1993-94: Magic Acquire A Million-Dollar "Penny"
The Magic used the No. 1 pick to their advantage by engineering the biggest draft-day trade in recent history. The University of Michigan's Chris Webber seemed a clear choice for the No. 1 selection, but Orlando coveted Memphis State guard Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway, whom Golden State seemed likely to select with the No. 3 pick. So, after the Magic picked Webber and the Warriors selected Hardaway, the teams swapped draftees, with Orlando also receiving three future first-round draft choices.

The events of the 1993 NBA Draft seemed to assure the Magic of fielding a solid team for years to come. Not only did they have a young and potent inside-outside tandem in O'Neal and Hardaway, but Orlando also owned 11 first-round draft picks over the next seven years.

In 1993-94 Orlando rose above the ranks of the expansion teams. Not only did the club win 50 games and make the playoffs, but with Shaquille O'Neal and Anfernee Hardaway, the Magic also became one of the top attractions in professional sports. Hardaway began the year as the club's shooting guard, leaving the veteran Scott Skiles at the point guard position.

However, by midseason Hardaway was in his natural position at the point, and Nick Anderson moved back to the off guard slot. For the season, Hardaway tallied 16.0 points, 6.6 assists, and 5.4 rebounds per game. He ranked sixth in the league in steals (2.32 per game), was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team, and finished a close second to Chris Webber for the NBA Rookie of the Year Award.

Despite Hardaway's accomplishments, the fate of the Magic still rested on the broad shoulders of O'Neal. The big center, criticized by some for spending time in the offseason making films, records, and commercials instead of working on his offensive skills, dunked on his critics with an average of 29.3 points per game. He battled the San Antonio Spurs' David Robinson for the league scoring crown throughout the year, eventually settling for second place when Robinson poured in 71 points in the last game of the season. O'Neal also led the league in field goal percentage (.599), ranked second in rebounding, and sixth in blocked shots. He started in the NBA All-Star Game for the second straight year.

The Magic reached the All-Star break with a 27-20 record, went 23-12 for the remainder of the season, and finished in second place in the Atlantic Division. But the Indiana Pacers, the surprise team of the playoffs, began their run to the Eastern Conference Finals by sweeping Orlando in the first round. Following the season O'Neal led Dream Team II to a gold medal at the 1994 World Championship of Basketball.


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