Hedo Turkoglu in street clothes. We think. (Getty Images)
Hedo Turkoglu wants to play basketball again. The journeyman forward, currently with the Orlando Magic, hasn’t played a single NBA minute since the first week of February in 2013, but he’s apparently champing at the bit to return to live action in order to stick it to a Magic team that has benched him while they work on their slow rebuilding plan.
The Magic have a chance to deal Hedo to a lesser team in order to game an asset in return for Turkoglu's expiring contract this week, and like similarly benched Cleveland Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum, Turkoglu could fetch a fair price from a team looking to shave millions off their payroll and/or luxury tax bill.
There are two significant issues here, though. For one, the Magic and Turkoglu have to go through quite a bit before he can be freed back into the free agent stream. Like Bynum, Turkoglu will be waived on Jan. 7 in order to lop an unguaranteed $6 million off of his current $12 million deal – the final season in a five-year contract that former Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo signed him to in 2009.
Secondly, there’s that nagging idea that tells you that Hedo may not have a lot left in the tank. Sure, he’s had ample time to rest his legs while playing just 11 games in 2012-13 and zero thus far this season. Turk also turns 35 in March, though, he’s coming off of a league-mandated drug suspension for (to hear him tell it, unknowingly) stacking his gun show with a type of performance-enhancing drug last March, and the last three teams that paid for his services weren’t exactly keen on the returns. To say the least.
Hedo’s gonna try, though. From Marc Stein at ESPN.com:
I'm told Turkoglu, incidentally, remains determined to re-launch his NBA career later this month when he is finally waived by the Magic or any other team that happens to trade for him in the next five days. The 34-year-old will become a free agent Jan. 10 after clearing waivers and has been working out on his own away from the team all season after Turkoglu and the Magic mutually agreed that he would not join the rest of the squad while they tried to find him a new home.
One source close to Turkoglu told ESPN.com this week that he remains confident he can still make an NBA contribution and badly wants the chance to show it after the rebuilding Magic decided that the 13-year veteran didn't fit in with a rebuilding program.
As Stein points out, though, Turkoglu’s situation is pretty far removed from what Bynum and the Cavaliers are working through.
For one, though the Magic are competing under second year coach Jacque Vaughn, the team went into 2013-14 looking to shave off wins, grab a spot in the lottery, and develop young talent. This, and Turkoglu’s 26 percent shooting from last season, is why Hedo isn’t playing.
The Cavs aren’t looking to make another lottery appearance, partially because GM Chris Grant has whiffed on most of his lottery picks, but also because the team needs some sort of postseason payoff some three and a half years after owner Dan Gilbert promised that his team would win a championship before LeBron James ever would. This is why ESPN reported earlier in the week that the Cavs were hoping to secure Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers without having to give up an asset beyond Andrew Bynum’s unguaranteed deal, which also can be cut on Jan. 7, saving a team like the Lakers heaps in luxury tax payments.
On top of that, while most of the NBA has soured on Andrew Bynum in recent years, there will be teams looking to sign him under lowered expectations once he clears waivers. It’s true that the Cavaliers had some pretty low expectations when they signed him to a deal that could be cut off just 34 games into their season … but hey, there’s always room for another low point, Andrew!
Turkoglu seemed to hit that low point last year when he made just over a quarter of his shots from the field and was eventually suspended 20 games by the NBA, which is likely why he wants one more chance to make things right before dancing off into the sunset. That extra check, to help ease the pain of losing $6 million off of his current contract (seriously, Bryan Colangelo thought there would be a chance 35-year old Hedo Turkoglu would be worth $12 million this year?), is probably also paramount in Turkoglu’s mind.
Hedo’s Player Efficiency Rating hasn’t sniffed average since the season below Colangelo signed him in 2009, though. He has a reputation as a floor spacer but has shot at or below the NBA’s league average from three-point land in four of the last five seasons. His Eurobasket statistics from the late summer of 2013 were pretty terrible, as well. In theory, adding a veteran with Finals experience for the stretch run for a minimum contract would seem like a win-win for either side, but with so many teams either just up against or over the luxury tax, that’s quite a sell for someone who just hasn’t brought the goods of late.
For now, though, we’ll have to see what the Magic decide to do with any potential trade for Hedo. The good guess is that they’ll merely just waive the guy, because … lottery ahoy!
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