he makes some crazy plays. I just want to qualify that, it’s a roll-of-the-dice, but I feel the odds are pretty good.”

If the Magic are going to continue to get results like this, Van Gundy will have no problem continuing to roll the dice.

News & Notes:

  • It was Turkoglu’s third career triple-double.
  • Both of his previous triple-doubles came when he played for the Magic and were just over a month apart. He scored 23 points, dished out 13 assists and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Atlanta Hawks on March 10, 2008 and had 13 points, 13 assists and 12 rebounds against the Dallas Mavericks on February 3rd, 2008.
  • Dwight Howard had the last Magic triple-double on November 12th, 2008 against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He scored 30 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked 10 shots.
  • Tracy McGrady, Bo Outlaw, Anfernee Hardaway and Scott Skiles each had two triple-double with the Magic.
  • Turkoglu is now ninth on the Magic’s all-time games played list (385) after passing Scott Skiles Monday night.
  • All eight Magic rotation players scored in double figures Monday night (Howard 22, Jason Richardson 20, Ryan Anderson 13, J.J. Redick 13, Gilbert Arenas 11, Jameer Nelson 11, Brandon Bass 10, and Turkoglu 10).
  • The Magic are 8-1 when six or more players score in double figures this season.
  • The win was Orlando’s sixth straight victory.The Magic also won six consecutive games from November 24ththrough December 3rd.