With the 2018 version of the All-Star Game having just wrapped up and the real basketball about to start again, I thought it would be interesting to comb through over 25 years of Orlando Magic history to compile an All-Star team that includes the best the team has ever offered.
For a relatively new franchise it is impressive how much talent has donned the Magic uniform, with a number of All-Star caliber players drafted, signed, traded for and developed by the club over the years. Some of these players were transcendent talents, and upon reflection it would seem that only a cruelty of circumstances (and Doc Rivers’ policy keeping players’ spouses off the team plane) has kept Orlando from an NBA title.
When constructing this team I have aimed for balance, with an eye towards putting on the floor a squad that could theoretically compete at the highest level as an effective unit. This means looking for combinations that accentuate the strengths (and cover the weaknesses) of players, while also providing the coach with different looks and line-ups to employ, as match-ups require. This isn’t just a collection of the 12 most statistically impressive Magic seasons ever; instead, it’s a roster that intends to mesh talent with the realities of the game of basketball. Let’s dive in!
C: Dwight Howard
F: Rashard Lewis
F: Hedo Turkoglu
G: Tracy McGrady
G: Anfernee Hardaway
Alright, let’s get the most contentious selection out of the way first. I decided to go with Howard in the middle over Shaquille O’Neal, although I do believe the reasoning is sound. Shaq was undoubtedly a force of nature and a one man wrecking ball on offense, but his impact on the defensive end during his best Magic season pales in comparison to Dwight’s. Howard was a monstrous defensive presence during the 2008-2009 campaign, disrupting entire schemes and anchoring a unit that rode their defense all the way to the NBA Finals. His raw block, steal and rebounding averages were all better than Shaq’s, while his defensive win shares and defensive box plus/minus were otherworldly. Howard displayed the ability to single-handedly ensure his team were an elite defensive outfit, and it’s for that reason that he gets the starting nod from me here.
The backcourt for this team picks itself. McGrady’s 2002-2003 season ranks among the best in recent memory in terms of offensive output, which he backed up with excellent rebounding numbers and a combined 2.5 steals and blocks per game. T-Mac would be the undisputed first option for this team. Partnering him at the other guard slot is Penny, who’s apex with the team was entirely dazzling and remains, hands down, the most exciting point guard play the franchise has seen. Both of these guys know how to share the ball, have plenty of length and speed on the defensive end, and can spread the floor with outside shooting. This pairing would be lethal.
At the forward slots there were some tough decisions to be made, primarily in terms of play style. Ultimately I couldn’t go past the seasons that Turkoglu and Lewis put together during the run to the NBA Finals, as both would integrate their highly efficient games seamlessly with the other starters. Turk provides another playmaker and outside shooter, and would give the squad a different way to attack certain mismatches out of the pick and roll. Lewis has proven himself to be the perfect playmaking 4 for the modern game, with a deadly outside stroke alongside the ability to take his man from the block when the match-up dictates. Together this pairing gives you two outside shooters who are the perfect complement to the man in the middle.
Shaquille O’Neal, Nick Anderson, Dennis Scott, Jameer Nelson, Darrell Armstrong, Horace Grant, Grant Hill
The 1994-1995 version of Shaq might be the best player ever penciled in for a bench role, and here he is reunited with two of his partners in crime in Anderson and 3D. The shooting, scoring and versatility that these guys bring would be phenomenal, and it’s interesting to note how well their play style would gel with the sensibilities of the modern game. Nelson and Armstrong are two names from more recent Magic memory that would provide the necessary playmaking and direction needed from the bench. The bulk of these minutes would belong to Jameer, while Armstrong’s heart and hustle would serve as a vital defensive complement should the team need a point guard stopper.
The final two spots were a little trickier to fill and could have gone in a number of different directions. Ultimately I decided for the steady inside presence of Grant, who would bring a defensive edge in the frontcourt, excellent rebounding, and an effective post game, along with Hill and his myriad of talents. It’s easy to wind up focusing on what could have been with Hill and his ankle, but that would be to overlook those high points he did provide, even if they were only in brief bursts. Still, his combination of shooting, playmaking, and veteran smarts would be incredibly valuable at the end of the bench.
Stan Van Gundy
As with all exercises like this, it’s a subjective process and one that encourages debate. Still, what it does manage without question is to highlight the wealth of talent that has pulled on a Magic singlet over the years. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Orlando adds to this and again send someone to the league’s mid-season showcase.
Until then, be sure to let us know who makes your own All-Time Orlando Magic All-Star team.