The walking wounded that is the Orlando Magic are hoping to get one of their key players back.
The Magic are hopeful Hedo Turkoglu to be able to engage in full-contact practice by the end of the week. Of course, the end of the week is the beginning of the Playoffs. That is not ideal for a player who has been out with a facial fracture since April 5 when Carmelo Anthony‘s elbow accidentally met Turkoglu’s face.
While it is possible that Turkoglu will return for at least a part of the Playoffs, his effectiveness will be a major question mark as the Magic take on the Pacers or Heat in the Playoffs. His presence might be very important though.
As Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel notes, Turkoglu’s absence has had a crippling effect on the Magic’s defense. It was plainly evident in the way Danilo Gallinari and Paul Millsap were able to abuse the undersized Jason Richardson and Quentin Richardson at small forward. Turkoglu is not a defensive presence, but at least he has size.
That is something Orlando sorely lacks in its undersized backcourt at the moment. That might be reason enough to get Turkoglu back on the court.
Orlando’s most used lineup, according to 82games.com, without Turkoglu and Howard is Chris Duhon, J.J. Redick, Quentin Richardson, Ryan Anderson and Glen Davis. They have played 67.3 minutes together and are an overall -11. The unit, much like the team since all the injuries hit, has a decent offensive rating of 1.03 points per 100 possessions while the defense has been a horrendous 1.09 points per 100 possessions.
The next most-used lineup isn’t much better. It replaces Jason Richardson for Quentin Richardson and is -3 in 40.1 minutes on the floor together. It has the opposite problem of being unable to score — 0.90 points per 100 possessions — but an ability to play at least some defense — 0.91 points allowed per 100 possessions.
A little-used lineup that replaces Anderson with Earl Clark and has Quentin Richardson at small forward has had some moderate success — +9 and a 1.03 points per 100 possessions to 0.89 points allowed per 100 possessions in only 33.7 minutes.
The plain truth from gazing at the 82games.com five-man unit chart is that the Magic do not use a whole ton of different lineups — perhaps an argument that Stan Van Gundy DOES need to play different players more and mix up his rotations — and that the Magic do a lot better with either Howard or Turkoglu on the floor. Especially on the defensive end.
Some things have gone well for the Magic since the injuries hit. The team is playing with a lot more energy and is motivated to win and fight. Unfortunately, the lack of depth now and the inability to defend is hurting this team and preventing it from securing the sixth seed in the Playoffs and feeling any type of positive momentum heading into the Postseason.
Would bringing Turkoglu back help?
The Magic are running a lot more pick and rolls and this is where Turkoglu is most successful and most comfortable. Not only that, with Howard out of the lineup, Turkoglu will have the ball in his hands more and the green light to shoot and attack away. There will be virtually nothing holding him back. This may enable us to see some of the Turkoglu of old rather than the 10.7 points per game, 4.5 assists per game, 41.1 percent shooting mess Turkoglu has been this season.
Even bringing Turkoglu off the bench for 10-20 minutes per game in the playoffs would be a big boost to the team. The beginning of the second quarter has often been an awful offensive period for the Magic whent he lead quickly disappears. Bringing in Turkoglu at this point and letting him run the offense might be a good shot in the arm.
This argument boils down to the ultimate question: can Turkoglu help the team?
Stan Van Gundy mismanaged Jameer Nelson in 2009, but the argument was the same. If Nelson or Turkoglu could help the team win, you have to bring him back and try to use him. I imagine some of the same discussions are going on.
The coaching staff will be watching Turkoglu carefully in practice and making decisions on what his role will be in the playoffs. Ultimately, Turkoglu can help. To what extent has yet to be answered.