The Phoenix Suns managed to dump Hedo Turkoglu’s contract and steal away Marcin Gortat because the Orlando Magic figured they had to shake up their core for a shot to win now.
If we’re going to judge the Aaron Brooks trade as a failure because it did not lead to a Phoenix playoff berth, not only does the big December trade look like a Suns win but it looks like an Orlando loss as well after the Magic failed to reach the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
Richardson may have been an upgrade over Vince Carter because, well, he’s still breathing, but J-Rich in no way resembled the Suns’ star playoff performer from a year ago.
J-Rich averaged 10.0 points on 33.3 percent shooting from the field and 32.0 percent shooting from distance this series and he got suspended for a crucial Game 4 that Orlando lost for fighting. In 55 regular season games with the Magic his numbers were also down: 13.9 points on 43.3 percent shooting after going for 19.3 on 47.0 percent shooting to begin the season with the Suns.
The Magic made the trade because they felt Richardson was a missing complementary scorer whose output would surpass Carter’s and while they may have been right in that regard by no means was he a difference maker for Orlando like he was last year as the Suns’ barometer of success.
Long term losing J-Rich really doesn’t cost the Suns since they were unlikely to re-sign him to any kind of big money deal considering the youth movement that the franchise eventually will face. Although the Suns clearly missed him as a go-to guy, losing four months of him was certainly worth what they got back.
The Magic were also theoretically the only team willing to take on Hedo Turkoglu and the three years and $35 million remaining on his deal after this one (part of the money in the final season is non-guaranteed). The thought process for Orlando was that he was successful there before, and they felt they needed him initiating their offense out of the pick-and-roll to give them that added edge they possessed during their run to the Finals two years ago.
I didn’t think anybody would even take a sniff at Hedo unless he was the tax for a Nash trade or something like that, so merely eliminating him from Phoenix’s future seemed like a huge plus when he had to be one of the more untradeable players in the league.
However, on the day Orlando made this fateful move he was merely the third most untradeable player to be dealt that day with the Magic also consummating a Gilbert Arenas-Rashard Lewis deal.
Those trades meant the Magic were going all in. The deals for Arenas and Hedo combined with Dwight Howard’s superstar contract severely limit Orlando’s future flexibility to make moves to satisfy Howard before he can leave in 2012, and a lackluster regular season combined with the six-game loss to the Hawks prove the Magic lost this gamble, at least for the time being.
As Nate Drexler writes at MagicBasketball.net, Turkoglu just wasn’t the same player he was two years ago. During the regular season he averaged 11.4-4.5-5.1 on 44.8 percent shooting, better numbers than he put up in Phoenix but not exactly the guy who averaged 19.5 and 16.8 his previous two years in Orlando.
He’s been horrendous in the playoffs, averaging 9.4 points on 29.4 percent shooting from the field and 23.3 percent shooting from distance. His playoff PER of 7.19 and true shooting percentage of 37.1 aren’t why the Magic swung this deal.
Drexler describes Hedo as “indecisive,” “passive,” and “useless” during his current tenure in Orlando, words that could easily describe the beginning of his season as well in Phoenix.
Hedo’s sharp decline truly is a mystery now that he has not only struggled in Toronto and Phoenix but also back in his comfort zone in Orlando. Even playing for Turkey in the FIBA World Championship he took more threes than twos and settled for long jump shots time after time after time, hardly resembling the 2009 playoff stalwart.
Perhaps he got fat from the big contract the Raptors gave him and has never been able to work his way back or perhaps a clutch playoffs following a career year the season before just exaggerated his worth in everybody’s eyes.
In any case, the Suns’ future looks much brighter with Gortat’s long-term deal in place of Turkoglu’s albatross of a contract on their books the next few years, and the Suns should be thankful the Magic were willing to take a major risk that thus far has been a failure.
With that the entirety of the special 2009-10 Suns roster has now been eliminated from postseason contention as we see all those parts that worked so well together have not been the same apart.