During a long summer of uncertainty, it was very clear two players needed to be better for the Magic to get over the hump and become the team it had the potential to become.
Gilbert Arenas was a complete mystery. He certainly is not as bad as he played last year and, with reports that he had dropped 20 pounds and was really in shape, he could only do better than his 2011 campaign. Ultimately though, you don't want to spend $20 million on a backup point guard. And to open up room for Glen Davis, the Magic had to let Arenas walk.
That leaves Hedo Turkoglu. What Hedo Turkoglu will the Magic see in 2011-12? Will it be the distributor and playmaker that helped guide the Magic to the 2009 NBA Finals? Or will it be the passive, spot-up Turkoglu that haunted most of his 2011 campaign.
Much like last year's Magic team, Turkoglu had his moments of supreme brilliance. But mostly his problems were with consistency.
Turkoglu had his worst year since joining the Magic and barely topped the lows he set in his one year in Toronto. His PER for 2010-11 dipped to 13.4, he averaged only 10.8 points per game for the season and his usage rate dipped to 16.8 percent (the second lowest of his career). In the Playoffs, Turkoglu was even worse, scoring 9.2 points per game and shooting 29.4 percent from the floor.
It was a bad bad year for Turkoglu. And it followed a bad bad year in Toronto -- where he averaged 11.3 points per game, shot 40.9 percent from the floor and posted a 13.3 PER (the worst since his rookie year). It has been tough for Turkoglu.
There is hope though. And there is hope Turkoglu can regain the near-All Star form that made him so coveted and dangerous in the summer of 2009.
Turkoglu posted 53.4 percent effective field goal percentage (52.9 percent with Orlando), posted a 21.5 percent assist rate (a number comparable to the 22.9 percent and 22.5 percent assist rate he posted in 2008 and 2009) and a 24.0 assist rate in his 56 games with Orlando and shot 44.8 percent from the floor, which for Turkoglu is good.
The team did not get the best Hedo Turkoglu, but it got one that is not beyond recovery. Everyone commented that Turkoglu came back to Orlando much leaner and in better shape than he was in his first stint -- no more pizza for Turkoglu, I imagine -- and Dwight Howard has even noted early on in training camp that Turkoglu looks like he did back in 2009. Several other players and staff have reportedly been raving about Turkoglu's increased focus and playing level early in training camp. With Dwight Howard trade rumors reportedly completely cut off for the moment, Turkoglu can operate knowing he is a key cog for the Magic... for now.
The question is can he regain 2008-09 or even 2007-08 levels?
The answer is: We do not know. Those were the two best years of Turkoglu's career.
In 2008, the first year under Stan Van Gundy, he scored a career-high 19.5 points per game while shooting a career-high 45.6 percent from the floor. He had a 52.4 percent effective field goal percentage, a career-best 22.9 assist percentage and a career-high 24.8 percent usage rate. His PER of 17.8 that year. Consider this as the high mark for Turkoglu.
2009 did not see much more of a drop off -- 16.8 points per game, 41.3 percent field goal shooting, 14.8 PER, 47.8 percent effective field goal percentage, 22.5 percent assist rate and 23.0 usage rate. You can see that his 2008 numbers were much better than his 2009 numbers. But you can also see how much the Playoffs run increased his value.
Getting that high may not be necessary. It is clear from his assist rates in his final two years in his first stint in Orlando and from last year that Turkoglu can still be a playmaker and facilitator. That should be his primary role even on this Magic team.
What has changed is Turkoglu's scoring ability. Whether it is the spacing of the floor, a shift in emphasis offensively more toward Dwight Howard or simply getting older and losing some of his speed, Turkoglu is not the same offensive player he once was.
The thing is, Orlando needs him to increase his offensive output and efficiency and become more involved offensively.
This is both for the better of the team to get more value out of what they are paying him and to increase his trade value in the never-ending quest to placate Dwight Howard. A strong season from Turkoglu could go a long way to keeping Dwight Howard in Orlando. A strong season from Turkoglu could go a long way to making this a successful season for the Magic on the court.
As much as strong talk about Turkoglu is going through camp -- Van Gundy also says that Jason Richardson is looking more comfortable in the offense -- we will not know how much or whether Turkoglu can get back to near those 2008 or 2009 levels until we see him on the court Christmas Day.