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There’s little doubt that Hedo Turkoglu is a talented basketball player. Few 6’10” players can handle and pass the ball as well as he can and he happens to have ice in his veins. But I’m sure most fans – and hopefully Hedo as well – expected more this year.

Expectations (and pay) are too high

Believe it or not, Hedo is not performing significantly worse than other years. Certainly he’s regressed somewhat – largely due to him not calling his own number enough. His assists per 40 minutes metric is identical to last season and his true shooting percentage and rebounding numbers are very similar.

HedoPer40

His PER score certainly isn’t great – he’s ranked 20th of the small forwards in the league. Seems to me we want a bit more effective SF for $53 million. Heck, rookie Chase Budinger is ahead of him.

As we previewed before, Hedo is one of the most unselfish big men in the game. Out of 196 forwards and centers we screened from basketball-reference.com (we removed all players with < 250 MP), Hedo is second only to this LeBron James fellow in Assist Percentage (defined here)

HedoAssistPer

He’s just not taking enough shots. Bosh and Bargnani need to get their touches of course and he’s one of the key guys to get the ball ™ to them.

What about his shot location data?

HedoShotLocFinal
Source: original data from Hoopsdata.com

The most glaring difference is his reduced attempts at the rim – he’s taking 44% less attempts than his average. This year, he definitely seems a bit slow at turning the corner after a Bosh high screen. Overall, he’s attempting fewer shots at all distances. If we look back at the first table, we note his usage is down a bit – hence the famous ball(tm) quote. But its one thing to get the ball more – and another to be effective with it. When he’s not getting to the rim, he’s shooting a low percentage from 10 feet out to 23 feet (<35% combined). The league average from this distance is almost 40% in both cases.

“But wait until close games – and the playoffs – he’s clutch!”

Let’s settle this now: he’s fearless – but NOT clutch.

I certainly understand, fans see this replayed 20x on SportsCenter and YouTube.com and it’s difficult to view Hedo as anything but clutch.

To achieve clutch “status”, I think we need to base it on more than a few shots. I believe the definition of clutch should be something like “the player performs as well – or often better – in critical moments of close games as one would when the pressure is off”. I define fearless as “not being afraid to fail”. Those are two different things.

Fortunately, we have a bit of data to work with.

1) For the full 2008-09 season, 82games.com showed Turkoglu only shot 35.7% FG% in clutch time and only 20.0% from beyond the arc. He attempted plenty: 7.2 three pointers per 48 min of clutch time. His assist ratio falls to only 3.6 per 48 minutes during that period. LeBron James has 12.6 per as a comparison.
82games.com defines clutch time as “4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points”

2) Turkoglu had the lowest Roland Rating out of any Magic player in the playoffs that played material minutes: -2.4 in the 2008-09 playoffs.

3) His effective field goal percentage (eFG%) was 43.3% in the 2008-09 playoffs during clutch time – significantly lower than his 48.1% overall percentage in those playoffs and 47.8% during that season.

How to make Hedo a Hero

1) Ball movement – Toronto’s ball movement was much better the last two games. It’s not purely because Chris was out of the line up (his assist percentages, as noted above, are quite good). In these games, the team and coaches understood the need to move the ball more actively to get open looks without their go to guy in the line up. What happened? Hedo shot an eFG of 52.0% (solid) and recorded 15 ppg and 5.5 apg.

2) Increase usage – but with better shot selection. This should happen as a result of #1. Hedo needs to be more aggressive – and selective – in getting his most effective shots up. Triano needs to adjust as well: get Hedo screens in order to get him driving to the hoop. As well, force Andrea to kick out more for a Hedo three – where he is shooting a highly effective 56.1% eFG.

3) Ball movement, part 2 – for you as well Hedo. Late in games, you get the ball…. and wait. And everyone in the building knows you’re going to shoot (hint: this includes the coach of your opponent). And you know what happens? They’re prepared. And thus you force it. And therefore you shoot 20% from beyond the arc. Fool ‘em Hedo. Take that assist per 48 min from 3.6 to 7.0. Keep ‘em guessing. And become our hero.

Team ball is the best kind of ball ™