It’s been a dream season for Hedo Turkoglu (discuss).
Sure his stats are down, in fact Turkoglu’s stats have dropped in every major category from last season: points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, FG%, FT% and 3PT%.
Last season Turkoglu averaged career-highs in points (19.5), rebounds (5.7), assists (5.0) and was named the NBA’s Most Improved Player.
Despite being only the third leading scorer on the Magic team and his lower numbers during the 2008-09 campaign, the success and exposure that he received this year, as the Orlando Magic advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1996, has been invaluable to both player and the franchise.
Well, not exactly invaluable.
We will see how much Orlando values the 6-10 clutch forward from Istanbul this summer. Turkoglu is entering the final year of a six-year, $36 million contract and Hedo is scheduled to make $7.3 million next season under the current terms of that deal.
But according to Lon Babby, Turkoglu’s agent, those current terms are all but over. Babby told the Orlando Sentinel that Turkoglu will opt out of his contract and test the free agent waters in two weeks (June 30 is the first day players can declare for free agency).
“It would make sense for him to opt out,” Babby told the Sentinel. “I can’t imagine a scenario in which he would not.”
The question is how far can the Orlando Magic go without the versatile forward? Without Turkoglu, Dwight Howard would have to dramatically step up his inside moves (and not to mention his free-throw shooting) and Rashard Lewis would certainly get less open looks without Hedo creating off the dribble.
“I think Hedo distinguished himself in this playoff run,” Babby said. “He’s in a different spot than he was before the playoffs began. He’s a rare player, a unique player who helped take a team to the Finals. He’s grateful for the opportunity he has been given.”
“He’s enjoyed his time in Orlando. It’s a solid organization, a team on the rise,” Babby continued. “(but) Hedo will weigh his options.”
“I hope we have the same group of guys here next year to go into battle,” Turkoglu said after Orlando’s game five loss in the 2009 NBA Finals. “But the people upstairs make those decisions.”
Luxury Tax Considerations
Depending on the amount, re-signing the 30-year old Turkoglu may send the franchise over the luxury tax threshold for the first time in the franchise’s history. If a NBA team surpasses the projected $69.4 million dollar budget next season, every dollar they are over, they will have to pay a 1:1 luxury tax
Knowing the importance Turkoglu plays in the team’s success, Orlando Magic president Bob Vander Weide has said exceptions could be made in order to re-sign Turkoglu.
“We’ve always avoided the tax, but winning has a crazy effect on people,” Vander Weide said. “The (DeVos family) are having fun right now. I don’t think anyone has a willingness to stay in tax for 10 years, but to go in for a few years to ride this out, I don’t think that’s threatening to our family short-term.”
Hedo Turkoglu has played for three NBA teams thus far; the Sacramento Kings (2000-03), San Antonio Spurs (2003-04), and the Orlando Magic the last five seasons (2004-09).
Gortat also Free Agent: Turkoglu isn’t the only international player that the Magic have to worry about this summer. Marcin Gortat, the 7-0 backup center from Poland, is a restricted free agent. Gortat made $770,000 this season and his solid play backing up Dwight Howard will certainly garner interest around the league.
It’s likely that Gortat will have a different NBA jersey on next season as the Magic will focus their time and money on locking up Turkoglu.
Links and Resources: Agent: Turkoglu to enter free agency (ESPN), Magic may focus on retaining Turkoglu in offseason plans (USA Today), Turkish Basketball Forum (Interbasket), Rich DeVos’ comments about gay marriage prove a magnet for controversy (MLive), Hedo Turkoglu named 2007-08 Most improved (Interbasket)