Revealing the Orlando Magic's All-Decade Team

Although it is 2010, it's time to take a final look back at the decade of the 2000's to see which Orlando Magic players stood out the most and deserve to be recognized on Orlando Pinstriped Post's own All-Decade Team.

 

Surprisingly enough, or maybe not for those that have followed the Magic closely for a while, the process of choosing players on the team wasn't a difficult exercise. Whether or not that's a good or bad thing is left up to one's own interpretation. 

 

But before the choices are revealed, let's briefly summarize what occurred for Orlando in the past 10 years.

 

In the summer of 2000, and after much roster maneuvering by former general manager John Gabriel, the Magic announced its return to league-wide relevancy with the free agent signings of Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. The city was abuzz and for a moment, all NBA eyes were on Orlando. Many thought this was an important first step for the Magic, in ultimately getting to the NBA Finals and winning a championship. Instead of Shaq and Penny, it'd be Hill and McGrady leading the way. Or so everyone thought. 

 

Unfortunately for Orlando, the honeymoon period didn't last very long. As the story goes, Hill was ravaged by ankle injuries the majority of his tenure with the Magic and nearly died after he developed a staph infection in 2003. McGrady blossomed into a superstar and due to Hill's prolonged absences, carried Orlando on his back but ultimately demanded a trade in 2004 because - via John Denton of the Florida Today - he "tired of the Magic's inability to add significant pieces around him and grew frustrated with the franchise's inability to win a playoff series. Also, McGrady clashed regularly with Weisbrod, who took over as general manager in March, and ultimately McGrady felt he was no longer wanted."

 

In McGrady's final year with Orlando, before he was traded to the Houston Rockets during the off-season, the team experienced its worst regular season (21-61) in 12 years and set a franchise-record by losing 19 consecutive games. During the streak, former head coach Doc Rivers was fired and replaced by Johnny Davis. Later, Gabriel was fired and replaced by John Weisbrod. Of course there were other factors, but years of being unable to surround McGrady with a competent supporting cast doomed the Magic organization from top to bottom. The failures also brought along a lot of 'what if' scenarios, including the big one - what if Hill was completely healthy during his tenure with Orlando?

 

In any case, the Magic were forced to start over and began the process of reinventing itself by selecting high schooler Dwight Howard with the first pick in the 2004 NBA Draft, trading for Jameer Nelson in the same draft after the Denver Nuggets drafted him 20th overall, and signing Hedo Turkoglu as a free agent. There were other moves that were made (some good, some bad) but these particular roster acquisitions by former general manager John Weisbrod, unbeknownst at the time, formed part of the core that led Orlando to the NBA Finals this past season.

 

The mid-2000's was a growth period for the Magic. In 2005, Weisbrod resigned as general manager & chief operating officer and was replaced by Dave Twardzik & Otis Smith (both were named assistant general managers). Former head coach Brian Hill returned to coach Orlando in the same year but was subsequently fired, for a second time, after the 2007 season. The Magic selected Fran Vazquez in the 2005 NBA Draft but looked foolish after the Spaniard chose to continue to play basketball overseas. Smith was eventually promoted to general manager in 2006. Howard slowly developed into a superstar. Nelson showed glimpses of brilliance - first as a reserve, then as a starter. J.J. Redick entered the picture after he was selected 11th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. In 2007, the Magic returned to the playoffs after not appearing in the postseason since 2003. 

 

Slowly but surely, Orlando was climbing its way back to the top of the league.

 

During the off-season in 2007, the fate of the franchise would change forever as University of Florida head coach Billy Donovan committed on June 1 to be the new head coach of the Magic but then, a few days later, reneged on his commitment and was released from his contract shortly thereafter. As such, former Miami Heat head coach Stan Van Gundy was hired. That wasn't all. Orlando, then, pursued Rashard Lewis in free agency and agreed to a sign-and-trade deal with the Seattle Sonics for his services. With those two main moves (hiring Van Gundy, signing Lewis) amongst others, the Magic eventually made its return to NBA's elite.

 

In the first two years under Van Gundy, Orlando has won two consecutive Southeast Division titles (2008 and 2009) and an Eastern Conference title (2009). The team accomplishments have been impressive under Van Gundy but also the player accomplishments, too. Turkoglu was named the NBA's Most Improved Player in 2008, Nelson (first time) and Lewis were listed as reserves in the 2009 NBA All-Star Game, Howard was chosen as the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year in 2009, and more.

 

It's been 10 years full of peaks and valleys for the Magic, to be sure. What once was a middle-of-the-road organization (and briefly, a cellar dweller) vying for a new arena many years ago has transformed into a first-class organization that is debuting its crowning jewel, the Amway Center, later this year. 

 

What a decade.

 

And now, the OPP's All-Decade Team for the Orlando Magic. 

 

G - DARRELL ARMSTRONG 

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
1999-2000 82 31.6 +4.64 19.5 11.4 8.0
2000-2001 75 36.9 +3.83 18.6 11.5 8.7
2001-2002 82 33.3 +3.69 16.7 8.7 7.6
2002-2003 82 28.7 +1.41 14.6 5.1 4.9

 

Between Darrell Armstrong and Jameer Nelson, this was - without a doubt - the toughest selection to make. Had Armstrong's 1998-1999 season been included, in which he was named the NBA's Most Improved Player and the NBA Sixth Man of the Year (the first and only time a player has won both awards in the same year), the choice would have been a no-brainer. 

 

Instead, it becomes a neck-and-neck decision between two good point guards. There's no question that Armstrong was the superior defensive player but there's also no question that Nelson is the better player on offense. Nelson bolsters his case by being selected as an All-Star for the first time in his career this past season, but is one excellent half-season enough to assert he's better than Armstrong? Remember, it's about the totality of their careers. 

 

It's interesting because, although Armstrong and Nelson share some similarities in that they both had something to prove in the NBA, they're also different. Despite their intense playing styles, Armstrong was the definition of durable and the personal embodiment of the 'Heart and Hustle' era for the Orlando Magic. Nelson, on the other hand, has been labeled (fairly or unfairly is up to one's own opinion) as a player that's injury-prone. 

 

Nevertheless, I decided to take a look at Nelson's numbers to determine who was better:

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
2004-2005 79 20.4 +0.24 14.5 2.0 2.5
2005-2006 62 28.8 +2.72 19.5 6.7 4.9
2006-2007 77 30.3 -0.16 13.9 2.1 4.0
2007-2008 69 28.4 +1.29 15.5 4.7 5.6
2008-2009 42 31.2 +5.07 20.6 5.9 6.0

 

~ All-NBA Rookie Second Team (2005), NBA All-Star (2009)

 

The verdict? Armstrong. 

 

G - TRACY MCGRADY

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
2000-2001 77 40.1 +6.23 24.9 18.5 12.2
2001-2002 76 38.3 +7.58 25.1 18.3 11.5
2002-2003 75 39.4 +11.43 30.3 23.0 16.1
2003-2004 67 39.9 +7.69 25.3 15.0 8.4

 

~ NBA All-Star (2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), NBA Most Improved Player (2001), All-NBA First Team (2002, 2003), All-NBA Second Team (2001, 2004)

 

An easy pick.

 

Able to escape from his cousin's shadow - Vince Carter - with the Toronto Raptors, Tracy McGrady evolved from a boy to a man with the Orlando Magic. For four seasons, McGrady was the franchise player and the quintessential star for the Magic. Unfortunately, McGrady's talents were wasted away as Orlando surrounded him with a supporting cast that consisted of Andrew DeClercq, Michael Doleac, Pat Garrity, and other world-beaters (sarcasm intended). What exactly were the Magic wasting away? Someone that was, at the time, arguably a top five player in the NBA. Someone that put up MVP-caliber numbers in 2003, whether you looked at PER (30.3 - 1st), WARP (23.0 - 2nd), or other linear metrics. Someone that, according to Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus, was a top ten player of the decade.

 

F - HEDO TURKOGLU

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
2004-2005 67 26.2 -0.30 16.0 2.4 3.4
2005-2006 78 33.5 +2.60 16.7 5.7 7.6
2006-2007 73 31.1 +1.89 14.2 2.8 4.9
2007-2008 82 36.9 +3.18 17.8 9.5 9.0
2008-2009 77 36.6 +2.10 14.8 4.9 7.3

 

~ NBA Most Improved Player (2008)

 

Who would have figured Hedo Turkoglu would be forever enshrined in Orlando Magic lore? But here he is.

 

Turkoglu wasn't the most aesthetically, or athletically, pleasing player on the court but he was able to succeed due to his ability to create off the dribble, his craftiness and his high basketball IQ. Primarily a spot-up shooter at first, head coach Stan Van Gundy recognized these talents and transformed Turkoglu into a go-to player for the Magic these last two years. Even though Turkoglu was inefficient in performing that role, he performed it and Orlando reaped the benefits more often than not. Look no further than the 2009 NBA Playoffs. In Game 4 of the first round against the Philadelphia 76ers, Turkoglu potentially saved the season for the Magic with a game-winning shot that tied the series at 2-2 instead of possibly being down 3-1. In Game 7 of the Semifinals against the Boston Celtics, Turkoglu played his best game of the year and helped Orlando advance to the next round. Thing is, Turkoglu could have had more memorable moments had the ball bounce the Magic's way here and there. Guess who made the bucket before LeBron James' game-winning shot in Game 2 of the Conference Finals or guess who blocked Kobe Bryant's game-winning attempt in Game 2 of the NBA Finals that allowed for Courtney Lee to have his "moment"?

 

Turkgolu's numbers were never great for Orlando but in this instance, they didn't have to be. Turkoglu's ability to elevate his play at the NBA's highest stages is his legend with the Magic.

 

F - RASHARD LEWIS

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
2007-2008 81 38.0 +3.34 16.7 19.1 9.8
2008-2009 79 36.2 +3.52 16.8 21.0 9.5

 

~ NBA All-Star (2009)

 

Since Rashard Lewis arrived to the Orlando Magic three years ago, he has evolved from a one-time All-Star small forward to a power forward, he has become one of the most prolific shooters in the NBA (back-to-back years of 200+ made three-pointers; first time that has ever been accomplished), he has become an above-average defender and a one-time All-Star at the power forward position, he has hit clutch shots in the post-season (see the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals last year), and more. 

 

That's a long list.

 

His contract and 10-game suspension notwithstanding, Lewis has had a very positive impact for the Magic and he has become a fan-favorite in a short period of time. That speaks volumes to the type of player Lewis is on the court and off it - silent but deadly.

 

C - DWIGHT HOWARD

 


Games Played Minutes Played statistical plus/minus PER WARP Win Shares
2004-2005 82 32.6 +0.90 17.2 9.6 7.3
2005-2006 82 36.8 +2.61 19.3 13.3 8.6
2006-2007 82 36.9 +3.67 21.1 16.4 9.7
2007-2008 82 37.7 +4.71 22.9 19.1 12.9
2008-2009 79 35.7 +6.99 25.4 21.0 13.8

 

~ NBA All-Star (2007, 2008, 2009), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009), All-Rookie First Team (2005), All-NBA Third Team (2007), All-Defensive Second Team (2008), All-NBA First Team (2008, 2009), All-Defensive First Team (2009)

 

Last but not least. 

 

Dwight Howard isn't the best center the Orlando Magic has seen in its lifetime - that honor goes to Shaquille O'Neal, for now - but he has been every bit the franchise player many within the organization hoped he would be when he was drafted first overall in the 2004 NBA Draft. Howard has metamorphosed from being a teenage rookie to a perennial everything and he's only 24. 

 

All-Star, All-NBA First Team player, Olympic gold medalist, NBA All-Defensive First Team player, NBA Slam Dunk Champion, NBA Defensive Player of the Year, etc. The process of listing Howard's accolades and titles can go on for a while, yet they don't include NBA Rookie of the Year. That honor went to Emeka Okafor

 

Hey, can't win them all.

 

Thanks to Neil Paine of Basketball-Reference & Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus for providing me data.

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