When the Los Angeles Clippers traded Jared Dudley for Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica and then turned around and waived their new acquisitions all within a matter of days last week, it left them with two things: roster spots to fill, and enough money to fill them.
It shouldn't really come as a surprise then if one of those spots goes to Hedo Turkoglu, who joined the team last January and spent a good quarter of the season as the team's first big off the bench. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Turkoglu and the Clippers are close to a one year veteran's minimum deal (the only kind of deal the Clippers can sign at this point). The deal would pay $1.4M to the Turkish player, although the cap hit would only be $915K.
Turkoglu wasn't great last season for the Clippers by any means -- but he really wasn't half bad. He did one thing incredibly well, making 22 out of 50 three pointers He also did at least one other thing much better than expected, averaging 8.2 rebounds per 36 minutes, far and away the best per minute rebounding of his career.
The bad news? Well, for one thing, Turkoglu averaged those numbers in a relatively small sample size of minutes, so it's entirely possible and statistically likely that they are simply outliers and not at all what we should expect moving forward. Also, while he was making 44 percent of his three balls, he was only making 34 percent of his twos, which is just weird. Oh, and 8.2 rebounds per 36 is not particularly good for a power forward, even if it is better than he's ever done before.
And I guess that''s the other bad news; Turkoglu's not a three -- not any more at any rate. The Clippers are thinnest at the three right now, and despite the fact that he played there most of his career, Turkoglu played exclusively at the four for the Clippers last season, and that's where he'll play this season as well. He's just not quick enough to play the three. Maybe in a pinch you can have him and Griffin and another big on the court together, but only if Griffin is going to defend the wing.
On the other hand, the Clippers' big rotation could be a whole lot of fun on offense. My favorite part of Spencer Hawes' game has always been his passing -- he's a terrific distributor from center. And of course Hedo is a wonderful playmaker in general and passer specifically. In Griffin, Hawes and Turkoglu the Clippers have three bigs who can throw lobs to go with two of the best players in the league at finishing them. The high-low, big-to-big passing this season could yield a lot of highlight footage.
Without Turkoglu, the Clippers' roster stands at 11. They are required to carry 13 contracts, and will probably want to take 14 contracts into camp in order to take advantage of an obscure rule that allows teams with 14 contracts to sign additional "camp contracts" that limit their obligations in the event of a camp injury. So with three roster spots to fill (they don't have to be guaranteed), Turkoglu isn't much of a surprise; there's not a lot of names out there.
Hedo is 35 years old, so it remains to be seen how much he has left in the tank. Then again, it's not as if his game was ever predicated on speed and quickness and athleticism. He was always one of the most skilled 6'10 players in the league, and those skills don't just disappear. As of now, it looks like he'd be the fifth big -- which tells you how much deeper the Clippers' front court is, at least at the start of the season. When he joined the team last January, he immediately became the best big off the bench. This time, from the get go, the Clippers should have three players off the bench better than any one they had last season.