Is Hedo Turkoglu a Disappointment?

Mark Spears – of Yahoo! Sports – asks…Oh, Canada: Has Bosh played his final game?

Although the story begins with Chris Bosh’s injury and the fact he may leave Toronto this summer, the story get interesting (at least for me) when it focuses on Bosh’s current teammates.

The following three paragraphs get at the essence of the article (again, at least for me):

“As silly as this may sound, with Chris going down,” Raptors point guard Jarrett Jack told reporters in Cleveland, “it creates an opportunity for somebody to step up.”

That somebody could be the same somebody the Raptors might have to lean upon should Bosh leave this summer: Andrea Bargnani.

Hedo Turkoglu has been a disappointment since signing a $53 million contract last summer and Jose Calderon’s production and minutes have decreased this season. Bosh’s departure would give the Raptors some salary-cap room to sign another free agent – or bring back a package of players in a sign-and-trade deal – but the team’s best chance to sustain any type of success may have to come from within. At 24, Bargnani is still young enough to reach some of the potential the Raptors saw when they made him the No. 1 overall pick of the 2006 draft.

Before I comment on these paragraphs, let me just present the standard data:

Table One: The Toronto Raptors after 78 games in 2009-10

As Table One reports, Bosh leads this team in Wins Produced (not surprisingly).  And the other players on this team have produced less than 23 wins.  So losing Bosh is a blow to this team (a blow that would be mitigated if Calderon was playing better).

After noting the problems with Bosh and Calderon, though, Spears makes a couple of observations that I would question.  The first involves Hedo Turkoglu, who Spears refers to as a “disappointment.”  Turkoglu – who the Raptors signed to a $54 million contract this past summer – was counted on to help turn the Raptors into a contender.  This seemed like a reasonable expectation to many since Turkoglu did play in the NBA Finals last year.  But this year Turkoglu has only produced 3.6 wins.  Such production hardly transforms Toronto into a top NBA team.

Is such production, though, a disappointment?  As Table One notes, had Turkoglu maintained what he did last year the Raptors production of wins would only have increased by 1.3 victories.  In other words, this team would still be struggling to the make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.   As I noted last summer, Turkoglu’s career WP48 after the 2008-09 season was only 0.105.  This year – at the age of 30 – he is a bit below what he did last year and his career average. But the difference isn’t that large, and consequently, no one should really be that disappointed.   Or at least, I don’t think one should be disappointed when something expected actually happens.

Turkoglu was not the only major financial move the Raptors made last summer.  Toronto also gave a significant extension to Andrea Bargnani.  As the Spears article notes, there is still some expectation in Toronto that Bargnani is going to develop into a productive NBA player.  In fact, Spears thinks that Bargnani’s age (he is only 24) means there is still time for him to reach his “potential.”

If we look at Bargnani’s performance across this past year, though, it appears Bargnani isn’t improving much.  As Table One indicates, Bargnani’s WP48 in 2008-09 was -0.026.  This year his mark is -0.012.  Yes, that’s better.  But it’s far from a mark of a player who is helping a team win games.  

And it seems unlikely Bargnani is going to make a significant leap in the future.  He has already played 297 NBA games and 8,594 minutes.  Furthermore, it appears NBA players generally stop improving around the age of 24 and 25.  So at this point, is it likely Bargnani is going to develop into a productive player?

I think the answer is no. Certainly it’s possible.  But it’s not likely.  And that means, if Bosh departs the Raptors are in trouble. The players the team invested in – Turkoglu and Bargnani – are not likely to produce many wins in the future.  Plus, if the Raptors make the playoffs it will not have a lottery pick to build upon.  All of this suggests that once again I am Dashing Hope in Toronto (as I did last summer). 

Let me close, though, with a tiny silver lining. Last year the Raptors completely changed their roster.  Bosh, Bargnani, and Calderon are the only players left from 2008-09.  Although the make-over didn’t make much difference this year, the Raptors could try a similar approach again.  Eventually, if they keep changing players, they might just stumble upon some players capable of producing wins.  Yes, that isn’t much to pin your hopes upon.  But sometimes, stumbling around can get you someplace. 

- DJ

Our research on the NBA was summarized HERE.

The Technical Notes at wagesofwins.com provides substantially more information on the published research behind Wins Produced and Win Score

Wins Produced, Win Score, and PAWSmin are also discussed in the following posts:

Simple Models of Player Performance

Wins Produced vs. Win Score

What Wins Produced Says and What It Does Not Say

Introducing PAWSmin — and a Defense of Box Score Statistics

Finally, A Guide to Evaluating Models contains useful hints on how to interpret and evaluate statistical models.

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