Cohen: Who Would Make Your All-Magic Team?
February 23, 2013
Josh Cohen’s Analysis: If you could form an All-Magic team – including a starting five, sixth man and head coach – what would your squad look like? Evaluating players based exclusively on how they performed while playing for the Magic, would you pick Shaq or Dwight at center, would Penny definitely be your starting point guard and who would you have serve as the coach? CLICK NEXT for some position-by-position analysis.
CENTER: Cohen’s Analysis - Shaq from 1992-1996 or Dwight from 2004-2012? Both big men led the Magic to an NBA Finals. O’Neal proved to be a far more dominant center after his departure to L.A. where he captured three consecutive NBA championships with the Lakers and then another ring with Miami in 2006. Howard was a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, but was far more erratic and unreliable offensively than O’Neal. Both were horrific free throw shooters. Shaq is undeniably a more menacing and daunting center of all-time, which is why it would seem more rational to favor him here.
POWER FORWARD: Cohen’s Analysis - This would be a no-brainer if I published this feature in 2009 or 2010, but with the way Rashard Lewis’ tenure with the Magic ended, it’s not a foregone conclusion who the more prolific and steadfast power forward in franchise history was. One could argue that Lewis was Orlando’s most clutch and essential player in the season it advanced to the NBA Finals in ’09. He was a top 20 player in the league at that point, but rather rapidly his career was derailed by injuries and a positive steroid test. If not Lewis, Horace Grant has to be seriously considered. While mostly remembered for his championships with MJ and the Bulls and Shaq & Kobe’s Lakers, Grant was instrumental in the Magic’s success in the mid 90’s.
SMALL FORWARD: Cohen’s Analysis - Grant Hill will always be ostracized in Orlando because of unremitting ankle injuries. However, if you take the small sample of time when he did play, Hill was effective. He earned a starting All-Star bid in 2005, a year he averaged 19.7 points per game, and was productive again in 2007 when he helped the Magic qualify for the playoffs. Hedo Turkoglu may be the frontrunner, but as a result of his descending performance over the last two years, it’s not a given. Turk was exceptional over a three-year span for the Magic, claiming Most Improved honors in 2008 and catapulting Orlando to the Finals in 2009. The dark horse for the small forward position is Dennis Scott, still an adored figure in Orlando because of his extraordinary 3-point shooting.
SHOOTING GUARD: Cohen’s Analysis - If you evaluate criteria on individual performance exclusively, Tracy McGrady has to start at shooting guard. He became the youngest player to lead the NBA in scoring in 2002-03 (32.1 ppg), repeated as the league’s most electrifying scorer the following season and set the franchise record for most points in a game (62 in 2004). But there may not be a player who means more to the Magic than Nick Anderson, the team’s first-ever draft pick and the consummate professional during his 10 years with Orlando. Anderson was critical in Orlando’s rise to national spotlight in the 90’s and will forever be remembered for the celebratory steal on MJ during the 1995 playoffs. An honorable mention has to be the hometown hero Vince Carter, who joined the Magic at the later stages of his prime.
POINT GUARD: Cohen’s Analysis - If not for the crushing knee injury in 1997 to Penny Hardaway, we wouldn’t need to analyze this too much. But since the injury happened and Hardaway’s career plummeted fast afterwards, it’s worth making the comparisons. Jameer Nelson recently became the Magic’s all-time assists leader and continues to be a reliable floor general in Orlando. While Nelson’s star-studded status will never quite relate to Hardaway’s in the mid to late 90’s, he has become one of Orlando’s most honored players ever.
SIXTH MAN: Cohen’s Analysis - When you ask people who their favorite players in Magic history are, one name is universally mentioned amongst all fans: Darrell Armstrong. While he did start during a certain period of his lengthy term in Orlando, Armstrong mainly served as a key reserve during the Shaq/Penny era and the T-Mac age. J.J. Redick will always be regarded as a popular player off the bench as will Mickael Pietrus, who transformed his career with the Magic during Orlando’s run to the Finals in 2009.
COACH: Cohen’s Analysis - Brian Hill and Stan Van Gundy each steered the Magic to the franchise’s two NBA Finals appearances, but arguably Doc Rivers accomplished the most with less. Now considered one of the premier head coaches in the NBA, it was the job he did during the 1999-2000 season that solidified Rivers as an elite coach. Known as the “Heart & Hustle” squad, Doc engineered one of the most impressive seasons by any team in NBA history.