Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Raps Waiting On Turk? Or Turk Waiting On Raps?

For Raptors fans everywhere, the water cooler topic of choice dives into one mind boggling question - What's wrong with Hedo Turkoglu? The Toronto Raptors' past summer was highlighted by the fact they were able to snag to most sought after free agent of the offseason. Touted as the most lucrative free agent to ever choose Toronto as their NBA destination, Turkoglu brought with him hope as well as a reputation. Capable of hitting game winning shots, and known for showing up in pressure games, Raptors fans expected all that and then some when the team awarded him with a 5 year contract worth 50 million dollars.

Now nearing the halfway mark of the season, the Raptors sit at 19-20, and Hedo Turkoglu is currently in a funk that could safely be called his worst stretch as a Raptor. And what of that glorious reputation he had? At first glance, it seems as though it did not make the trip from Orlando. Other than the shot he hit in Washington, Turk has missed, fumbled, and thrown away several opportunities to prove to Toronto that he still has it. Has Hedo already started to decline in skill? Or are the Toronto Raptors not placing their prized acquisition in a position to succeed?

Well, let's examine a thing or two to help us come to a conclusion.

In the NBA, there is a particular advanced stat called "usage rate". This stat informs us how many possessions a player uses per game while on the court, and can be a good indicator of how involved of a role a player has in the team's offensive scheme. Here are the usage rates for Turk in his last year in Orlando, and his first year as a Rap:

Orlando: 23.00
Toronto: 18.75

As you can see, Turk is averaging over 4 less possessions here in Toronto. For those possessions, exactly what is he doing instead of handling the ball? Based purely on observations, it seems as though Hedo has been regulated as a spot up shooter - a very expensive spot up shooter. Though he has knocked down his fair share of shots, Turk is settling into a role here in Toronto that he's not familiar with. In game 7 between the Magic and the Celtics, Turk found himself initiating the offense, being proactive instead of reactive to whatever the defense threw at him. Perhaps this was a product of his environment? In the playoffs, Turk often found himself on the floor with:

Howard/Lewis and any two of Alston/Pietrus/Redick/Johnson/

Any combination of 5 players left Turkoglu as the team's best bet in regards to the role of primary ball handler. Combined with his height and dangerous shot, he proved to be a mismatch against whatever team tried to stand in their way. Here in Toronto, this is the lineup Hedo must play with in crunch time:


Unlike in Orlando, Turkoglu must coexist with two other point guards who are more than capable of handling the ball. And when you count Marco Belinelli, another capable playmaker off the bench, it becomes a very crowded room for the 6'10 Turkish point forward.

Another fun stat we can use is "Assist Percentage". This is basically the percent of field goals a player assisted while he/she is on the court. When we combine that with usage rate and compare Orlando's two point guards to Toronto's, this is what we get:

Alston (29 MIN) - USG: 21.25; %AST: 30.1
Johnson (18 MIN) - USG: 15.52; %AST: 37.7

Calderon (30 MIN) - USG: 16.59; %AST: 36.5;
Jack (28 MIN) - USG: 17.38; %AST: 34.1;

Immediately, you can conclude two things:

1. In Toronto, Turkoglu must play with two playmaking point guards who play heavy minutes
2. Rafer Alston dominated the point guard minutes in Orlando, and though his usage rate is the highest of any of the 4 point guards mentioned, he also has the lowest assist percentage; hinting that he was likely used as a shooter.

Regardless of what side of the fence you're on in this discussion, one thing is certain: The Raptors need Hedo to perform like he did last year. Ideally, you'd like to see the Raps and Turk meet in the middle. On one side, adjust the offensive scheme so that Turk has the ball in his hands more, and on the other side, Turk must make the best of whatever opportunities are presented to him.

He isn't in Orlando anymore, but Raps fans would love to finally see that magic again.

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