Steinmetz: Warriors-Turkoglu Redux


Steinmetz: Warriors-Turkoglu Redux

The other day, I wrote that the Warriors should pursue Raptors small forward Hedo Turkoglu, who recently said he didnt want to return to Toronto. To me, its a no-brainer; Warriors general manager Larry Riley should pick up the phone and make the call.

Whenever Warriors fans ask me what the team needs, invariably a well-rounded small forward comes up pretty quickly. Bottom line, as far as Im concerned, the Warriors arent going to significantly improve until they get a guy who can make a play other than Stephen Curry.

Apparently, Im in the minority there. A few trips around the internets and it became obvious that many Warriors fans disagree with me. But I am undeterred, and after giving it more thought, Im convinced Turkoglu would be a nice fit for Golden State.

So here we go again

First off, Ive never been in love with Hedo Turkoglu.

I always thought that during his days in Sacramento he was a little greedy, and it manifested itself in questionable shot selection. Had a grudging respect for his versatility but never thought he did enough with it.

Over the years, I chalked it up to Turkoglu having to play behind Peja Stojakovic and wanting to do too much. When he got playing time for the Kings, I thought he had a tendency to force it.

I also didnt like that sometimes he didnt appear to play hard enough. Then again, hes kind of got that loping game that isnt really based on speed or quickness so maybe that explains a part of that.

Anyway, there are certainly more criticisms of Turkoglus game, and I might not disagree with a few of them. But this is the part where youve got to take emotion out of it and take an objective look at Turkoglu the player.

And if you do, and you take a realistic look at what he is and what the Warriors have or more importantly lack -- you realize Turkoglu would very much be an upgrade in personnel. No question about it.

So, lets get into it. Right off the bat, I never said the Warriors should trade Monta Ellis for Turkoglu. Or even Biedrins for Turkoglu. And certainly not both for Turkoglu. What I said was getting Turkoglu will likely cost you Ellis or Biedrins.

Unloading Maggette for Turkoglu is simply too much to wish for.

But Ill tell you what, if Toronto wants to start talking about Turkoglu and a re-signed Amir Johnson, perhaps as part of a separate deal, for example, then, yes, Im listening intently.

And it doesnt matter if the Raptors are talking Ellis, Biedrins or even Anthony Randolph. Just dont bring up Curry.

This is the part where I get a little indignant, but Im trying not to. It amazes me there are actually Warriors fans out there saying they wouldnt touch Turkoglu with a 10-foot pole, and certainly not if it has anything to do with Ellis or Biedrins.

There have even been those who suggest, all in all, Maggette is better for the Warriors than Turkoglu. Hello? Hello? Are you crazy? What a harmful indictment of certain fans, if they believe that.

One guy, Turkoglu, might have been his teams most effective player in an NBA Finals. The other player, Maggette, cant even get to the playoffs. Cant even get there. Been there once in 11 years.

Turkoglu averaged 18 points, four rebounds and four assists during an NBA Finals, and that was only two years ago. He shot 50 percent from the field while doing it, too.

With the exception of role player Ronny Turiaf and little-used Devean George and Vladimir Radmanovic, the Warriors dont have anyone on their roster who has even sniffed a conference final.

And even though I never said Id trade Ellis for Turkoglu straight up, the criticism has gotten me defensive, and its making me take a shot at Ellis here.

With all due respect, whats Ellis done? One playoff appearance in five years, and he was awful that one time he got there. Yeah, Im being a touch harsh, but just exactly who do you think youre going to get for Warriors players?

I keep hearing that Turkoglu was awful this past year. OK, so he didnt have such a great year. He obviously had a much better year the previous season in Orlando. Lets take a look:

Turkoglus scoring average went from 16.8 points per game with Orlando in 2008-09 to 11.3 points per game last season. But Turkoglus minutes also declined, from about 36 minutes per game to about 30 minutes per game.

That doesnt explain the entire drop but certainly some of it. Also, Turkoglu played last year with Chris Bosh, whereas the year before he played with Dwight Howard. The point Im getting at here is Bosh had to get the ball more than Howard, which means Turkoglu had it less when he played with Bosh.

Still, Turkoglu was definitely less of a factor last season than he was with Magic. And certainly Turkloglus critics would point out he shot only 40.9 percent from the field last year.

Acknowledged. But that actually plays into why I like Turkoglu for the Warriors as opposed to most of the other players on Golden States current roster. Yes, Turkoglu didnt shoot well from the field in 2009-10, and hes only a 43-percenter from the field for his career.

But Turkoglu can do things other than score, and he can help you win when hes not shooting well. That would immediately make him unique as a Warrior. Whens the last time you said that about Maggette? Or Morrow? Or even Ellis?

In last seasons Eastern Conference finals, Turkoglu shot only 39 percent from the field in the Magics six-game series victory over Cleveland. But he still found a way to average 17.1 points, 6.7 assists and 6.3 rebounds per game. Got to the line 35 times and made 86 percent.

This is the Eastern Conference finals, people. Were not talking about a mid-March game between two non-contenders. This guy has been a heck of a player at times during his career.

You play Turkoglu 35 minutes a game hes going to get you 17-5-5, and hes also going to do something better than everyone else on the team except Curry: make a play for a teammate.

Turkoglu might not be the greatest defender in the league, of course, but he does have length. And for a team such as the Warriors, who are basically the worst defensive team in the league, length is a guaranteed helper. Period.

Another thing about Turkoglu is he gives a team the ability to play big or small. And forget Don Nelson here. Im not talking about Don Nelson and Don Nelsons idea of small ball. Im talking about a more conventional coachs idea of small-ball.

You can play Turkoglu at shooting guard or power forward depending on what the advantage might be that particular game or that particular stretch or that particular possession.

Lets see what else have I heard when it comes to the 26-win Golden State Warriors not being able to use someone such as Turkoglu? Oh, that hes already 31 years old, and hell be 35 when his contract is done. Yeah, so?

Last time I checked 31 was pretty darn close to your prime. Secondly, Turkoglu has never been a monster-minute player. Hes averaged only 28.2 minutes per game over the course of his career. Thats not heavy.

Also, take a look at his career. Hes never missed more than 15 games in a season, and in eight of his 10 years hes played at least 73 games. I know, the Warriors would never need a player that durable.

While hes got some athleticism, Turkoglus game is not completely based on it. Hes crafty and knows how to play. Thats why his age doesnt worry me that much. Hell have a little something to rely on as his skills diminish.

Take a look at the Warriors roster. They are overloaded with one- or two-dimensional players. They are not blessed with what you would call players, guys who just know how to play the game innately and instinctually.

There are few Warriors who consistently make solid basketball plays. Nor are there many Warriors who go out of their way to look to make a play for a teammate.

Curry does, and thats why he stuck out last season. And Turkoglu does, too. Overall, the Warriors cant be considered a team that plays smart. But Turkoglu would certainly raise their basketball IQ.

Lets see, what else were the rips about? Oh, Turkoglus contract. Well, theres no doubt Turkoglus contract has some girth to it four years, 43 million. And, yes, thanks to all of you who pointed out Turkoglu has a trade-kicker (not insignificant).

But Turkoglu just said he doesnt want to return to Toronto. Dont you think hed consider waiving the kicker? Of course he would. That is, if he really wants to get out of there.

And its funny, sounds like the same people who are ripping Turkoglus contract might be the same people who want the Warriors to go after Andre Iguodala and Al Jefferson. You see their contracts? Cmon.

Anyway, yes, Ive got to say I thought more people would be with me regarding Turkoglu. But the criticism sent me back to re-think everything.

And now that I have, Ill only say it louder: the Warriors should pursue Turkoglu.

What's your take? Email Matt and let him know. He may use it in his weekly Mailbag.

LeBron doesn't care about long Finals odds: 'I only play blackjack in Vegas'

LeBron doesn't care about long Finals odds: 'I only play blackjack in Vegas'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- There's a four-headed, shot-making, scoreboard-breaking monster out West awaiting LeBron James and the Cavaliers.

The Warriors are stomach-churning scary.

James, though, can't run or hide. With eight NBA Finals appearances under his belt, he is ready to face a team he's called "a beast." After all, he has slayed behemoths before.

Pushing off any talk about the Warriors until after Sunday's practice, James was asked to assess the task at hand: beating Golden State's All-Star-studded lineup of Kevin DurantStephen CurryKlay Thompson and Draymond Green.

Is this the biggest challenge of his career?

"It's probably up there," he said. "I mean, it's up there."

And then, almost as if he was trying to remind himself that he's got three championship rings and is frightful in his own right, James recalled other fearsome postseason opponents - San Antonio and Boston.

"I've played against four Hall of Famers as well, too, with Manu (Ginobili), Kawhi (Leonard), Tony (Parker) and Timmy D (Tim Duncan) on the same team," said James, occasionally sniffling as he continues to fight a cold. "And if you add Pop (coach Gregg Popovich) in there, that's five Hall of Famers. So, it's going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me, they're going to challenge our ballclub.

"This is a high-powered team."

James also took on a Celtics team loaded with big-name talents.

"I've played against Ray (Allen), KG (Kevin Garnett), Paul (Pierce), (Rajon) Rondo and Doc (Rivers). So, it's going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise."

Cleveland-Golden State 3.0 is the matchup fans worldwide expected and wanted, and James believes they're in for quite a show.

Both the Cavaliers and Warriors have upgraded their rosters from a year ago, when they went seven games in an epic series that spawned the first comeback from a 3-1 deficit in Finals history and resulted in Cleveland winning its first pro sports championship since 1964.

That Warriors team James conquered in 2016 won 73 games during the regular season and was being mentioned as one of the best to ever take the floor.

Hard to believe, but this version - with Durant - might be even better.

Golden State has been putting on a basketball clinic over the past two months, winning 27 of 28 games since March 11 and becoming the first squad to start the postseason 12-0.

Durant, who previously faced James in the 2012 Finals with Golden State, has taken a great team and elevated it to a nearly unstoppable level.

The Warriors are using Durant in every imaginable way on offense, and James isn't surprised to see his good friend and Olympic teammate more mobile than he was with the Thunder.

"You adapt to the culture," he said. "You adapt to the style and that's the same thing that happened to me when I went to Miami. I started to slash more and move more without the ball, shoot more standstill 3s and figure out ways I could be more productive than just having the ball in isolation. So, it's the right thing to do. He's one of the most dangerous guys we have in the world already. So it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill with those guys."

On the brink of becoming the first player since the early 1960s to play in seven straight Finals, James finds himself in a similar - and somewhat surprising - situation.

The Cavaliers are being given little chance to defend their title against the vaunted Warriors, who have been winning by an average of 16.3 points per game in the playoffs.

For the sixth time, James enters the Finals as an underdog, hardly a role he's accustomed to before June. The only time he won a championship as a Finals favorite was with Miami in 2013, when the Heat upended the Spurs for their second straight title.

James isn't worried about point spreads or any odds.

"I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn't matter," he said.

What does matter is that the 32-year-old is having one of his finest postseasons, and the Cavs are gelling the way they did at this time last year.

Maybe James has nothing to fear.

"I feel good about our chances," he said. "Very good."

Cavs' Love on NBA Finals vs Warriors: 'I don't feel like we're underdogs'

Cavs' Love on NBA Finals vs Warriors: 'I don't feel like we're underdogs'

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Vegas is betting against them and the bookies are hardly alone.

Let's be honest, not many are giving the Cleveland Cavaliers much of a chance in the NBA Finals. They may be defending champions and they may have LeBron James, but against Golden State, they are definite underdogs.

Just don't try to tell them that.

"The whole underdog thing is funny to me, because yeah, at the end of the day we are defending our title," Cavs forward Kevin Love said following Saturday's practice. "We're trying to repeat, which is so hard to do. I think we will use it as fuel. We will use it as motivation, but the idea of playing into it? It's tough for me to say that is the case. I don't feel like we're underdogs.

"We match up well with them and I think they'd say the same about us."

Maybe, but as the teams gear up for Thursday night's series opener in Oakland, comments made by Warriors forward Draymond Green in October are reverberating around Cleveland.

Still stinging after the Warriors blew a 3-1 lead in last year's Finals against Cleveland, the vociferous Green, who was suspended from Game 5, said if given the chance again, he plans to "destroy and annihilate" the Cavs.

Love complimented Green's competitiveness and aimed a verbal volley at Northern California.

"He's a guy who said he wanted us," Love said, "and he has us - starting next Thursday."

Act III in this trilogy is overloaded with story lines, with the biggest being whether James and Co. have enough firepower to go toe-to-toe with the Warriors, who added superstar Kevin Durant to a team that won 73 games a year ago before its Finals flameout.

Golden State has glowed in this postseason, becoming the first team to start 12-0 while winning by an average of 16.3 points per game - the highest margin league history. It's no wonder then that the wise guys have installed the Warriors as heavy favorites to beat the Cavs for the second time in three years and wrestle back the Larry O'Brien Trophy that slipped through their hands last June.

James referred to the Warriors as only "that juggernaut" and "a beast" following Thursday's Game 5 in at Boston, a night in which he passed Michael Jordan as the career postseason scoring leader.

James elected not to talk about the Warriors following the game, choosing instead to celebrate a third straight conference title in Cleveland and his seventh consecutive Finals trip. James didn't speak to reporters on Saturday either, leaving Love to serve as the team's unofficial spokesman as the sports world inched closer to a matchup that seemed destined from the moment last season's Finals ended.

Love was asked if the Cavs wanted the Warriors.

"Want the Warriors?" he said. "They've been right at the top, best team in the league for three years straight now. They've been super-impressive. It's kind of in our minds that that's who we were going to see. They played great basketball this year. Obviously adding an MVP to a team that already has a two-time MVP makes them even more impressive. It's tough to say that we didn't expect it; we knew they'd be right there."

After the team returned from Boston in the wee hours Friday morning, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue didn't go to bed and immediately began working on a game plan to stifle Golden State's powerful, multi-faceted offense.

Lue knows the Cavs are facing a difficult task, one made tougher with the addition of the versatile Durant, who can score down low, from the perimeter and free-throw line.

The Warriors are using Durant the way he envisioned, but Lue has noticed changes in the All-Star.

"He's moving around a lot more," he said. "Just watching him move without the basketball, getting easy baskets off of cuts and splits and when he passes the ball he's also relocating now. He's doing a lot more movement, which makes it even tougher to guard after being one of the tougher scorers I've ever seen."

Lue said didn't deliver any inspiring speech to his players before practice.

Words don't mean much now - not his, not Green's - and neither do underdog labels.

"We're not going to use that as motivation," Lue said. "We're in the NBA Finals. That's enough motivation alone. Not worry about what it says in Vegas or what people are saying about underdogs. We're not using that as an excuse. We've got to come out and play. Our goals were set at the beginning of the season, and that's to win a championship. So, that's what we're focused on."

And remember, the Cavs have overcome long odds before.