Making major changes to your team when you are already very, very good appears to be the thing to do in today's NBA. The Lakers essentially swapped Trevor Ariza for Ron Artest, the Magic swapped Hedo Turkoglu for Vince Carter, and the Cavaliers added Shaquille O'Neal. Each of these teams was among the best in the league last year, and we'll see how messing with a good thing turns out.
Of course, since this is a Magic blog, I will look at Orlando's decision to let Hedo Turkoglu walk and trade for Vince Carter. I will be using a number of advanced statistics that, thankfully, I didn't have to calculate myself. There is a wealth of basketball statistics available on the Internet these days, and everything I will discuss today is publicly available. The numbers I will be using were gathered from BasketballValue.com, my own Composite Score statistics, Basketball-Reference.com, 82games.com, and a new site called Hoopdata.com.
Overall Player Rating Statistics
Let's start with a cursory glance at overall player ratings for Carter and Turkoglu. With these numbers, Turk fares better in adjusted plus-minus and Composite Score, while Carter has the upper hand in PER and Win Shares. The difference in Composite Score is the most dramatic, and that is mainly due to differences in their Defensive Composite Scores (which I will get into later). There is also a pretty substantial difference in PER, and I think that is a reflection of Carter's overall production per minute being more high volume than Turkoglu's production. The fact that Carter had more Win Shares than Turkoglu despite playing on a pretty bad team is quite impressive.
According to the numbers, this is Carter's biggest advantage. In just amount any offensive metric you use, Carter looks better. He is more efficient and produces more total offense than Turk. Similarly, he had a greater impact on his team's offense in terms of plus-minus. Offensive Composite Score reflects all of these things.
Here, Turkoglu strikes back. Carter looks below average in just about every category, and this supports his reputation. Turk, on the other hand, recorded numbers well above average in every category. The trickiest part about these comparisons is team context. It is something I've mentioned constantly when talking about my Composite Score numbers. Because of the way stats are tracked (at least publicly), it's very difficult to separate a player's individual contribution to his defense. How much of this is Hedo's own doing, and how much of it is due to the fact that Orlando featured a very strong all-around defense? It's hard to say, but I do think Turkoglu was probably a better defender than Carter.
One of Turkoglu's biggest benefits to the Magic, and something I thought they may miss, was his ability to create looks for others. This was magnified in the playoffs when the Magic dominated the Cavaliers behind the creativity of Turkoglu. Of course, Carter is no slouch in this area either, and the numbers above reflect this. His Assist Rate was actually higher than Turkoglu's, and he was able to take better care of the ball in the process. Despite this, 82games.com gave Turk a better "Passing Rating," although a worse "Hands Rating." Regardless of the tiny differences on each side, I think it's safe to say that Turkoglu's playmaking abilities are no better than Carter's.
These numbers, which are available at Hoopdata, show what types of shots that the two players assisted on. They are pretty similar across the board. I think it's interesting that Carter assisted on slightly more shots that were converted at the rim than Turkoglu did, despite the latter playing with one of the best (if not the best) finishers in the game in Dwight Howard. It'll be interesting to see how these numbers look after this season.
Partly because of his success in the playoffs, Hedo Turkoglu developed the reputation of being a clutch scorer and player. Carter has been a go-to guy late in the game for much of his career, so how do the two compare? Last year, Carter was actually more productive and more efficient shooting-wise than Turkoglu. Both were great from the free throw line and reasonably good playmakers, but the difference in effective field goal percentage was pretty dramatic. Carter's was above average, while Turkoglu's was well below average. Most players find it more difficult to hit their shots in crunch time when defenses tighten up, so the fact that Carter actually became more efficient with the game on the line is quite impressive.
Ignoring all of the other players involved (although we definitely should not understate them), did the Magic make the right move by switching from Turkoglu to Carter? VC is better offensively, and two of Turk's most famous skills, playmaking and clutch play, are performed as well or better by Carter. The only concern is defense, especially since the Magic lost Courtney Lee. However, we don't know for sure how great of a defender Turkoglu is when he isn't playing in front of Dwight Howard, so that aspect remains to be seen. All in all, considering Carter's potential to put them over the top, the other players they acquired, and the amount of money Hedo was demanding, it appears to have been the right move for Orlando.