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Could Hedo Turkoglu win Most Improved Player within one season?

Jan 9, 2011, 1:30 PM EDT

Orlando Magic v Dallas Mavericks Getty Images

Our esteemed colleague Rob Mahoney wrote the following last week at the New York Times Off the Dribble blog:

Don’t be fooled: Turkoglu is the same player he was in Phoenix, in Toronto and in his final year in Orlando. And any perceived excellence is a product of some statistical smoke and mirrors. The Magic has shifted Turkoglu back into his former role as a point forward (something he was never fully granted as a member of the Suns or the Raptors), but as far as scoring and efficiency go, there really isn’t any improvement.

via Hedo Turkoglu: Same as He Ever Was – NYTimes.com.

And Mahoney’s words last Friday have held true through another week. Turkoglu is averaging 12.9 points per 36 minutes, which is actually down from Toronto (13.2) and Phoenix (13.5). He’s rebounding at the same rate (5.4) as he did in Toronto, and slightly less than he was in rebound-desperate Phoenix (5.7).

However, one thing Mahoney overlooked and that has come to light, particularly after Turkoglu dished out 17 (!) assists last night in the Magic’s come-from-behind win over the Dirk-less Mavs, is his efficiency. It’s true that Turkoglu isn’t producing at a higher rate than he has in his other locales since leaving Orlando the first time, he’s just getting more minutes. However, he’s a lesser part of the offense in Orlando, and yet is producing more efficiently when he does contribute.

Consider his passing. In Toronto, which was offensively loaded despite not being very good, and which featured a dominant big man (kind of, at least on offense) in Chris Bosh, Turkoglu averaged 4.8 assists per 36 minutes. In Phoenix, again, high-powered offense that can’t stop anybody, just 3.3 assists. In Orlando? 6.6 assists. His Assist Rate (percentage of possessions in which he contributes with an assist) has jumped from 19.5 in Toronto and 13.8 in Phoenix to 29.5 in Orlando since the trade. It’s a small sample size, but it still reflect the change in Hedo since coming back to The Kingdom.

He’s also shooting at a better clip. His eFG% which factors in three-point shooting was an abysmal 49% in Toronto and 57% in Phoenix. In Orlando so far it’s 58%. He’s taking fewer shots and hitting more of them. Isn’t that what you want from a role player you’ve brought in?

It’s not just offense where he’s become more efficient. In Toronto, via Synergy Sports, Turkoglu gave up .94 points per possession. InPhoenix? A dreadful 1.02. But in Orlando, so far he’s giving up just. .90 points per possession which is very solidly average. He’s taken away one of his worst features and improved in that area considerably. Most notably, Turkoglu is only giving up .64 points per possession, forcing opponents into a 33% shooting clip. It’s again, a small sample size, but it speaks of the effort and how Turkoglu fits in.

Basically, Turkoglu has returned to being a smarter, more efficient player who contributes more to the offense. It makes you wonder if a player can win Most Improved due to declining in production and then kicking it up, within one season. If so, Turkoglu makes a compelling case, especially with the Magic 9-1 since his return.

And that’s on Stan Van Gundy. For a guy who is so often criticized for “panicking” and getting players to tune out, or whatever nonsense is being lobbed his way this week, SVG gets guys to thrive in their roles. And talking to coaches, that’s a refrain they’re constantly committed to. So the fact that Turkoglu is back in the old system, over a year and a half later, picking up where he left off and producing in meaningful ways for the Magic says a lot about SVG’s system and his ability to incorporate players’ talents.

For all the talk about players leaving Orlando for bigger markets, maybe Dwight Howard should consider that before he jets off for parts unknown. Turkoglu’s a great example of why he may wind up wishing he was still clowning with Mickey.

(All per-minute and efficiency stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com)

  1. tubal22 - Jan 9, 2011 at 1:56 PM

    It’s amazing how much your game can improve when you actually put some effort into it.

    That being said, I don’t think he should get it. When you go through a season dogging it, and then try the next year, you shouldn’t even be in the running.

    • zackd2 - Jan 9, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Was he dogging it then or is he just back in a system that knows how to use his talents?

  2. zblott - Jan 9, 2011 at 2:08 PM

    I think he should, especially now that he’s helped get the Magic back into the top-3 of the Power Rankings.

    http://www.hoopskarma.com/hk/2011/1/9/hoops-karma-power-rankings-19.html

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