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Building the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team

Kurt JonkeContributor IIIMarch 29, 2014

Building the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team

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    It is no surprise that Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway will be on this team. But where exactly do they rank?
    It is no surprise that Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway will be on this team. But where exactly do they rank?Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    The Orlando Magic are celebrating their first 25 years in the NBA. Let's take this opportunity to compose the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team. We will rank the 12 best players to don the Magic uniform in this past quarter of a century and eventually come up with a starting lineup.

    Whenever someone makes a ranked list, it is important to clarify the rudimentary rules on which his selection is based.

    In this case, a player qualifies once he has played 200 or more games for the Orlando Magic. It doesn't matter how well he played with other teams—his time in Orlando matters.

    Also, his demeanor and work ethic while playing for the team will influence whether he is included and where he ends up in the ranking. Numbers, while important, will not be the exclusive determinator.

    The players will be ranked regardless of position. After concluding the list of players, a starting five will be built, taking into account how well they complement each other on the floor.

    Of course, any ranking ends up being discussed.

    Readers will feel that some players shouldn't be on this list while others should. We all have our own personal favorites, some merely for sentimental reasons. Each list will eventually boil down to personal preferences of the respective author.

    That will lead to arguments and sometimes heated discussions.

    And that's a good thing because it embodies what is so great about sports: Stats don't tell everything.

    If you didn't see Shaquille O'Neal play in Orlando back in the day, you are not able to appreciate just how good and dominant a player he was. If you never witnessed Nick Anderson's steal in the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1995, you can't gauge just how much of an icon he became for the fans. And if you never saw a healthy Anfernee Hardaway, you have no idea what people are still raving about.

    That being out of the way, enjoy this take on the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team.


    All stats taken from NBA.com and basketball-reference.com unless stated otherwise.

Honorable Mentions

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    J.J. Redick didn't quite make the cut, due to being used very sparely early on in his time with the Magic.
    J.J. Redick didn't quite make the cut, due to being used very sparely early on in his time with the Magic.Phelan M. Ebenhack

    As is so often the case, the main problem is not ranking the guys you include. It's having to leave out some players who, in your opinion, also deserve to be on the team.

    Alas! There are only 12 spots.

    Players like Rony Seikaly, Steve Francis or Mike Miller are candidates for discussion but didn't play enough games to qualify—Miller missed out by just four games.

    Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo have all shown a lot of promise for future seasons. They, too, don't have enough appearances to be eligible. They might be veritable candidates for future all-time best teams.

    J.J. Redick was on the floor 396 times for Orlando.

    He missed out because he mostly spent his first few years as bench warmer, seeing a couple of minutes here and there. He really started blossoming—and finally got the chance to do so—during his final years with the Magic.

    Following are the 12 players who made the grade and form the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team.

12. Jameer Nelson

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    Despite being just 6'0", Jameer Nelson knows no fear.
    Despite being just 6'0", Jameer Nelson knows no fear.John Raoux


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    20Denver Nuggets20042004-present


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    His numbers make him a borderline candidate for this team.

    His loyalty demands his inclusion.

    The veteran guard has been with the Orlando Magic for all of his career, and he doesn't want to leave them, regardless of their win-loss record. He plays with a big heart and leaves it all on the floor each time he plays.

    That alone would already endear him to Orlando fans, but Jameer Nelson can also point to some decent numbers in his stat sheet.

    The former All-Star is a threat from downtown and even ended up second in the league in three-point percentage during the 2008-09 season. He plays unselfishly and is a positive influence in the locker room and on court.

    The 6'0" Nelson embraces his current role of teaching Victor Oladipo and leading a young team. Any coach wishes for a veteran like that.

    In short, he is the perfect team player.

11. Scott Skiles

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    Scott Skiles left it all on the floor each and every game.
    Scott Skiles left it all on the floor each and every game.Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    22Milwaukee Bucks19861989-94


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Meet the conductor of the Orlando Magic.

    While being a decent defender, Scott Skiles excelled at passing and shooting the ball proficiently. He understood the game and made the most of his skills. The point guard was a leader for Orlando in all five campaigns and still holds the franchise and league record of 30 assists in a game.

    Despite his small frame, he was a tough guy.

    Skiles proved his endurance—and his importance for the Magic—by playing the third-most minutes per game in the NBA during 1992-93. The same season saw him finish third in assists per game.

    The arrival of Anfernee Hardaway marked the end of the 6'1" guard's era in Orlando the very next year, eventually leading to a trade.

    Skiles was with Orlando at the very start, and he deserves his spot on the team.

10. Grant Hill

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    When healthy, Grant Hill was a force to be reckoned with.
    When healthy, Grant Hill was a force to be reckoned with.Noah Graham/Getty Images


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    3Detroit Pistons19942000-07


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    47 games.

    That's Grant Hill's total in his first four years with the Orlando Magic. Even now, some fans still feel betrayed.

    While they may blame Hill, the actual culprit was fate.

    Hill had several operations on his left ankle during this time, one of them resulting in a life-threatening staph infection. After sitting out the entire 2003-04 campaign, G-Money returned to play 153 games in the remaining three seasons with the Magic.

    Upon his return, Hill adjusted his game, leading to a clear drop in rebounds and a less aggressive style on offense. Despite that, he still managed to post impressive numbers and didn't just play efficiently—he did it with style.

    He showed silky-smooth moves and a great understanding of the game.

    The former Rookie of the Year and seven-time All-Star was not known for trash talking, ridiculous haircuts or wild tattoos. Instead, he had the reputation of a true gentleman. The only thing he cared for was the one statistic that counts: the win-loss record of his team.

    Simply put, he was the perfect teammate and a relentless opponent. Had it not been for his injuries, he would rank much higher in this all-time Orlando Magic team.

9. Hedo Turkoglu

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    Hedo Turkoglu liked to rely on his outside shot, leaving Dwight Howard to roam the paint.
    Hedo Turkoglu liked to rely on his outside shot, leaving Dwight Howard to roam the paint.Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    16Sacramento Kings20002004-09; 2011-13


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    The selection of Hedo Turkoglu may lead to some discussions, given the way things ended. However, during his first five seasons with the Orlando Magic, he was an integral part of the team.

    The 6'10" forward helped stretch the floor with his proficient shooting, a very important factor for the Florida-based franchise. Why? The reason was obvious:

    Dwight Howard.

    With a center able to dominate the inside, the strategy was to draw potential help defenders away from him rather than clog up the paint. Hedo's game was perfectly suited for that. He was a confident shooter and an able—and willing—passer, who helped lead the team to the NBA Finals in 2009.

    The 2007-2008 Most Improved Player was never very athletic. Nonetheless, his first stint with Orlando was a successful one, both for the team and him.

    Sadly, he couldn't produce upon his return to the franchise and spent the 2013-14 season at home before being waived. Rob Hennigan was quoted by Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

    We’ve made an organizational decision to move in a different direction. During the pendency of our buyout negotiations, we’ve mutually agreed to have Hedo remain with his family while we work toward an agreement.

    All in all, however, his time with the Magic was productive, and he played a big part in their playoff runs.

8. Rashard Lewis

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    Rashard Lewis was one of the most successful stretch 4s the Orlando Magic employed to draw defenders away from Dwight Howard.
    Rashard Lewis was one of the most successful stretch 4s the Orlando Magic employed to draw defenders away from Dwight Howard.Associated Press


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    32Seattle Supersonics19982007-10


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Meet the only second-round pick who made the anniversary team.

    Rashard Lewis was drafted 32nd by the Seattle Supersonics in 1998. After nine seasons in Rain City, he transferred to warm and sunny Florida.

    Fortunately, his game travelled with him.

    The 6'10" Lewis was a small forward in the body of a power forward. He shot the three efficiently, while being big and strong enough to hold his own underneath the basket.

    In his time with the Orlando Magic, he ended up in the top five for three-point field goals made each season. The two-time All-Star averaged 39.9 percent from downtown and brought experience and leadership to the team.

    While he never was the most athletic player, he managed to use his size to his advantage—mostly shooting over smaller defenders or drawing opposing big guys away from the basket. That made him a valuable asset during his tenure with the Magic and Dwight Howard.

    And it makes him the perfect complementary player on this team.

7. Dennis Scott

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    Dennis Scott's long-range shooting helped sink the Chicago Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
    Dennis Scott's long-range shooting helped sink the Chicago Bulls in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    4Orlando Magic19901990-97


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    The 6'8" small forward was a sharpshooter who let it fly every time he caught a glimpse of the basket, connecting on more than 40 percent of his three-point attempts. During his seven years with the Orlando Magic, he hoisted 2,432 shots from downtown.

    981 of them found their target.

    Still any questions why his nickname is 3D?

    In 1995-96, Dennis Scott didn't only lead the Orlando Magic in three-point field goals made, he finished first in the NBA with 267. In that season, he shot an impressive 42.5 percent from behind the arc.

    If you are looking for a pure, cold-blooded shooter for the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team, look no further.

6. Horace Grant

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    Horace Grant was a main contributor during the Orlando Magic's playoff run in 1995, beating his former team, the Chicago Bulls, on the way.
    Horace Grant was a main contributor during the Orlando Magic's playoff run in 1995, beating his former team, the Chicago Bulls, on the way.BARRY JARVINEN


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    10Chicago Bulls19871994-99


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    When Horace Grant joined the Orlando Magic, he was already a three-time NBA champion.

    The General was an integral part of the Chicago Bulls' three-peat. For example, he finished third in win shares per 48 minutes in 1991-92. The two players ahead of him were Michael Jordan and David Robinson. Scottie Pippen, the man commonly known as second in command behind Jordan, came in 12th.

    The 6'10" Grant was not only a good rebounder and defender, he also understood the game better than most. His offense was very efficient. He converted many offensive rebounds into points but was also able to stretch the court and draw his defender away from the basket, thanks to a reliable mid-range jumper.

    That opened up the paint for Jordan and Pippen, who liked to attack the rim.

    More importantly, this gave Shaquille O'Neal space to operate under the basket.

    Grant was never a superstar—not with the Bulls and not with the Magic—but he was a reliable player and a leader. When he arrived in Orlando, he was a man among boys. Hardaway was in his second year, O'Neal in his third.

    Most of all, he had something no other player had: a championship ring.

    Make that three championship rings.

    His impact on the team was remarkable. In his first season with the Magic, he helped lead them to the 1995 NBA Finals. On the way there, he played a major role in eliminating his former team, the Chicago Bulls, and Michael Jordan.

    Everyone looked at him for leadership the minute he arrived. And he immediately took responsibility and became a mentor for a young Orlando Magic franchise.

    He obviously had a lot of influence on guys like Shaq, leading Grant to believe that—had he not missed O'Neal's call—the Diesel would not have left Orlando, as told to Bill Simmons of Grantland.

    He called me, and I didn't return his call before he signed with the Lakers. And to this day, I wish I had just answered that call, and maybe he would still have been in Orlando.


    [It was] like Mike Tyson hit me. You cannot recover from [losing] a guy that size, in his prime, that dominant.

5. Nick Anderson

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    Nick Anderson with "the steal" in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.
    Nick Anderson with "the steal" in the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals.Brian Cleary


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Nick Anderson was the franchise's first draft pick ever.

    He donned the pinstripes 692 times in his 10 years with the team, more often than any other player. During his time with the Magic, they had a 247-game sellout streak.

    He was drafted with the 11th pick by Orlando in its inaugural season and soon became synonymous with the franchise. Anderson played alongside Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O'Neal, helping them reach the NBA Finals in 1994-95.

    The 6'6“ shooting guard was a good rebounder for his size and a pesky defender, recording 1.5 steals per game for Orlando. He is the Orlando Magic all-time leader with a stunning 1,004 steals over the course of 10 years.

    Fans still remember how he took the ball from none other than Michael Jordan late in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals 1995 to secure the win. It became one of the defining moments of his career.

    Despite costing his team a tight Game 1 of the NBA Finals with four consecutive misses from the free-throw line the same year, Orlando supporters were very forgiving. They always appreciated Nick for leaving it all on the court every single time.

    He is still one of the most-beloved players in Orlando Magic history, and his recent tribute was highly deserved.

    Anderson was also a great offensive threat.

    He attacked the basket relentlessly but also had an efficient jump shot. He ended up scoring 900 three-pointers during his time with the team, which places him second in the franchise records behind Dennis Scott.

4. Tracy McGrady

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    Tracy McGrady was a tremendous offensive threat, often drawing double- or even triple-teams.
    Tracy McGrady was a tremendous offensive threat, often drawing double- or even triple-teams.STEVE YEATER


    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    9Toronto Raptors19972000-04


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    When Tracy McGrady arrived in Orlando, he was supposed to bloom into an able scorer alongside Grant Hill. With the latter sidelined due to injuries, T-Mac took charge and became the Most Improved Player in 2000-01.

    To understand his improvement and the impact on the team, let's take a quick look at his awards and stats. During the regular season, he averaged 39.4 minutes and 28.1 points in 295 games. His winning share per 48 minutes was .199.

    That alone is impressive. But there is more.

    McGrady became a perennial All-Star upon his arrival in Orlando. He led the league in scoring twice while being part of the Magic, was in the top five of MVP voting as many times, was in the top three of the NBA in player efficiency rating in all four campaigns with the Florida-based franchise... Let's cut to the chase:

    He exploded during his time with the Orlando Magic.

    His personal accolades aside, he filled a void in a time the fanbase was reeling from Shaq's departure and Penny's injury woes and subsequent trade. T-Mac not only became the go-to guy for Orlando, he became an NBA superstar.

    Over the four seasons with the Magic, he led the team to the playoffs three times and averaged 32 points and 5.9 assists in 44.3 minutes per game in the postseason. That's the definition of a guy who initiates his team's offense.

    But he was also a terrific defender, averaging 1.5 steals and 1.5 blocks.

    Tracy McGrady did it all.

    And he did it with outstanding flair.

3. Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway

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    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    3Golden State Warriors19931993-99


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Anfernee Hardaway was a unique player.

    The 6'7" point guard was an immediate success in the league. He and Shaquille O'Neal became one of the most dynamic duos in the game. They were both dominant at their respective positions and unselfish enough to look for the open man, exploiting double-teams with ease.

    The eventual four-time All-Star was drafted by the Golden State Warriors with the third pick and sent to the Orlando Magic for Chris Webber and three first-round draft picks.

    Magic fans never shed a tear over Webber after seeing what Hardaway could do.

    Penny's size allowed him to view the floor, shoot over smaller defenders or abuse them in the post. He was nonetheless a pass-first point guard who enjoyed involving his teammates.

    And he did it with flair.

    But he was by no means only interested in offense. The intensity he played with, combined with a great situational awareness and long arms, resulted in 1.9 steals per game in his time with the Magic.

    Unfortunately, Penny's career was limited by injuries. In his fourth season he played 59 games, in his fifth only 19.

    Nonetheless, there can't be any other starting point guard for this anniversary team.

2. Dwight Howard

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    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    1Orlando Magic20042004-12


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Oh boy. Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic.

    After all the drama around him, a lot of fans turned on Superman and made him out to be Lex Luthor. Of course, basketball is an emotional sport, and fans are often unforgiving when a player leaves the team. In Howard's case, the way he did it caused the rift.

    In an interview with Sam Amick from USA Today, he apologised to Orlando fans.

    In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way, If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

    But let's focus on what he did for, not to, the Orlando Magic.

    He is third in franchise history in games played (621) and first in minutes played (22,471). That's more than 374 hours in an Orlando uniform. The eight-time All-Star missed only 19 games in eight seasons with the Magic, despite seeing many minutes each game.

    During these eight campaigns, he led the league in total rebounds six times and had the most blocks twice. He dominated with his physical presence and changed numerous shots.

    At the same time, he was a very efficient and prolific scorer—free throws not withstanding.

    He was in the top 10 in field-goal percentage during his whole tenure in Orlando, leading the list in 2009-10 with an incredible 61.2 percent. It becomes a bit more credible when you consider where he made his field goals, but it's not like he is the only big guy in the game trying to score close to the basket.

    If it wasn't for a certain Shaquille O'Neal, Howard could have been Orlando's all-time No. 1.

1. Shaquille O'Neal

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    Pick No.TeamYearOrlando Magic
    1Orlando Magic19921992-96


    Stats with the Orlando Magic:

    Regular Season


    Did you watch Shaq's rookie highlight reel?

    Watch it again.

    And this time, keep in mind, this is a rookie dominating veterans with sheer power. Usually it is supposed to be the other way around.

    Let's not even start counting all his personal accolades and championship rings but instead describe Shaquille O'Neal's impact during his four seasons with the Orlando Magic in one word.


    There are not many people deserving of their own, personalised adjective, but the 7'1", 300-pound behemoth was a game-changer the minute he stepped on the floor for the very first time. Even in his first year in the league, he put people in awe, shattered backboards and simply dominated physically.

    Watching him push other centers aside, as if they were made of paper, was impressive enough on its own. Seeing them bouncing off of the big guy when he defended them down low was something else.

    But he wasn't just big.

    Contrary to other tall guys, like Shawn Bradley or Gheorghe Muresan, he had great control over his body and surprisingly nimble feet. Granted, he wouldn't outrun Allen Iverson, but on several occasions he blocked a shot on one end and finished the fast break with a thundering dunk on the other.

    In his third season, he and Anfernee Hardaway led the team to the NBA Finals, where they succumbed to the superior Houston Rockets, led by veteran Hakeem Olajuwon in his prime. Had Shaq stayed in Orlando, the franchise very likely would have some championship banners in its rafters.

    Despite his dominance, he did have one weakness: free throws.

    During his 19-year career, the Diesel amassed 11,252 attempts from the charity stripe because of his poor percentage and a tactic which became known as "Hack-a-Shaq." Teams would deliberately foul him late in close games, sending him to the line.

    His field-goal percentage during his time with the Magic was an impressive 58.1. His free throws fell at an abysmal 54.6 percent.

    Nonetheless, he clearly remains the most dominant and best player to ever wear the pinstripes.

The Lineup

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    Shaq and Penny are obvious starters for the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team.
    Shaq and Penny are obvious starters for the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team.Fernando Medina/Getty Images

    25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team

    CShaquille O'Neal
    PFHorace Grant
    SFTracy McGrady
    SGNick Anderson
    PGAnfernee Hardaway
      Dwight Howard
      Dennis Scott
      Rashard Lewis
     Hedo Turkoglu 
     Grant Hill 
     Scott Skiles 
     Jameer Nelson 


    There can be no question about Shaq and Penny starting for the 25th Anniversary Orlando Magic Team. After all, they excelled as individual players and formed one of the deadliest duos in the game.

    The first question arises at the 4. Shouldn't Howard, the overall No. 2, be the starting power forward?

    Certainly not.

    He and O'Neal would take away from each other's game. Both live under the basket, neither of them has a reliable mid-range jumper and their free-throw woes are legendary. We need someone to stretch the floor.

    While Grant isn't at the same level as Lewis in regards to shooting, he brings more defense, experience and leadership. Also, the other three positions are already stacked with decent-to-excellent shooters from long range.

    T-Mac has proved that he is a superstar who can take over any game. He is able to play shooting guard as well as small forward, due to his size and athleticism. Nick Anderson, Mr. Orlando Magic himself, definitely needs to be in the starting formation based on numbers as well as importance for the franchise in a historical sense. He will be best at the 2.

    Hence we shall play McGrady at the 3.

    Players like Howard, Scott and Lewis will be the first to sub in, while the others will come in mostly to relieve the starters when they need a breather or in order to respond to specific game situations.

    Taking a look at the starting lineup, the informed (and veteran) reader will notice that four of the five starters actually played together during the 1994-95 season and reached the NBA Finals. This coincidence just tells us how strong and impressive the Orlando Magic were back then.

    One can only wonder what they could have achieved, had Shaq remained and Penny stayed healthy.


    You can follow @KurtJonke for more on the NBA in general and the Orlando Magic in particular.

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