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Evaluating The Small Forwards Using Statistics

Mickael Pietrus Hedo Turkoglu
Games Played 54 77
Minutes Played 24.6 36.6
1 year adj. plus/minus -4.71 +3.20
net plus/minus -2.8 +7.7
statistical plus/minus -0.25 +2.43
PER 11.6 14.8
WARP 0.0 5.0
Win Shares 3.0 7.4


As Ben alluded to in the past, we know the storylines for each player on the Orlando Magic. Instead of regurgitating the same information again, I decided to take a look at the statistical production of the small forwards during the regular season.


Let's talk about offense:


WIth the prospects of Hedo Turkoglu landing with the Portland Trail Blazers in the near future, looks like this is one of the last opportunities to talk about him. When looking at Turkoglu's numbers during the regular season, nothing stands out. Turkoglu's percentages (54.1% true-shooting percentage and 47.8% effective field-goal percentage) are average and his Offensive Rating (107) is below-average, meaning he's not the most efficient player. But sometimes, it's more than just the numbers with a particular player. Turkoglu is a 6'10'' small forward who can handle the point, pick teams apart with the 3/5 pick & roll with Dwight Howard, shoot from the perimeter, and more. Those type of things can't be quantified, statistically. You have to see it for yourself and when you do, the results can be impressive. That's what makes Turkoglu a special player and that's why so many teams are pursuing him in free agency.


Mickael Pietrus appears to be Turkoglu's replacement (this is not set in stone, mind you) at the small forward position and if he can produce like he did in the playoffs, then that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Orlando Magic. Problem is, there's no guarantee that will be the case. During the regular season, Mickael had trouble dealing with inconsistency issues and injuries - two things probably linked to each other, given the circumstances. The percentages for Pietrus (53.8% true-shooting percentage, 50.7% effective field-goal percentage) and Offensive Rating (106) were a stark contrast to his percentages (62.2% true-shooting percentage, 58.9% effective field-goal percentage) and offensive rating (117) in the postseason. The disparity was WIDE. I'm sure that the team is banking on seeing more of the latter than the former next season. As long as Pietrus doesn't stay grounded with an injury, or two, or three, then head coach Stan Van Gundy should have a reliable option at small forward. If not, then all bets are off. 


Let's talk about defense:


Mickael Pietrus Hedo Turkoglu
adj. defensive plus/minus +1.16 -2.76
opponent PER vs. SF's 15.1 13.2
net defensive plus/minus +1.1 -3.1
eFG% allowed 47.6% 46.2%


The numbers for Pietrus are average but let's talk about Turkoglu's stats, which - I'm certain - will surprise people who don't follow or do follow the Magic closely. The numbers indicate that Turkoglu was an excellent defender during the regular season. It's clear that Howard's presence (the reigning Defensive Player of the Year) bears an influence on the statistics, when looking back at Turkoglu's defensive stats last season in comparison to this season. So how good is Turkoglu, defensively, when taking that into account? Average to above-average, safe to say. He's certainly not a liability on defense. An example, Turkoglu's defensive work on Kobe Bryant during the fourth quarter in Game 2 of the NBA Finals. Need another example? Here's what David Thorpe had to say about Turkoglu in an article posted on TrueHoop:

"He has length and feel. He's a coordinated athlete. He's also really tall and long. I don't think of him as winning the battle on grit, but it's not like there are a lot of times you watch a Magic game and think Turkoglu's getting killed! When he's engaged, I'd certainly say he's a net positive for your defense."

Hmm, Thorpe says he's is a net positive, which is what the statistics back up.


You be the judge. 


Let's talk about everything:


The stats in the regular season confirm what Pietrus was, a role player. The stats in the postseason confirm what Pietrus can be, or is, a fringe starter/sixth man. I'm sure Magic fans are hoping that it's more of the latter than the former next season. I'm sure, also, that general manager Otis Smith and Van Gundy are hoping the same thing. 


As for Turkoglu, the linear metrics regard him as an average-to-above-average player, which looks about right. Turkoglu's per game numbers may not jump off the page, but it doesn't eschew the fact that he's, again, a special player. Turkoglu was a key cog in Orlando's run to the NBA Finals and will be missed as he moves on in his career.