June 04, 2009
There are differences between the terms underrated and inappropriately-rated, especially as they relate to hindsight — one is susceptible to it and the other is not.
Take Steve Nash(notes) for example. There once was a time when the BC-born soccer player was a mere afterthought in elite level basketball discussion. As the years since tell us, Nash would ultimately thrive given the appropriate situation, the world took notice and the "underrated" tag was lost forever. Due to the public (and the league's) misperception, Nash flew under the radar until the truth was exposed. We all adjusted accordingly and a star was born.
The case of Hedo Turkoglu is a similar, albeit more tragic, example and it's the latter word that sets the two apart. For years the man has been one of the most effective basketball players in the NBA, but unfortunately, he will never share the recognition of teammate Dwight Howard(notes) or sidekick counterparts like Josh Howard(notes) or Pau Gasol(notes).
While players like Nash, Ben Wallace(notes) and more recently Chauncey Billups(notes) have all taken turns out-performing the expectations people had set for them (earning "underrated" and eventually "legitimate" status along the way), their emergence to the forefront comes more from the general public realizing that what they thought to be true was, in reality, false. These ex-role players and roster fillers had simply come into their own.
With Turkoglu, the ones who know him understand that good things happen to those around him, and such has been the case since even before 2008's Most Improved Player award. In the form of buzzer-beating jumpers and eerily silent contributions of near 20-5-5, Turkoglu contributes to teams in ways we logically should, but can't quite appreciate.
We know his track record but we deny his status as one of the league's more valuable players. The most sickening part about it is that we don't even know why we do it. For this reason, Turkoglu distinguishes himself from what are, in actuality, the inappropriately-rated players (think young Nash or pre-Detroit Billups), players who were always capable, just misused. The lack of credit that we give Turkoglu, despite witnessing his personal and team success, contradicts his substantial worth as a player. As far as underrating is concerned, isn't that the true definition of the term?
Hedo Turkoglu isn't the most handsome pig in the pen, nor the most articulate or flashy but his contributions to the Orlando Magic and to the NBA are significant. If coaches and general managers ever got together in a dark, dank basement to assemble their own Frankenstein-like basketball hybrid, one can assume that the ultimate result would turn out similar to Turkoglu. Given his lumbering aura but more complicated essence, the analogy makes sense.
Hailing from the Turkish fringe of Europe, Turkoglu boasts the height of a genuine power forward with the same circulatory ice water that runs through the veins of guards Ray Allen(notes) and Jamal Crawford(notes). His utilitarian ways have paced the Orlando Magic all season long and his intangible existence is what the Los Angeles Lakers fear most (okay, second most) heading into the NBA Finals.
Compared to the players who have seen their stock rise from "underrated' to ... "normal rated," hindsight will have no such positive effect on Turkoglu's legacy because years down the road fans, media and coaches alike will be just as confused about the things he did on a basketball court.
All of that said, facts don't lie and so with every step the Magic take, the Turkish delight becomes more and more of a legitimate force where it matters most; in the win column.
But just as we have in the past, we will see this and look away, never truly realizing that Hedo Turkoglu is giving us something we don't even know we want.
As the editor-in-chief of The Good Point, Austin Kent combines a degree in sport management with an uncontrollable desire to write what's on his mind. You can check him out on Facebook and/or Twitter.