Hedo Turkoglu struggling to find his role in Phoenix

PHOENIX — When the Phoenix Suns acquired Hedo Turkoglu, everybody knew he would be a liability defending power forwards.

But the thinking went, “Sure, maybe he can’t guard many natural fours too well, but how in the world will any natural fours defend him on the perimeter?”

Through three games only one of those assumptions has proven accurate. Hedo has encountered his share of difficulty guarding the likes of LaMarcus Aldridge and Lamar Odom, yet he has failed to take advantage of them on the other end.

Just as he was throughout the majority of preseason, Turkoglu has largely been relegated to spot-up shooting with the occasional drive. He has picked up five fouls in every game trying to defend bigger players and has failed to make the opposition pay on the offensive end, averaging 9.3 points per game on 40.9 percent shooting, with 64 percent of his scoring coming from beyond the arc, to go with just two assists per game.

“I have to be just aggressive more and more,” said Turkoglu, who is a team-worst -13 in 80 minutes this season. “Sometimes we play pick and roll and they kind of deny me. I have to do a better job of keep the spread floor and try to get a better space and when I get the ball just try to be aggressive. Sooner I’m going to feel more comfortable and hopefully play my role in game.”

We have written quite a bit on this site about how Hakim Warrick seems to be a better fit for the starting lineup and Turkoglu the bench, so no need to regurgitate that argument in this space (although I still believe it). But really, it doesn’t matter which unit Turkoglu plays with if he’s not “Hedo Turkoglu,” the facilitating and sharpshooting point forward from Orlando lore.

Gentry acknowledges that the Suns are going through “growing pains” in the early going this season, which is only natural when you lose a piece like Amare and then try to integrate three core guys.

The adjustment is inherently much easier for Warrick and Childress — players who were made for this system — than Turkoglu, who is being asked to play a different position than he has his entire career.

“I think with him he’s trying so hard to make sure he’s fitting in with the guys,” Gentry said. “We don’t need for him to fit in, he’s fine. I think he’s got to realize that this team right here is the most unselfish team you’ll ever play on, so if you shoot the ball 20 times nobody really cares. I think with Hedo he’s got to realize that, and I think as that happens he’ll become much more aggressive.”

Although the thought of Hedo being green lighted for 20 shots scares me a bit, Gentry’s absolutely right that he needs to be more aggressive. He must be more than just an overpaid spot-up shooter, and he tried to do just that on a few occasions taking the ball to the hole against the Lakers. As much as he’s uncomfortable defending the post, he should be guarded by guys unaccustomed to defending a playmaker on the perimeter.

“When I catch the ball sometimes I don’t have to settle on a jumper,” Turkoglu said. “Like [Friday], I tried to do it, a few times I tried to take it to the basket, take advantage of being guarded by the big guys. I have to just keep trying to be aggressive and try to take it to the basket and get some easy baskets or go to the free-throw line to help my rhythm going.”

It’s easier to believe Hedo will figure things out on the offensive end than the defensive end. He’s got the skills to fit this offense, he’s just going through the adjustment period that so many Suns have had to experience before eventually thriving in it.

On the defensive end, it’s tougher to see him really finding success. The Suns have frequently been forced to provide help, and Friday when he had the main assignment on Lamar Odom, LO busted out an 18-17-5 line, which wasn’t the slightest bit lucky.

“This is my first time I’m playing in this situation and I’m just trying to do my best, and it’s just going to take times to learn that the things that will help me to be in a better situation,” said Turkoglu, who has grabbed just 3.3 boards per game despite banging in the post. “It’s just those little things, I can’t let him really catch close to the basket. Those things I have to be really smart against, some stronger guys, some bigger guys.”

When asked whether he likes defending these bigger guys in the post, Turkoglu said, “Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don’t. It depends on the guy. If he’s too big I don’t like it. Like I said, I don’t complain, I’ve just got to do my best to help this team win games.”

I suppose he has something in common with Shawn Marion and so many other undersized fours in Phoenix who didn’t exactly always love defending bigger post players, but unlike Marion he has thus far failed to make the opposition pay at the end where he can hurt them.

Although the Suns as a whole are still getting comfortable with their new rotations, the biggest question mark continues to be Hedo Turkoglu. He has shown flashes of being a quality player in Phoenix, but he’s also gotten in foul trouble too easily, failed to defend the post and acted largely as an overpaid spot-up shooter.

Three games is not long enough to deem the Hedo Turkoglu trade a bust, but it will be if he doesn’t become the aggressive facilitator and crunch-time scorer the Suns thought they were acquiring.

Tags: Hedo Turkoglu

  • http://daniel-salazar.com Dan

    I think people are expecting way too much from a guy who’s coming into a new team, a new system, a new position and coming off of a bad season with Toronto. Give the guy some time to find his groove. I agree that it makes sense to bring Hedo off the bench. The only downside would be that Dragic and Warrick seem to be developing a nice chemistry. So I would also like to see how that plays out as well.

  • Anthony

    Freaking robin (slow ass, can’t shoot or dribble) lopes
    I’d rather see mini me at center atleast other teams would be laughing so hard we might win a game.
    Every time I see him at the scorers table I cringe hand us another loss lopes we be the death of the suns 
    Until he gets traded and we get anybody but him we can expect nothing good.
    We traded barbosa and stat and stuck with lopes WTF is wrong with
    Suns management that’s like pouring water on a fire expecting it to explode way to kill my hopes for the season!?

  • KJ Loyalist

    I don’t know who Lopes is, a new guy we just signed?

    Barbosa no longer had a spot on this team. Dragon was a better fit in all phases of the game as well as JMZ coming on. Plus, Road Runner’s once-friendly contract wasn’t so friendly anymore.

    Anyway, just reading this tells me he should be in that 6th man role, (Hedo). At least until he finds his way; then he can go back to the starting lineup, (assuming Prince Hakim hasn’t begun to rule the world).

  • RY

    What do you expect from Hedo? He is what he is, just look at his time with Toronto. You can’t ask too much from him. He can thrive being the fourth option like he did in Orlando, but don’t expect him to carry the load left by Stoudemire.

  • Evan

    As stupid as Anthony obviously is he has a point ALL of the suns big men cannot guard anyone in the post, and with the exception of Warrick are not holding their own on the offensive end. They all have to do better, Lopez needs to be more like his identical twin, Frye needs to act like a big guy from time to time, Warrick and Hedo need to use their speed to stay in good position, they all need to deny their man the ball, BOX OUT, and hustle. Seriously every one on this team should just focus more on defense and rebounding its not that hard its 90% effort.

  • Hedo Turkoglu

    I’m terrible.

  • KJ Loyalist

    Rebounding is a skill; a passion. That’s why Barkley at 6’4 was such a monster. Its why Rodman changed his game in CHI to only gobble up every rebound.

    Frye is an offensive weapon it is not smart to ask him to board. If Lopez is out there without any true 4s to work with he’s going to be limited because he won’t have any inside help as far as fending off the opposition goes.
    Keep in mind – we run an offensive system that stresses spacing and range with a high shooting percentage. That means we just don’t have more than one guy down low at a time. 2 at the most.

    Hedo / Frye pull guys out but when the shot goes up they’re outside on offense; on defense, they’re often closing out going away from the rim. It has a lot to do with our system.

    There is a potential rebounding monster in Matrix’ number. Lawal, if schooled that way, could be that rebounding force later. Until then its more of a team rebounding scheme. Lopez can only battle for so many and as long as Warrick is coming off the bench the starters will have to rely on Grant Hill to help.

  • Jake

    I watched Suns-Lakers game and Turkoglu just couldn’t find his spot both in offense and defense. I still don’t understand why the Suns acquired Childress, Turkoglu, and Warrick for almost same amount of money that they could have paid to Amare.

    What a stupid organization. Instead of making their defense better, they lost their better defensive player, Lou, during the off-season. And brought Warrick and Turkoglu, and signed Frye, who all are not known as a good defender. Basically, they lost their best offensive player and brought redundant so-so players.

    I think they are going in wrong direction, you know, they don’t have a future. After Nash retires, who are you going to build around? Who’s going to be your star player? Dragic and Lopez are promising, but they are not all star caliber players.

    I originally disagreed with the idea trading Amare for JJ Hickson last year, but now I think that would have been even better. Because the Suns could have acquired young promising PF (better than Warrick, Clark, and Lawal), expiring contract, and some picks. Wouldn’t it be better?

    Ugh, I won’t be surprised Nash asks for the trade in the middle of the season. Poor Nash.

  • Steve

    As much as everyone loves Lou, he’s really not that great of a defender, let alone a great player. His rebounding rates were fairly impressive because of his hustle and knack for being in the right place at the right time, but being undersized KILLED him in the post and it also killed him when opposing bigs were hustling just as much as he was, like in the playoffs. No one cares during the regular season, so hustle will get you boards. In the postseason, you need to BOX. Lou doesn’t box. He depends on his leaping ability. Anyways, Lou was our 8th or 9th guy. Losing Lou isn’t that big of a deal, no matter how you look at it.

    What we need is someone (or preferably four or five guys) who are willing to box out and commit themselves to boards and nothing else. Clark is the guy I see who is most fit to be a Rodman. Freakish athlethicism, good height and length, big build… he has the tools. If he wanted to commit himself to grabbing boards and nothing else, I have full confidence he could pull down 12 a game at the NBA level. If we could get Clark to go for every board and be less of an idiot on the offensive end, he could be a real asset to the team. I know we didn’t draft him to be a rebounding force, but that’s what we need right now. Like KJ Loyalist said, it’s a skill. Certain physical tools help enhance that skill, but any one of the guys on this team not named Steve Nash or Goran Dragic could go out there are pull down 8+ boards a night if they really committed themselves to it.

  • mike


  • Zak

    Honestly, I think Hedo was picked up in anticipation of Grant Hill retiring at then end of the season. Grant is still playing great but he’s 38 and how much more gas does he have in the tank? Hedo plays this year out of his natural position and then moves into the 3 spot next year… maybe. I like Dudley a LOT but I’m still not sure if he’s at the NBA starter level yet. I don’t claim to know the future but I suspect that we’ll see even more changes in the Phoenix lineup next year. This is a transition year where the Suns will try to do the best they can with the talent that they have. I certainly could be wrong but I think that the Suns did the best that they could to remain competitive this year with an eye toward the future of the franchise.

  • Mirza

    @ Steve …. Who is this Earl Clark everyone speaks of??

  • Mirza

    Earl couldnt cut it in the Adriatic League .. he couldnt get 12 boards a game playing in Mexico with a bunch of 5 foot midgets .. 12 rebounds a game???? You must have took some mushrooms prior to posting that comment .. right?? (seriously where did you get those, I want some too) …. Steve you probably think this team will make the playoffs too huh???? If you believe that then you probably still believe in the tooth fairy …….

  • sun also rises

    “I still don’t understand why the Suns acquired Childress, Turkoglu, and Warrick for almost same amount of money that they could have paid to Amare.”

    Of course you don’t, because you obviously weren’t paying attention. The Suns made that offer to STAT with principles about playing time (To protect their five year investment) and he turned it down to go to the Knicks.

    He didn’t want to stay, the Knicks were more desperate than smart and the Suns got what was available to stack at the 4. It’s not just fun to post at this blog, but actually reading it can be fun too.

  • Al

    I hear Pat Riley will be looking to trade for a PG that can spread the floor at the end of the year. If Sarver truly appreciates Nash and wants him to win a title then he will trade Steve to Miami for some picks, PointDexter and Dejuan Blair.

  • Mirza

    @ sun also rises …. well can you think of a “superstar” that would agree to such terms???? No of course you cant .. Sarver “offered” him such a deal so duches such as yourself would defend him and make him look like the good guy ….

  • sun also rises

    Mirza, can you name a “superstar” that has two microfracture-repaired knees and a chronic eye problem, who still wants max money well into their thirties?

    Of course you can’t, because guys like that (T-Mac) are currently charity cases working for peanuts in an effort to reclaim their former glory. Stop comparing apples to oranges and talking out of turn, you dumb shitwad.

  • Artur Mascarenhas

    I think Hedo will eventually be more productive. Way less than his salary may suggest, but still…

    What I have to say is that paying Channing Frye this kinda money to be on the bench and produce less than 18ppg and 7rbd is just lame.

    I am sorry that aside from Steve, theres nobody I care on this team. People talk about Dudley and Dragic but I cant see them being more than role players for their careers.

    I was all for trading Amare, hoping that we could land some decent players and picks along the way. Now its just sad. Reminds me our lineups with the Hot Rod Williams and Joe Kleines if this world.

    I feel for Steve and feel for the fans.

  • KJ Loyalist

    I think you guys need to listen to sun also rises.

    Silly fans and “experts” alike continue to raise the question: “why pay these 3 guys Amare money instead of keeping Amare?”

    Amare Stoudemire did NOT want to stay in Phoenix. It was already a done deal that as soon as the playoff run was over, Amare was gone.

    Phoenix did the proper thing by putting up a respectable offer, but everybody knew Amare was gone. He barely even talked to PHX after the season.

    So please, stop using that line of thinking. It’s really silly. If Amare wanted to be in PHX at all we wouldn’t be having this conversation. He would be here for a few million less than he got in New York. That is a fact.

    Also, to Jake, I’ve got to ask: Are you a “fair weather” fan?

    Because seriously, do you remember what Nash was like going from year 2 to year 3? His progression wasn’t as far along as Dragon’s is now. Dragon could easily give the Suns more quality years than Nash simply because his learning curve allows him to remain in PHX instead of being shipped away like so many of our quality draft picks have been.

    He could mature into a legend in house instead of in Dallas, (and then have to come back).

    Sometimes the line of thinking makes my head hurt, and it’s not evey my thinking.

  • Steve

    I think that sun also rises’ and KJ Loyalist’s comments can be qualified further. Had the Suns offered Amare the max, he would have stayed in PHX. An extra $30 mil in his pockets would have been more important to him than being “the man.” Amare didn’t hate Phoenix, and Phoenix didn’t hate Amare. If the Suns and Knicks had offered even money, I think Amare would have chosen the Knicks, or virtually any other franchise, over the Suns. He was not given the level of respect he feels he deserves here in Phoenix. Personally, I think he was given just the right amount of respect. He’s a great player, but he’s not the type of guy who is ever going to win a championship (unless LeBron decides to go to NY in three years).

  • Steve

    @mirza – Not sure what your problem is or who you think you are, but the point that I, along with others, was trying to make is that rebounding is largely about mentality, and not necessarily about physicality. How did a 6-4 Barkley have so many 20-20 (and even 30-30) games? Because every ball was HIS.

    Clark has the best toolset of any Suns player to be a great rebounder, along with possibly Gani Lawal.

  • sun also rises

    Thank you for the shout out KJ Loyalist, and Steve. I’ve been on this blog with you guys since last season and I’m getting equally tired of these know it all “fans” going into panic mode and acting like the team kicked STAT to the curb without making an effort to keep him in PHX.

    Let me also say that I don’t hold anything against Amare for making his choice. Money talks and six years is fair chance to give to a team (Especially in this day and age and what passes for loyalty in the NBA). I wish him the best in NY. But he did have six years of prime Nash to work with, and the title still never happened. Blame Robert Horry, blame luck, blame fate but please don’t sell the idea that we would be beating the Lakers if only he had stuck around.

    And to the bozo brigade doing the Fantasy League booking of Steve Nash to the Heat? You seem to have confused him for Gary Payton. It’s insulting to equate Nash’s character with the ring grab mentality of today’s superstars. He had a chance to get out of Phoenix and didn’t, and while I would feel as bad as anyone if he retired without reaching the promise land, it’s even more offensive to suggest that he would be better off staining his legacy by scrambling to the East Conference’s version of LA for a title. Go play 2K some more and leave the fanhouse to the fans.