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What LA Clippers Need from Veteran Hedo Turkoglu

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What LA Clippers Need from Veteran Hedo Turkoglu
Carlos Osorio/Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers’ ultimate goal this season is to win their first NBA title. To achieve that goal the Clippers need frontcourt help and a more versatile rotation for Doc Rivers to manipulate.

The signing of Hedo Turkoglu helps in both of those areas and hopefully the ultimate goal as well, as the veteran swing man described to Broderick Turner of the L.A. Times:

Well, if you look at it, they are a great team. They have a lot of great players. The way they approach the game, or their mind-set, especially after they bring in Doc [Rivers], they really wanted to win. I've always been playing good with great coaches and I know somehow I would get an opportunity with Doc and do what I can do in the best way.

The Clippers wanted to sign Turkoglu for multiple reasons which will be discussed in more detail shortly, however, Doc Rivers mentioned he wanted to sign Turkoglu prior to their seven-game road trip. Turkoglu inked his contract on January 16th and flew to meet the team before their January 17th meeting with the New York Knicks.

With Turkoglu on the roster, what can the Clippers expect from the 14-year veteran? More importantly, how will he be initiated into the rotation? Here's what Rivers told Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

He's another shooter. Sometimes you don't bring a guy in because a guy is not doing something. You bring a guy in because he does something our other guys do as well. He's another shooter and can space the floor. He's very skilled. We would like to take advantage of that.

Turkoglu had not played in a game this season prior to signing with the Clippers after being cut by the Orlando Magic earlier in January. Moreover, he only played in 11 games last season due to an injury and a 20-game suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. Rivers wasted no time inserting Turkoglu into the lineup. Turk played seven minutes against the Knicks, 13 against the Indiana Pacers and 15 against the Detroit Pistons—all within five days of signing his contract.

While he can impact the game with his shooting, especially playing as a small-ball power forward, he also has the ability to create off the dribble and perform some of the duties that Lamar Odom handled with the team’s reserves last season.

Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

While Turkoglu might not provide the type of production he has been known for over the course of his career—11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 38.1 percent from three—his versatility should allow some players to play a more familiar role. Matt Barnes, who has been inserted into the starting lineup, now can focus less on his outside shooting and more on his defense and hustle. Jamal Crawford will now have two capable ball-handlers to take the creative pressure off him, which is exactly how he excelled last year.

While it is far too early to divulge anything from the three games Turkoglu played thus far, Rivers seems like he is doing his best to force feed him minutes at both forward positions. Bringing Dudley off the bench with Turkoglu is an interesting scenario to keep an eye on; Dudley plays well when he can spot up on the wing and should have no problem playing next to Turkoglu and Crawford.

Defensively, it remains to be seen what kind of impact Turkoglu will have. He has never been known as a defender, but should fare better guarding bigger forwards over strictly small forwards. Additionally, this is where Dudley’s solid defense could be used to help mask some of Turkoglu’s deficiencies and the same can be said about Barnes.

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Furthermore, the Clippers have thrived defensively under Rivers, despite a slow start. According to  NBA.com, the Clippers are eighth in the league in points allowed per 100 possessions at 101.1 points. Even more impressive, the Clippers rank fourth since December 1st, giving up only 100.2 points per 100 possessions. Unless Turkoglu’s defense is absolutely terrible—and I mean Byron Mullens' 112.2 points allowed per 100 possessions, 424th out of 449 players terrible—his defense should not be a huge concern until his conditioning improves.

Much like every other player on the roster, Rivers is going to give Turkoglu a clear and defined role. It will be up to Turkoglu to prove to Rivers that he belongs in the rotation and that his skill level can be a positive for a team looking for someone, anyone, to provide depth at the forward position. Like Rivers said, his shooting, versatility and creation ability can help the team now and for the rest of the season. It will be up to Turkoglu to shake off the rust from nearly two seasons without any meaningful minutes. Let’s hope he can.

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