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Hedo Turkoglu will rediscover his game in Phoenix

By 09.22.10

Hedo Turkoglu (photo. National Post)


After cashing in on Orlando’s run to the 2009 NBA Finals with a sizable free-agent deal in Toronto , it didn’t take Hedo Turkoglu very long to earn his second benching in nearly four years.

Having missed a game due to a supposed “stomach virus,” Turkoglu was spotted by T-Dot fans at a downtown nightclub in the Yorkville district of the city. After several fans reported the incident to the Raptors management, Turkoglu was disciplined, and later requested a trade at the end of an overall bad season with his new team. He got his wish this summer, being dealt to the Phoenix Suns in a trade that sent Leandro Barbosa to the Raptors.

Of course, with every trade comes questions about how the players will fit in with their new teams — especially Hedo, with his perimeter-oriented game — but there’s no doubt that he will be able to help Phoenix rise out West.

The Suns nearly landed Hedo when he was a free agent in 2004, coveting his size, scoring ability and passing (he averaged 4.1 assists per game last season). If Phoenix has anything to worry about now, it would be that Hedo’s stats have taken a dip in every category since the ’07-08 season. On a more positive note, Turkoglu is a versatile player who is capable of playing two-guard, small forward or power forward. At 6-foot-10, Hedo has the advantage over smaller guards on the perimeter to use his fadeaway and turnaround jump shots. Not having played off the ball much during his career will allow Hedo to create plays for others as well if he’s double-teamed.

When you have Steve Nash on your team — arguably the best point guard at making plays towards the end of a game — scorers are going to get the ball where they like it. One of Hedo’s preferred spots is beyond the three-point arc, and the Suns led the NBA in three-point shooting last season, hitting 41.2 percent from deep. Hedo is a career 38.3-percent three-point shooter.

The Suns offense runs through the pick-and-roll, and Turkoglu was the primary ball-handler in those situations last season with Toronto, which is another bonus to add in this trade. (Hedo also handled a lot of that responsibility in Orlando.) While he isn’t going to bang with many centers and power forwards out West, he does create some mismatches due to his ability to get off his own shot along with a quick first step. Hedo is one of the best spot-up shooters in the League, and playing with Robin Lopez will only make him more effective.

I love Turkoglu’s game, and playing with Phoenix is only going to make him more likable. Suns head coach Alvin Gentry believes Hedo will return to his championship level according to an Associated Press interview:

“I think you’ll see a player who will more than likely come back and play at a level he did at Orlando, right on the brink of winning a championship,” Gentry said.

Although the season hasn’t started yet, it’s certainly going to be interesting to watch Phoenix use Hedo’s versatility to their advantage and provide another playmaker on offense to take some of the eyes off of two-time MVP Steve Nash.

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TAGSAlvin GentryDimeMagHEDO TURKOGLUPHOENIX SUNSROBIN LOPEZSTEVE NASHTORONTO RAPTORS

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