Chisholm: Bosh news aside, let's talk about Turkoglu

Tim Chisholm
6/29/2010 12:34:46 AM
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Here's a question for all you Raptors fans out there: What would make you more upset - Chris Bosh leaving or Hedo Turkoglu staying?

During an interview on The Fan 590 Monday evening, Raptors President and GM Bryan Colangelo basically intimated that one of those two things is likely while the other is more possible than people might realize.

The former intimation, which was actually a rather explicit opinion of Colangelo's, was that he believes at this juncture that Chris Bosh's days in Toronto are over. While at this point that hardly can be classified as news (most assumed he was gone the moment that Raptors failed to make the post-season for the second straight year), the fact that it was coming from Colangelo will probably get its fair share of play in the coming days leading up to free agency.

It's the latter revelation, though, that in all likelihood will cause the tremor throughout Raptor-land.

It's probably just a coincidence, but in the course of one day, Turkolgu recanted (somewhat) his desire to be traded in an interview with Turkish sports site and Colangelo suggested that if Bosh leaves it could lessen his desire to part with the controversial Raptor forward. Regardless of the timing, the change of attitude on the matter is sure to rankle Raptors faithful, even if there is actually some logic to revelation.

Colangelo's reasoning basically came down to the simple idea that if the team is going to lose Bosh, depending on what compensation the team receives in return for him, losing Hedo as well might be too much of a talent drain for one summer. Turkoglu's 'clarification' of his early trade demand was that so long as the system run in Toronto changes - and he expects it to, regardless - he would be amenable to a return to the Raptors.

Now, a cynic would probably take those two nuggets and chalk them up to a need to boost Turkoglu's value after the first wave of trade inquiries didn't satisfy Colangelo's demands. When a player insists that he wants out no matter what, the team has very little leverage with potential trade partners. At least if both sides 'appear' to be open to maintaining the status quo, the leverage swings ever so slightly back to centre. Truth be told, these philosophical shifts on the part of Colangelo and Turkoglu probably amount to nothing more than exactly that. However, that doesn't mean that the team would be unilaterally worse off if Turkoglu was still with the club when training camp rolled around.

Let's assume for a second that ridding the team of Jose Calderon is a greater priority at Raptors HQ than trading Hedo. Calderon's fragile body has only further eroded his already meagre defensive abilities and it would appear that the front office has lost faith in him as a starting guard. Plus, Colangelo has been much more emphatic that one of the team's two current point guards (Jarrett Jack being the other) will not return next season. Given that Jack is on a far cheaper deal, that he has the versatility to swing between both backcourt positions, that he actually plays defense and that he is a solid rebounder for a guard, it would seem foolish to unload him simply to ease a glut at the position.

That is especially true when one considers that on the court last year, the real glut was between Turkoglu and Calderon, two players that need the ball in their hands to be effective and two players that appeared to make each other less effective by sharing the court together. It was no coincidence that the team had it's best stretch when Calderon was coming off of the bench and played far fewer minutes in tandem with Turkoglu.

So, if we are to assume that Calderon won't be returning, then this team is going to need some manner of playmaking. The new-look Raptors are actually shaping up to be a very fun, athletic group of guys, but none of the young core (DeMar DeRozan, Sonny Weems, Amir Johnson [assuming he re-signs] and rookies Ed Davis and Solomon Alabi) has any proficiency in creating offense themselves. Even Jack, dependable as he is, has never averaged more than 5.3 assists per-game in his career, and most of his assists come out of running a system rather than his individual playmaking flair. Turkoglu, though, excels in this area. This season, despite his lowest usage percentage since his one-year stint in San Antonio (18.1%), Hedo still managed 4.1 assists per game. For context, in his last year in Orlando, Hedo had a 23.0 usage percentage, played six more minutes per game, ran a system that was tailored to utilize his playmaking skills, and he only averaged 0.8 more assists per-game. Per 36 minutes, his assists in the last two seasons were identical, despite the lower usage percentage last season and the offense that played him off the ball far more often than Orlando's did. One could even wonder how much his assists would increase if a team did away entirely with the pretence of a 'point guard' and allowed Hedo to run the offense entirely from the small forward position. Hedo is a natural playmaker and even when he's barely involved in the offense, he makes plays. He can't help it, it's the nature of his game. As much as fans may hate to admit it, it's a skill that is in desperate need if Bosh and Calderon go, and it would seem foolish to unload your best playmaker without at least knowing how you were going to replace his skills, no?

Not convinced? Okay, fair enough. After all, he came off as a bit of a malcontent last season, his shooting numbers are never particularly impressive and his defense isn't getting any better with age. Still, what he offers this team is at least an option to bring a playmaker back to the team next season if they strike out finding one on the open market. That may just be necessary, too, since this summer's open market looks so bare in the playmaking department.

In terms of free agent point guards, you aren't going to find anyone that is any better than Jarrett Jack. Ray Felton headlines the uninspiring class of point guards, as painfully average as he is, and there is a steep drop-off after him. There aren't even any apparent diamonds in the rough, no Ramon Sessions-type of guys who've racked up intriguing numbers under the radar. Detroit's Will Bynum is the closest you get to that this summer, but then you're still only looking at a guy who averaged 5.4 assists per-game as a starter last season.

On the trade market, there is the chance that a team may be able to pilfer Darren Collison from New Orleans, but after that the cupboard looks just as bare. Maybe Minnesota could be persuaded to part with Jonny Flynn, or maybe Portland would sacrifice Andre Miller, but the Raptors probably don't have the right pieces to make those deals work. If the team wanted to take on salary they could probably get Monta Ellis from Golden State, a combo guard that may not hemorrhage assists, but he can certainly create offense so long as you don't mind him taking 22 shots per-game.

The fact is that for Colangelo, it might be prudent to keep Turkoglu in his back pocket for now rather than pawning him off to the first team that would take on his salary. After all, the development of the young guys in Toronto could take a serious hit if they aren't able to have an offense that facilitates them with quality looks. The team will be active in exploring all manner of moves this summer, and one of them might net the club the right piece(s) to make a Turkoglu departure inevitable. In fact, finding such a deal is probably a high priority for Colangelo since he knows that few in the locker room or the fan base are eager to have someone back who spit so much venom at the team only a few short weeks ago. However, everyone needs to be patient because of even greater importance than moving Turkoglu is ensuring that this team has adequate playmaking next season since they won't have a player they can simply dump the ball to and watch while he gets them twenty-two points each night. If the Raptors find the right mix to make Turkoglu expendable, you can expect to see him move on, but trust that the team will only move him on after replacing his greatest (if most under-utilized last season) skill first.

That may seem like throwing salt on the wound of fans losing yet another cornerstone, but patience is a trait fans are going to have re-embrace in a big way, anyway.

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