The Orlando Magic have released Hedo Turkoglu, a move first reported by John Denton. Turkoglu is a 13 year veteran from Turkey who has spent 8 years with the Magic, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 2009. After injuries limited him to 11 games last year, the Magic decided Turkoglu was no longer part of the team’s future. They had until January 7th to release him before his $12 million contract became fully guaranteed, and cutting him before the deadline saved the team $6 million.
While the Magic were expected to release Turkoglu, the timing comes as a bit of a surprise. The Magic had been trying to trade him to a team looking for salary cap relief, but by releasing him now, the Magic are admitting that no market developed for the former most improved player of the year. Their trade efforts were complicated when the Cleveland Cavaliers announced that they were trying to trade Andrew Bynum, another injury prone player with an identical contract. (Bynum does have another year of on his contract as a team option, but no one believes that option will be exercised) The Magic tried to buy Turkoglu out for less money, but he had no motivation to compromise.
A creative scorer and distributor, Turkoglu will be remembered fondly by the Magic faithful. His career averages of 15 points, 3.9 assists, 5.3 rebounds, and 38.1 3P% don’t fully tell the whole story of a once-beloved player. He helped the Magic reach the playoffs 5 times, serving as the de facto play-maker on teams filled with shooters but short on shot creators. Despite his early success, the Magic traded him to the Toronto Raptors in 2009, a milestone that marked the downside of his career. Even though the Magic acquired him again in 2010, he never again enjoyed the success or admiration he achieved earlier in his career. His decreased abilities and bloated contract have been a target of frustrated fans since he returned.
It is unclear if Turkoglu still has an NBA future. He has made it clear he wants to play again, but suitors might be scarce. The Minnesota Timberwolves expressed interest in the off-season and you should keep an eye on the Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Lakers. Both teams began the year with playoff aspirations, but have struggled out of the gate. They struggle with play-making out of the small forward position, and could benefit from Turkoglu’s creativity.
For the Magic, releasing Turkoglu now may be more than simply admitting an early defeat. Orlando may have made the move ahead of the deadline because they have more roster moves in mind. The Magic now have an open roster spot, one they could fill with another development player, or a D-League prospect.
Do you agree with Hedo Turkoglu’s release? Think the Magic should have waited until the deadline? Let us know in the comments section below.