Every great team needs a closer they can trust with the clock winding down and the ball in his hands.
When crunch time rolls around, championship-caliber teams turn to a player with no fear of failure, willing to risk his own reputation for a shot at glory.
The Lakers have it in Kobe Bryant, the Mavericks have it in Dirk Nowitzki, the Nuggets have it in Carmelo Anthony, and now the Suns may very well have found their Mr. Fourth Quarter in Hedo Turkoglu.
No, the 6-foot-10 playmaker isn’t nearly on the same level as Kobe, Dirk and Carmelo as a player.
But despite a forgettable year in Toronto, Turkoglu possesses the “ice water in your veins” mind-set, and has proven to be basketball’s version of Mariano Rivera at times throughout the last few seasons.
And that closer type is the exact player the Phoenix Suns have always been missing.
They thought they had that in Amare Stoudemire, but STAT’s never-ending disappearing acts in crunch time of playoff games put that notion to rest quickly.
Steve Nash has been unbelievably clutch during his time in Phoenix, but it was hard to rely on a 6-foot-3 point guard to pull up for game-winners night in and night out.
Needless to say, the Suns have been hurting for a Mr. Clutch over the years, but Turkoglu should change that the second he dons the purple and orange.
“I think he’s fearless,” said Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy. “I think he’s got that short memory.”
Thanks to his height and his uncanny ability to create space, Turkoglu has been the guy with the ball in his hands late in games and more often than not he’s delivered. He carried the Orlando Magic to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2008 and the NBA Finals in 2009, nailing a slew of game-winners along the way.
He went off for 25 points and 12 assists in Game 7 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals to propel the Magic over the Celtics and eventually into the Finals. The series before that Turkoglu drilled a three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left in Game 4 against the Sixers to hand the Magic a three-point victory and a 3-1 series lead.
Turkoglu was also stellar in the 2008 playoffs, averaging 17.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.5 assists while playing just under 40 minutes per contest. And the “Turkish Jordan” was even more clutch during the regular season, as he proved to be cold-blooded in crunch time no matter how many bricks he threw up the first 47 minutes.
Not only does he bring that “clutch factor” to the Suns, but he can also serve as another playmaker and ball-handler next to Nash. It’s easy to make the argument that there isn’t room for Turkoglu to handle the ball, but that secondary facilitator, like a Mr. Fourth Quarter, is something the Suns have been missing since Joe Johnson bolted for Atlanta.
When Nash gets bottled up and has nowhere to go, Turkoglu can handle the ball and make plays. He creates huge mismatches and has proven he can facilitate the pick-and-roll effectively, which is highly important in the Suns offense.
So not only does he give the Suns a late-game performer, but he can also serve as that secondary ball-handler the Suns have been missing since Johnson left.
Turkoglu certain has some question marks surrounding him — age, contract, motivation, etc. — but the Suns know for sure that they are getting a player who isn’t afraid to take and make big shots when the game is on the line.
Here are just a few of his late-game heroics during his time with the Orlando Magic:
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