All of the dollar signs, egos and overall skills validate Hedo Turkoglu starting for the Phoenix Suns.
The 6-foot-10 multi-skilled forward will make more this season than every Suns player not named Steve Nash or Jason Richardson — $10,215,850 million.
Turkoglu also started 301 of his last 305 games, and didn’t exactly do an admirable job handling a decreased role in Toronto last season. As far as basketball goes, Turkoglu is arguably Phoenix’s most talented player on the roster behind Nash.
But despite the dollar signs, his history as a starter and his overall talent, Hakim Warrick, not Turkoglu, should be starting at power forward for the Phoenix Suns this season.
Through the preseason it’s become clear that when Turkoglu’s on the court with Nash he’s nothing more than a standstill shooter, which isn’t how Hedo’s made his living in the NBA.
He thrives with the ball in his hands making plays for himself and for others, rather than standing on the three-point arc waiting for the ball. But he’s looked lazy with the starters in the preseason, averaging 5.1 points per game and 31.1 percent shooting in 20.1 minutes while simply going through the motions.
Warrick, on the other hand, impressed with 9.7 points per game on 47.7 percent shooting in only 18.9 minutes. He’s the perfect complement to Nash as well as Robin Lopez. He moves without the ball, is great in the pick and roll and can hit the 15-footer to combat Lopez’s low post presence.
“I think Warrick to me has a pretty good feel for what we want from him as an elbow player and screen-and-roll player,” head coach Alvin Gentry said.
The Suns need a pick-and-roll presence to be successful; otherwise the offense becomes Nash probing and four guys watching. Warrick can offer that pick-and-roll prowess, as he’s explosive to the rim and has been dubbed a poor man’s Amare Stoudemire.
Below is an example of Warrick’s ability to finish at the rim out of the pick and roll — something Turkoglu clearly is incapable of doing.
That’s an extremely athletic dive and finish that is essential in the Suns’ pick and roll. Warrick fits with the starting group perfectly.
He isn’t a good defender or rebounder by any means, but at least he’s accustomed to rebounding and playing defense out of the four spot. He also has the potential to improve upon those facets of his game with more minutes, as he’s never played big minutes with an uptempo team, which fits his style best.
Although he is no Amare, he definitely offers more of a back to the basket presence than Turkoglu. He’s always been somewhat of a tweener, but as you can see in the clip below, he isn’t all that uncomfortable out of the post. He misses the easy layup, but showed some type of value on the block.
With Turkoglu getting the night off Friday against the Nuggerts, Warrick got the nod but was underwhelming with nine points on 2-for-8 shooting. But he is still a better fit with the starters, while Turkoglu’s skills would fit best on the second unit.
He could be the primary playmaker, as Goran Dragic is capable of playing both the point guard and shooting guard position. Turkoglu can have the ball in his hands as much as he wants, and has a plethora of three-point shooters to kick to — Jared Dudley, Channing Frye and even Dragic — and a slasher to look for — Josh Childress.
If you thought the Suns’ bench was one of the best in the NBA as it stands now, just imagine how much better it would get with Turkoglu. He gives them a leader, a facilitator as well as another three-point shooter with Dragic handling the ball.
This doesn’t mean that Turkoglu would never play with Nash, as he would probably be asked to finish almost every game. But starting him out with the second unit makes the most sense for both the bench and the starters.
Head coach Alvin Gentry may fear ruffling the feathers of a guy who hasn’t been all that warm to coming off the bench before. But starting in Phoenix doesn’t mean as much as it does on other squads, just ask Leandro Barbosa.
If the Suns leave Turkoglu in the starting lineup his skills aren’t going to be utilized to the fullest. Phoenix will be dealing with Hedo Toronto version 2.0, and Lon Babby and Robert Sarver will be banging their heads against the wall for committing about $40 million to the 31-year-old.