Talking Turkey (Followed by Miller Time)

Update: Check out this in-depth feature on Hedo over at TrueHoop.

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The old mailbox is full of questions regarding one of the Blazers (supposed) main targets during the off-season, Hedo Turkoglu.  Today we're going to take a look at him along with another achievable, rumored target, Andre Miller.  Turkoglu is first.

Benefits

Turkoglu would be acquired as the Blazers' starting small forward with an eye to sliding him over to power forward for a few minutes per game to get our young small forward some extra work.  He'd be a great all-around offensive guy to fill those positions.

Right now the most critical question you ask about Blazer small forwards is if they can hit the three.  Turkoglu has been a good three-point shooter since his second year in the league, averaging 38.5% for his career and 35.6% last year.  He's taken around 5 threes per game the last couple of seasons.  He's more than capable of taking the offensive pressure off of Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, an aspect which was missing from last year's offense.  Turkoglu averaged nearly 20ppg two years ago and almost 17ppg last season.  He's a good passer and a great ball-handler for his size.  He's a smart player.  He draws fouls.  He rebounds.  He's got playoff experience.  He's tall for his position at 6'10".  He's 29 years old, which is not bad for a prospective Blazer small forward.  You're not necessarily looking to fill that position for six years.  You want somebody who will make a tangible difference for the next couple of years while the younger guys bake a little longer.  Turkoglu would be a near-seamless addition to the lineup.  He'd probably bring the most impact with the least disruption of anyone on the long list of potential acquisitions.

Drawbacks

Though Turkoglu remains productive his production did drop this year.  His field goal percentage went from 45.6% to 41.3%.  His three-point shooting dropped 44 points.  His points per game dropped 2.7.  His effective field goal percentage dropped 46 points and his true shooting percentage dropped 35.  His PER went down three points even.  It's not like you're catching him peaking.  The Blazers' current offense will do one thing for him:  give him a steady diet of completely open three-point shots.  While he should feast on those, you're not exactly maximizing his skills with that system.  In order to do that you have to move him around and give him the ball.  Even with his assist number hovering around 5 per game I'm not sure you want another guy to give the ball to, especially if you're bringing in a new point guard as well.

Turkoglu draws fouls, which is a huge plus, but he's not a huge threat off the dribble.  80% of his shots are jumpers.  His effective field goal percentage off of those last season was 35.6%.  That's not great.  Nicolas Batum has a good chance of being twice the penetration threat within two years while being able to post comparable three-point percentages.  Martell Webster can do the three-point part right now.

Turkoglu averaged 3 turnovers per game two years ago and 2.6 this year.  The Blazers don't want miscues from their small forward position.

A couple of years ago Jason Quick, Henry Abbott, Casey Holdahl, and myself were in a Vegas hotel room doing interviews.  One of the main subjects at the time was Turkoglu supposedly being offered relatively cheaply around the league.  To a man we said he was tantalizing in some aspects but his defense was a deal-killer.  It hasn't improved much.

What's more, as Ben detailed yesterday Hedo is more expensive now than he supposedly was then.  This will be the last big-earning contract opportunity of his career.  He's not going to want to compromise.   $10 million per year is not a ton to pay for a bona fide starter who's going to get your franchise over the hump, even if that starter isn't a star in his own right.  But that doesn't change the fact that you're buying high here...higher than anyone else ever has for this player.  There's a burden of proof there which I'm not sure he matches.  The Blazers would love a three-year contract.  He will probably want five.  Even if they settle at four, that's a large commitment, especially for a guy who is going to decline during that period.

Also I'm having trouble figuring out how Portland would sign Turkoglu outright at the price he's likely to be asking.  The $7 million salary he opted out of would have all but erased the Blazers' projected cap space.  Unless they're not renewing Outlaw and/or Blake $10 million per year looks out of reach.  The Blazers would have to renounce all of their exceptions to scrape together either figure.

Final Thoughts on Turkoglu

The part I can't get over is the Magic were willing, perhaps even happy, to replace this guy with Vince Carter.  It's possible they've been snorting too much Mickey Juice down there.  But it's also possible that his all-around statistical production looks more impressive on paper than on the court.  Were the Blazers to acquire Hedo I'd be cautiously optimistic, with emphasis on the caution.  You're probably not getting another major player after that signing.  The idea would be that he alone would make the offense so dangerous that it couldn't be dealt with.  Even as skilled as he is, I'm not sure he'd live up to that billing.

And now the other guy who's up for grabs, Andre Miller.

Benefits

I've been a closet admirer of Miller for a long time.  He has a knack for his position without having to dominate the game to prove it.  He's quite a nice passer and has great court vision.  You never have to worry about being his teammate.  The knock on him during the early part of his career was his offense.  But he's developed into a credible threat, albeit as a generalist.  He's balanced between jumpers and drives, hitting high percentages either way he goes.  His true shooting percentage is high because he draws free throws and shoots them exquisitely.  He rebounds well for his position, like Turkoglue showing himself as a strong statistical player.  At 32 he's seen everything the league has to offer.  He's never played fewer than 80 games per season in his 10-year career, nor fewer than 34 minutes per game in any season but his first.  He'd likely be able to come to terms with playing for Brandon Roy.  He'd also be able to mentor the younger Blazer point guards.  Unlike Turkoglu he's unlikely to demand a repeat of his $10 million per year salary, making him an affordable option for Portland, especially with his minute-eating playing style.

Drawbacks

There are two serious ones.  First, he's not a three-point shooter.  No...he's the anti-three-point shooter.  When three-point shooters come into contact with him they both explode and create a space-time vortex.  Dr. Egon Spengler is constantly on the sideline yelling, "Don't cross the shot arcs!"  Jon and Kate Gosselin have a closer relationship than Andre Miller and the three-point line.  Need I go on?  Let's just say Miller's 21% lifetime three-point shooting percentage doesn't exactly fit the mold for a Portland point guard right now.  Two seasons ago he shot 8.8% for the year.  Last year he upped it to 28.3% but still...this isn't exactly home-run slugger territory.  It's more like toddler at a piñata party.  "Over the girders, through the fountain, against the scoreboard, past the chicken, and off the shot clock" used to be a classic line from a Jordan-Bird H-O-R-S-E commercial.  That's Miller's normal release from distance.  Granted, part of the purpose of acquiring new players is to diversify the offensive portfolio at their various positions.  But with Greg Oden clogging more space in the middle and Brandon Roy still brutally effective driving the ball, I don't foresee a day when three-point shooting isn't a strong part of the Blazers' job description for point guards.

The other drawback to Miller echoes Turkoglu:  the defense.  He was never considered much more than adequate and he hasn't improved with age, nor is he likely to.  A backcourt of Roy and Miller would strike fear in the hearts of opposing offensive players like Mary Kate and Ashley strike fear in the hearts of buffet owners.  As we've said before, this is an issue not only for the guards in question but for Portland's centers as well.  You'd like Oden (particularly) and Przybilla to be able to target their defensive play instead of always running to put out the latest fire.

Another question the Blazers would have to answer about Miller is what the plan is behind him.  At 32 and counting this guy isn't likely to give you four super-productive years.  You're looking at a two-year rental.  Who's being brought up during that time?  Jerryd Bayless is the obvious (and only) answer but you have to realize that if he doesn't pan out--specifically as a point guard at that--your cupboard is all but empty and you'll be starting over again.  The only other alternative is praying that Roy or Rudy can take the spot or making yet another trade.

Final Thoughts on Miller

Andre Miller does enough things right and could come at a cheap enough cost that he may be an answer in the short term.  The time for this move was really two years ago though.  It's hard at this point to consider him much more than settling.  Then again, maybe a little settling is enough to put Portland in position to make the next step.

Final Musings

When you look at two all-around guys like Turkoglu and Miller you start thinking the Detroit model of championship-building, which is pretty much what the Blazers are going to have to try.  The Pistons only won one though.  Detroit also won it with defense first, which neither of these moves lend themselves to.  My response to Portland signing either player would be the same:  color me interested but not ecstatic.

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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