Three questions about Hedo Turkoglu’s fit with the Phoenix Suns

PHOENIX — A year ago Hedo Turkoglu was the prize of the free agent market, a player who left Portland fans steaming for jilting them at the altar and Toronto fans rejoicing upon his signing.

Turkoglu was supposed to be the missing piece in a high-scoring Toronto offense that finally had the punch to make a playoff push in the Eastern Conference.

Instead his contract became the flop of the offseason and Raptors fans could not be more ecstatic about his departure.

“Sometimes the best-laid plans go amiss,” said Lon Babby, the Suns’ new president of basketball operations and Hedo’s former agent. “I’m not sure he was quite where he needed to be when he arrived in Toronto and then I think there were issues that arose in Toronto, the way they used him and other things. It’s just one of those things that didn’t work out.”

Dodgers owners Frank and Jamie McCourt’s marriage ended more gracefully than Hedo in Toronto. He wasn’t happy with his situation, and nobody in Canada seemed to be able to stand him either.

He wasn’t happy with how he was used and the situation soon snowballed. Then a few non-basketball incidents irked the Toronto fans, and next thing you know Turkoglu was willing to waive guaranteed money to get a trade done, something he didn’t even think twice about because he said his happiness is more important than the extra millions.

When he heard the Suns were interested, he had one simple message for his agent Jim Tanner: “Just make it happen.”

“Right now I’m in the best situation,” Turkoglu said. “Who wouldn’t want to be here? I’m glad we worked it out. I’m glad that it worked out for both sides.”

Of course, a year ago Babby was telling that “he simply decided Toronto was a better fit,” so it would be difficult to judge the Suns’ acquisition of Turkoglu on this very day that he was announced.

From speaking with Hedo today, he truly seems ecstatic to be playing in Phoenix with Steve Nash and a squad whose chemistry should rival the good vibes felt by Hedo’s successful Magic teams. He said all the right things and seems to truly want to fit in to the culture the Suns developed last season.

There are many reasons to believe Turkoglu and the Suns will be a match, but I have three major questions that will largely determine whether this was a savvy move or a major mistake:

Will Hedo be happy with his role?

One of the biggest reasons Turkoglu was unhappy in Toronto reportedly was because he did not get to handle the ball and be a playmaker as much as he would like.

Suns head coach Alvin Gentry spoke at length today about wanting to move Steve Nash off the ball more, saying, “He’s so great with the ball, but I think everyone forgets that he’s probably one of the two best shooters in the league.”

This is true, and a two-pronged attack with Nash and Turkoglu creating and spotting up with each other could be lethal, but what if Hedo decides too much of the playmaking responsible falls with Nash and Goran Dragic?

This won’t be an issue if Hedo exhibits the attitude he spoke of this afternoon and Nash is so good at keeping everything happy that perhaps there should not be much reason for concern. Plus, Hedo referred to Nash as the best point guard in the league and he figures to command more respect from Turkoglu than Jose Calderon did.

Gentry also plans to take advantage of his unique talents in so many different ways that it would be hard for him to complain about being underutilized.

“He’s such a versatile player that we can use him as a ball handler, we can use him as a screener, we can use him as a spot-up shooter, we can isolate him on the elbow and take advantage of a lot of things that he can do,” Gentry said. “I just think that he’s one of those players that can keep us at the level that we were at last year.”

Can he play the four?

This perhaps is the biggest question mark of all. Although Gentry asked a reporter how he’s so sure Turkoglu will be logging more time at the four, common sense and the Suns’ roster glut of small forwards dictates that Hedo will be seeing significant time at the power forward spot barring another move.

Turkoglu himself said he “doesn’t mind” playing the four, and Gentry said he expects Turkoglu to play the two, three, four and maybe even the five in certain situations, describing him as a “utility infielder” type of player.

“Whatever you need at that particular time I think you can plug him in,” Gentry said. “That’s why we were so excited about having him.”

Added Babby, “I think one thing that happens with Hedo is you watch him on the floor and you watch how well he handles the ball and how fluid he is with his movements and how talented he is and you forget he’s 6-foot-10. He’s a big guy with a lot of length.”

Turkoglu will cause matchup problems as a four on the offensive end, that much I’m sure of. But as a player not exactly known for his defense to begin with, I shudder at the thought of him defending the Pau Gasols and Andrew Bynums of the world.

Perhaps a trade will take care of the Suns’ glut at the three and allow them to play a more traditional lineup, but Turkoglu at the four defensively does not figure to be pretty.

The World Championship in Turkey

You could see the pride welling up in Turkoglu when I asked him about representing the host country as Turkey’s captain in the upcoming FIBA World Championship.

This will be his last World Championship, and you know how much that tournament will mean to him.

At the same time, representing his country was one part of the busy summer that Babby said set Hedo back entering last season.

Here’s Turkoglu’s response to why him playing in international competition should not cause the same issues this season:

“Because of the timing. I didn’t have the time for resting and recovery. I played Finals until almost end of June, and that time I had the contract situation and right after that I start with the national team, so I don’t really have time to recover, relax, be out of the basketball, so added all together I don’t have time to do the things in a good way because I wasn’t really feeling that good, but right now I’ve had a good rest throughout the summer, I’m feeling great.”

The Suns better hope he’s still feeling great once training camp rolls around because Turkoglu will be a key part of the Phoenix Suns next season.

At his best, he’s a capable playmaker who can relieve some of that burden from Steve Nash, a matchup nightmare and a player who thrives in the biggest moments of the games.

But he’s also coming off a horrid season and faces questions about accepting his role better than he did in Toronto, defending power forwards and coming back from the World Championships more prepared for the season than he did last year.

So while I’m overall optimistic about how Turkoglu’s talents will mesh with the rest of the Suns, there are enough question marks to be a bit leery of the fit.

Tags: Hedo Turkoglu

  • Zak

    While I'm not much a zone defense fan, the zone worked for the Suns in the playoffs this year and I expect that they'll use it more in the regular season if they need to.

  • Hedo Turk

    Hedo is a a piece of shit. He is going to fuck up the suns chemistry.

  • Mike L

    HT – why don’t you go waste some other site’s space? If you have a substantive thing to say, feel free. Otherwise, go back to commenting on the Grizzlies’ fan sites.

  • Mike Meez

    I never heard of Hedo being a problem for his teams before Toronto so at this point we should give him the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes things just don’t work out. We also have leaders on this team like Nash and Hill that set the tone for the squad and everyone buys into the system. That’s something Toronto lacked big time.

    I am worried about our frontcourt in general, not just Hedo. Amar’e wasn’t a great defender obviously but he was a powerful, athletic big man. Hedo and Frye are finesse players that can get abused on the defensive end. Lopez is going to be the lynchpin of the team. If he doesn’t improve his game even more, doesn’t stay healthy, or can’t stay out of foul trouble things are going to be difficult.

  • Mike Meez

    Good point about the zone; it worked well this past season. I wonder though if teams will finally figure it out though. I'm also less confident in it if that's our only effective defensive scheme. The best use of the zone was when the Suns would switch to it at some point in the game and it would totally throw the other team off.

    Also a good point about Gasol. I believe Hedo is an inch taller than Amar'e so maybe that would help.

  • XK

    I'm most concerned about the first point. One of the Suns' strongest facets is their chemistry, both within the team, and between the team and its city, and I'm really concerned about adding someone who was, from all reports, a chemistry cancer.

  • Evan

    Im not sure that Gasul will do a better job of guarding Hedo than Hedo will do of guarding Gasul and for that reason this can work, I relay hope we dont trade Dudly he is important to this team. If Lopez turns into his identical twin and Frye hits the gym hard we will be fine.

  • Mike

    Don't forget what the Phoenix training staff brings to the table. You'll probably see a slimmer, more fit Hedo without any nagging injuries as a result of the Phoenix black magic team.

    I think Hedo is a good passer so all things aside I'm excited to just watch this team. Should be fun.

  • DanH

    Hey – Raps fan here. One question you should be asking – can Hedo play off the ball?

    In Orlando he was basically the point guard, and thrived with being able to be the ball-handler in pick and roll situations. Jameer Nelson was a good fit for them because he really isn’t all that great as a ball handler.

    When he came to TO, the biggest argument against him signing put forward by fans (besides him being over-the-hill and terrible) was that we already had a primary ball handler, Jose Calderon.

    And true to form – horrendous season where the two couldn’t mesh and Hedo didn’t get the ball nearly enough to be effective. His P+R is also more effective with a big man who will roll hard to the bucket, such as Howard or Stoudemire.

    So: big question for the Suns – how will Hedo fit now that Amare is gone, and with one of the best PG’s in the game needing some touches every now and then?

    Spoiler alert: See Toronto Raptors 2009-2010 season.

  • Zak

    Lol. Steve Nash is one of the most unselfish players in the NBA… and he’s getting a bit long in the tooth and has back problems. Having someone like Turkoglu who can take over some of the ball handling load will probably be a blessing to him. And I just happened to be in Orlando a few of years ago and watched Turkoglu play in Magic a game that Dwight Howard sat out of because of some injury. He took over and became THE guy in that game. I was very impressed by him. Of course there’s always the chance that he might not work out with the Suns but I’ll wait until the season actually starts before passing judgment.

  • Shawn

    I expect it will take Hedo a bit to find his groove and excel in the Suns game as it did J Rich. With a higher basketball IQ I think he’ll grasp it faster… at least lets hope so!

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  • Mike Meez

    Raptors fans are so salty about Hedo haha. They’re not completely without cause but they need to let it go now. I checked out their blog and the article about Turk leaving had about 150 comments debating whether he was the worst Raptor of all time!

    I’m sure Steve wouldn’t mind letting Hedo handle the ball for some plays. And Hedo could be the primary ballhandler if he plays with the second unit as Goran is still learning and can play the 2.

  • We need a four

    We don't need Turk to play the four. Lawall is making this team and will be the back up 4 to Warrick. Frye will still come off the bench with Turk, Dragic', Childress and Dudley. Turk will be the ultimate playmaker for our bench. He will bring the scoring that our bench sometime lacked last season, outside of Dragic'. Hakim Warrick has been a starter in this league playing the four, and Lawall will give some size and rebounding coming off the bench at the four. Turk will be the sixth man of the year. This team is in good shape. People underestimated them last season and look what happened. Western Conference Finals happened.

  • We need a four

    I still would like the Suns make a move to get David West.

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