If you’re reading this blog, then you’re aware that my beloved Toronto Raptors have recently agreed to terms with free agent forward Hedo Turkoglu on a five-year deal that will pay him upwards of $50 million. The Turkish Wonder is the most significant free agent the Raptors have snatched from another team in their 14-year history. He wanted to come to Toronto, so much so that he backed off on a deal with the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s not because the Raptors are better than Portland (they’re not) and it’s not because the Raptors are paying him more (they are, but only slightly) – it’s because he and his wife love the city of Toronto. They like that it’s a bit closer to Turkey and has a large Turkish population. They don’t care that we don’t get ESPN here. They wanted to live here. This is refreshing for Raptors fans.
…but I’m a Raptors fan, and I’m not chuffed about the signing. I’ve tried to talk myself into it. I really, really have. Try these out for size:
“He’s 6’10, we’ll have one of the tallest frontcourts in the league!”
“He’s not very athletic, so he won’t deteriorate much over the course of his contract!”
“We really needed a crunch-time scorer!”
“He can run the pick and roll with Chris Bosh!”
“His signing might convince Bosh to stay in Toronto!”
I’ve uttered these words. They’re not lies. Problem is, they don’t justify giving the guy $11 million a year. Especially if it costs the team the opportunity to assemble a decent bench next season. I’m not as stunned as Tim Chisholm by the deal, and I don’t think that it will “stagnate [Andrea] Bargnani’s growth”, but he’s right when he says that the Raptors need an elite rebounder at the 3-spot and that taking possessions away from uber-efficient Jose Calderon is a bad thing. Chisholm again nails it when he says that the Hedo signing runs counter to GM Bryan Colangelo’s stated plan to get more athletic and defensive-minded. As Kelly Dwyer pointed out to Portland fans when it seemed like Turk was heading to Rose City, he was made to “look old and slow up against Trevor Ariza in this year’s Finals”. Whilst Turkoglu should make the Raptors’ offense prettier (and, believe me, I like a pretty offense as much as the next guy), the team’s defense and rebounding must improve if a serious run in the playoffs is expected.
Of course, if Colangelo pulls off a couple of deals (like this one) and is able to come up with a few complementary pieces, then this signing (and this team) would look better than it does right now. It is unfair to start making serious predictions about how the team will fare next season, the ending of the previous paragraph notwithstanding. The thing is, regardless of what happens to the rest of the roster, the fact remains that the Raptors have overpaid a 30-year-old who, as Dwyer stated, is “a fine player, but an average one”. And I can’t get excited about that.
- Vittorio De Zen