When the Eastern Conference All-Star reserves were being announced, the wild card positions were a toss up. Joe Johnson, Antawn Jamison, and Hedo Turkoglu were all having remarkable seasons, but only two would make it to New Orleans.
Hedo Turkoglu was not one of those two.
When Kevin Garnett—one of the East's starting forwards—went down with an injury and could not participate in the All-Star festivities, a replacement had to be selected.
Hedo Turkoglu was not the replacement.
The NBA decided to go with Rasheed Wallace, to the surprise of many. Wallace averages 7.2 points per game less than Turkoglu and only grabs one more rebound per game as a center.
Fans were stunned. If the majority of people second guessing the NBA's decision didn't make them feel dumb enough, comments made by Wallace himself sure did. When asked how it felt to be an All-Star, the Detroit Piston's big man responded, "I'd rather be a Bahamanian but as you can see, I got sidetracked to this." Rasheed didn't even want to play in the All-Star game and acted like it was some kind of chore.
Then you have Hedo Turkoglu. He hoped to be an All-Star since that start of the season, but wasn't included, despite putting up career highs across his stat sheet. His point, rebound, assist, steal, field goal percentage, and free throw percentage averages are all above his career totals.
While the All-Star game has passed and the second half of the season is upon us, Hedo should not be forgotten. Just because he was an All-Star snub, doesn't mean his name will be left out when the Most Improved Player award is being handed out in late April.
Many people don't realize that Turkoglu has become the number one option in Orlando's offense. Dwight Howard receives his touches down low and is also averaging a career-high in points per game with 21.8, but Turkoglu is given free reign offensively.
During many games the other team's best defender is assigned to cover Turkoglu, not Rashard Lewis (who the Magic signed because they lacked a consistent scorer...or so they thought). Hedo has attempted the most shots for the Magic this season—870 to be exact, which is 53 more than Lewis and 160 more than Howard—but at the same time nearly leads the team in assists (he trails Jameer Nelson by one assist).
Earlier in his career, his game was somewhat one-dimensional because he relied heavily on his three point shot and was considered a mediocre defender. Since then, he has improved his defense, become a great finisher at the rim, and learned how to contribute when his shots aren't falling.
This month, he had his first career triple double against the Mavericks with 13 points, 13 assists, and 12 rebounds. He was 4-14 in the game so he found other ways to help his team succeed—something he wouldn't have previously done.
Unless you have watched some Orlando Magic games you probably don't realize how big of an impact Hedo has been making this year. He has developed into one of the best scorers in the entire league, especially in the fourth quarter. While he has an inside and outside game that terrorizes defenses throughout the first three quarters, when the final 15 minutes display on the scoreboard, Turkoglu turns into a monster.
While his game winners are what show up on ESPN, it's his contributions throughout the entire final quarter that have helped the Magic tremendously this year. He is Orlando's most consistent scorer down the stretch and at one point earlier this season he was second in the league in points per fourth quarter behind only LeBron James. Stan Van Gundy, the head coach of the Magic, coined the nickname "Mr. Fourth Quarter" for Hedo and it has stuck.
Why Hedo is having such a ridiculous season?
"After eight years in the league, I'm getting chances I never got before," he said. "I think I'm doing pretty well, but it's all about getting the chances."
If the NBA had the chance to change their All-Star replacement selection would they? Most likely. They still have the chance to honor Hedo Turkoglu by naming him Most Improved Player and hopefully stop the snubbing. Turkoglu is the most deserving candidate and will hopefully get some much deserved respect for his remarkable breakout season.