Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top 10 Orlando Magic Power Forwards in Franchise History

I decided to provide my input on who I thought the Orlando Magic’s best position players were in its 22 seasons of existence. That’s not a long period in comparison to many prestigious professional teams. Even though we’ve never hoisted the championship, the Magic made it to two NBA Finals in our 6th and 20th seasons.

Throughout these rankings, keep in mind that it’s not just statistics involved but also intangibles and whether the player did what they were supposed to do in their assigned role. Winning also plays a large factor as you’d expect. Any personal opinions will be controversial. All numbers are from regular season games only and it’s the seasons themselves being averaged out, not on an individual game basis. So the numbers may look different from other sites.

Anfernee Hardaway took the best point guard spot, Tracy McGrady was crowned as the #1 shooting guard in Orlando Magic history, and Hedo Turkoglu lit up a victory cigar for taking top honors as best small forward.

Let’s see who reigns supreme as the best power forward.

Missing the cut:

Chris Gatling

1999-2000; 45 games played; 0 starts; 23.1 mpg, 13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.1 spg, 45.5% FG percentage. 30.4% 3-point percentage.

Yes, I still remember yelling at my television and begging Chris to stop shooting 3s. This is basically the Cuttino Mobley rule being put into effect. Solid stats when he did play in a Magic uniform, but it wasn't for enough games to really justify being in the top ten. Acquired in a trade with Milwaukee, Gatling is one of the forgotten men of the Heart & Hustle squad.

Though he was never known as 'The Energizer' in Orlando, Gatling was a phenomenal bench scorer. He was almost a shoe-in to put up double digits. Had several high teens, 20s, and even a 31-point game coming off the bench. Chris was starting to slow down at this time in his career, but was still a semi-decent defender.

February 1, 2000 came and next thing you know Gatling got traded along with Tariq Abdul-Wahad to Denver for Ron MercerChauncey Billups (injured), and Johnny Taylor. On paper, it looks like a horrible deal. However, General Manager John Gabriel was doing it to clear up cap space to nab two superstars that summer.

In fairness, Orlando was 20-26 when the trade went down, so it didn't look like the postseason was in our future. We still would somehow scramble to an even 41-41 record (narrowly missing the postseason). That was a weird roster, and I still don't know how Doc Rivers had so much success.

Juwan Howard

2003-2004; 81 games played; 77 starts; 35.5 mpg, 17.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 2.0 apg, 45.3% FG percentage.

Statistically, J-Ho should be high on this list. Instead, he doesn't belong in the top ten at all. Too bad for Juwan that he's the Grim Reaper of the NBA and his one season in Orlando was one of the worst in the franchise's history. Howard put up a lot of points, but he gave up more to his opponent almost every game it seemed like. You could call him a center when he was playing along side Drew Gooden. However, that was only for 17 games. For 53 games, Juwan was starting at PF next to Andrew DeClercq.

You look at his game logs from that abomination of a season, his best game came in the final week of the season when he put up 38 points against Chicago. We won, but Marcus freakin' Fizer put up 30 points against him. Also, for the most part, Juwan was as unclutch as they came. That moniker has been a part of him for most his NBA career. The fact we were able to package Juwan, Reece Gaines, and Tyronn Lue in that McGrady deal to Houston is a big reason why I loved it so much. No franchise can stand Howard after a while, which is why he's made 10 stops in the Association.

Brandon Bass

2009-Present; 126 games played; 54 starts; 20.0 mpg, 8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 51.3% FG percentage.

Tough to say a guy that makes over half of his shots needs to be more consistent, but that's what B-Bass will have to do on defense (as well as with shot selection, because he really can be a black hole at times) if he wants to get into the top ten at some point. Hopefully SVG gave Brandon some 'rotation' homework before the Lockout.

'Bassmaster' can be brilliant in some stretches then be a detriment in other instances (like he has A.D.D. and just 'zones out' at times). Last season I believe Brandon was hampered by injuries throughout that campaign, so I do feel any criticism I give can be a tad bit harsh.

In 2009-2010, Magic fans and myself were screaming for Brandon to get more playing time (both in the regular season and postseason). 2010-2011 comes and goes, Brandon got his fair amount of starts, and his future on this team is currently in jeopardy. For now, it looks like B-Bass has lost his chance to combine with Dwight and become Shaq-Horace Grant Version 2.0. Brandon still has youth on his side and Bass is still a beast to guard. Once Bass sets his sights on the hoop, it's tough to deny him. Orlando really needs Brandon to heal up and turn his fortunes around.

Other very notable players missing the cut, but not worth going into detail over:

Bison 'Brian Williams' DeleDerek Strong, and Jeff Turner

You can see the difficulties I had making this list from the previous ones.

10. Ben Wallace

1999-2000; 81 games played; 81 starts; 24.2 mpg, 4.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 1.6 bpg, 50.3% FG percentage.

One of the anchors of the Heart & Hustle crew, 'Big Ben' has Orlando and Doc Rivers to thank for making him an NBA mainstay. It's amazing that he played the final month of his one season in a Magic uniform with a broken foot. If only we didn't have to sacrifice Ben to Detroit in order to sign Grant Hill. It makes you wonder how this franchise would have looked had Bo Outlaw been traded instead. Magic fans loved debating what hair look they loved more, Ben's corn rows or afro? Statistics don't lie, you go with the fro.

One thing was certain, once Ben landed in Orlando thanks to our front office trading away Ike Austin to Washington, Wallace's career was salvaged. For 81 games, Big Ben caused havoc and made opponents think twice about entering the paint. Never a scorer, Ben still managed 6 double-doubles (and Orlando won the majority of those games) because he ran the court so well. His rebounding legend began in a Magic uniform as Wallace would nab a few 20+ rebound games. I'll leave you with this video of Ben's journey.

9. Tony 'Batman' Battie

2004-2009; 306 games played; 183 starts; 22.5 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 48.6% FG percentage. 

Talk about a Justice League match made in heaven, though that wasn't the case in reality. Tony did team up with Dwight Howard on numerous occasions to form a Twin Tower tandem, but nothing that was absolutely feared. No doubt 2005-2006 was Battie's best season, and Brian Hill deserves a lot of credit for being in love with the twin tower system. Considering how long he was here, Tony seems to fly under the radar among casual fans.

Battie was brought in the summer of 2004 in a trade that saw Orlando export Drew Gooden, Steven Hunter, and Anderson Varejao. So there were expectations, and Tony lived up to them in my eyes. Rarely an offensive phenom, T.B. could punish you if left open for a jumper. Tony became the veteran sidekick who helped Dwight grow as professional and into a superstar. Batman was basically a poor man's Horace Grant, and that's a very valuable player to have when you're growing youth.

Battie missed the entire 2007-2008 season with a torn rotator cuff injury that he sustained in that preseason. At this point, Tony was beginning his decline. So the fact that he played a valuable part in our NBA Finals run makes that missed year worthwhile.

Tony's still in the league, but the day he was traded in the summer of '09 so the Magic could bring in Vince Carter was the day Battie's career basically ended. His knees have given out on him and you can't block shots without those.

8. Tom Tolbert

1992-1993; 72 games played; 61 starts; 25.5 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 apg, 49.8% FG percentage. 32.1% 3-point percentage. 

Though he's now more famous for being a radio and television personality, Tom made quite the impact in Orlando. Waived from the Warriors at the start of the '92-'93 season, and then picked up a few weeks later by the Magic who needed a replacement for an end of the road Terry Catledge, who would have thought Tom freakin' Tolbert would be on this list?!

Can't believe we passed up a Dennis Scott for Dennis Rodman trade. Tolbert's only season in Magic pinstripes proved to be the best in his short career. Matt Guokas put a lot of faith in Tom, and he proved a decent sidekick to Shaq during O'Neal's rookie season. Tolbert didn't fear any opponent. Put up a few 20-point performances. Hell, he even got in a shootout with Michael Jordan. Tom definitely played a huge factor in Orlando almost reaching its first postseason.

So why did Orlando not re-sign him? Well, that's a good question. Catledge didn't play again in Orlando and it's not like we had a suitable player ready to step in for Tolbert. Tom also didn't get a pay boost by signing with the Clippers. The fact that we had the #1 pick again may have been the reason, in that we needed the salary cap space. '93-'94 comes and clearly Jeff Turner, Larry Krystkowiak, and Anthony Avent clearly couldn't fill Tolbert's shoes as we get swept out of the franchise's first postseason.

Makes you wonder why we didn't try harder to negotiate Chris Webber into a decent contract deal before drafting him and then immediately trading C-Webb to Golden State for Penny and three future 1st round picks. Then the next summer, Horace Grant shows up as the franchise's godsend that immediately made Orlando a championship contender.

7. Patrick 'Air Pat' Garrity

1999-2008; 513 games played; 98 starts; 17.7 mpg, 5.9 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 38.6% FG percentage. 36.7% 3-point percentage. 

'PG' somehow stuck around in Orlando for 9 seasons, and a lot of those were riddled with missed games due to injuries. Those are the risks one takes when sacrificing your body. In an age where few players stick to one franchise, PG spent nearly all of his NBA career in the City Beautiful. Pat's the guy you'd expect to dominate a recreation league, but never someone you thought could be a successful NBA player. Then he'd throw down an unexpected dunk and change your mind about his athleticism. Samuel Dalembert is still looking for his manhood.

Deceptively crafty, and never afraid to take a big shot, Patrick Joseph Garrity definitely belongs on this list. He also didn't shy away from the playoff stage, especially during the T-MAC days (which was Pat's prime for sure) when PG was almost a sure bet to drop double digit points.

PG couldn't really dribble, yet when he wasn't burying countless 3s, Pat was getting to the rack. His swag was sky high. After almost every made jumper he'd trot back with the body language and expression like 'OK, I just made my millionth 3, carry on'. Off the bench or as a starter, Pat was a superb 3rd or 4th option scorer. PG usually knew his limits and was always a team player. Orlando fans now get to enjoy Air Pat on television and radio as a Magic analyst and commentator.

6. Ryan 'Snoggle' Anderson

2009-Present; 127 games played; 20 starts; 18.4 mpg, 9.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 43.3% FG percentage. 38.2% 3-point percentage. 

Here's the nickname reference in case you're scratching your head. The guy's personality is beyond awesome. I view Ryno as the positive that came out of the Vince Carter trade. When on the court, Ryno knows how to make the best of his minutes. In fact, currently he's the 2nd most scoring efficient player on the roster behind Dwight Howard. It's no coincidence that Ryan and Dwight play off of each other well. Now if only Mr. Anderson can show up in the playoffs. Let's hope the 3rd time is the charm. SVG really should have Ryno as the starting PF come training camp.

Ryno will go into his 4th NBA season whenever this lockout ends. He's improved every year since being drafted out of Cali, and there's no reason why that shouldn't continue. His potential alone makes Ryno a key piece of this current roster. Anderson can shootdunk, rebound, defend well for his position, and do a lot of the intangibles that won't show up on the stat sheets.

This summer he should be working on getting stronger, being able to put the ball down and drive to the hole, improving his post game, and hopefully maturing into the stud we all know he can be in those Magic pinstripes. His shooting percentages will greatly benefit.

5. Drew Gooden

2003-2004; 98 games played; 35 starts; 27.8 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 1.1 apg, 47.2% FG percentage.

Probably the most odd two seasons a player could really go through. Hair follicles? Drew had to sit out games with infected hair follicles. He was a rookie savior as #9, and a mental case in #0 jersey (WHY WERE YOU SHOOTING 3-POINTERS?!) when for no reason we signed Juwan Howard to take his job in what would be the collapse of the franchise. Gooden would show his gratitude to Juwan. For some reason I have an authentic Gooden jersey buried in my closet.

From day 1 of being in a Magic uniform during the second half of the '02-'03 season and postseason, Drew impressed everyone immediately. He could rebound, block, and be a fairly intimidating paint presence at a time where we had a lack of big man depth. Oh man could Gooden score. He could destroy anyone on fastbreaks, post you up, face you up and drive on you, pull-up from anywhere inside the arc, own you on the baseline. The man's talents were boundless, and he had the heart and effort of a champion (surely he got that from playing at Kansas). That's why I could forgive him for wearing his headbands crooked. Gooden made the All-Rookie 1st team in a season where that was an extremely huge honor (Yao and Amar'e made it as well).

Squeaking into the playoffs, Magic folks figured we'd maybe take a game (if lucky 2) from the #1 seeded Detroit Pistons. T-MAC and Drew had other ideas. Gooden particularly was too dumb to know that rookies shouldn't be owning veterans the way he was. Look at his box scores in that 7-game series. That was against a soon to be NBA championship roster. After Game 4, we were up 3-1 and really should've buried them. Gooden stays consistent all the way to the death while other Magic men fell apart. He should have held his head high and been proud of his series performance.

Then the offseason comes, John Gabriel signs Juwan Howard (Please proceed to slam your head into your keyboard), Gooden immediately turns mentally unstable. He starts picking up atrociously bad habits (bad shot selection, coasts through quarters, let's his defense drop off). The hair follicle incident is basically the last straw.

New General Manager John Weisbrod comes in on his figurative bulldozer and ships most of the team out. Gooden has bounced around the league now. Been on some competitive teams and always seems to prove how wacky of a character he is. Not a waste of talent, but Gooden certainly never came close to reaching it.

4. Charles 'Bo' Outlaw

1997-2001, 2005-2007; 360 games played; 222 starts; 20.7 mpg, 4.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.1 bpg, 60.9% FG percentage.

The king of Summer Leagues and one of the few people in league history whose field goal percentage was vastly better than his free throw shooting. Another boisterous character, if I had to pick anyone to either sing jazz or shoot a halfcourt shot it'd be Bo. Technically on the team for 8 seasons (a few of them greatly shortened), Bo benefited from a lack of talent at the forward position. If this was purely a popularity and respectability contest, Bo would be toward the top of this list. The love this community showed, and still shows toward Bo is immeasurable.

He couldn't shoot worth a damn, but Bo made a career from being an athletic beast. It's great when you can be a defensive anchor despite only being 6'8". Something that also gets ignored, Outlaw's passing ability was severely underrated. Though his dribbling was ugly to look at, Bo knew how to push a fastbreak and cause some chaos in the paint.

Almost everything Bo did was unorthodox, which is why he was a pain in the ass for opponents to deal with. Outlaw was both expendable yet irreplaceable at the same time during his days in Orlando. His decent playoff outings have been forgotten. Even though he's now in retirement, Bo as a Magic Community Ambassador could still suit up.

3. Terry 'Cat Man' Catledge

1989-1993; 224 games played; 178 starts; 26.4 mpg, 13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 48.1% FG percentage. 

There wasn't a time when I didn't remember Catledge without a limp from all the footage I've seen. The injury-filled final season is why his stats are so low. An early NBA retirement for Terry after 4 seasons in Orlando pinstripes. Chosen 5th overall in the 1989 Expansion Draft, Terry thrived during the tumultuous early years of the franchise's existence. Cat Man had a phenomenal '89-'90 season that included a 49-point shooting clinic in Golden State. However, Catledge's 3rd season in the league proved to be his most efficient.

Deadly from in the post and facing up his defender, Terry had to have supreme shooting ability due to his progressive decline in his mobility (Surprisingly, Terry wasn't half bad on the occasional fastbreak). Just as the franchise starts to improve, Terry's career gets abruptly cut short before the age of 30. A shame really since O-Rena fans witnessed some outstanding outings from Terry.

2. Rashard 'Cold-Blooded' Lewis

2007-2010; 257 games played; 257 starts; 34.9 mpg, 15.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.1 spg, 43.7% FG percentage. 39.3% 3-point percentage.

'Sweet Lew' really needs that DHEA now. Only in SVG's system could Rashard be a power forward. I'd say based on where he is on this list, Lewis did pretty damn well for playing out of position. He's paying the price now for those few seasons of banging around in the form of injuries (That and there are no steroids to help him recover). It's dumb to bring up his massive contract. We were in a bidding war with Washington and Houston at the time and we won. Rashard helping us get to the NBA Finals is money well spent in my eyes (obviously others will disagree). His 2009 postseason numbers are stuff of legends.

Cold-Blooded's first season in Orlando is indeed his best (even had a solid postseason with one very nice 33-point game). He was the guy that would finallybreak the Detroit Pistons curse. Lewis's arsenal was ridiculous. Could shoot it from anywhere within 30 feet. Could go glass, turnaround, post-up. The few times he did dunk it was something fierce. Oh yeah, and he could drill 3s. His defending was respectable as well which was very important.

The next season, '08-'09, Rashard somehow makes it to the All-Star Game (his 2nd and last trip so far) despite weaker numbers (all about reputation and winning). It's that playoff run we all remember though. Clutch and even more clutch.

2009-2010 comes, we all are pumped to try and get back to the Finals. There's a problem though, Lewis experiences a huge drop-off and we all realize he really did need the steroids. Plus, Vince Carter wasn't exactly working out as we were dreaming. Still, Lewis had some clutch moments. But the wheels officially came off the bus in the Eastern Conference Finals where Rashard absolutely thrived the previous year. That bad shooting just continued into Sweet Lew's final season in Orlando where we finally cut our losses and shipped him to Washington.

I wish the 32-year-old all the best, congrats on just getting married, and hopefully you'll have a healthy and productive end to your career.

1. Horace 'It's Gotta Be The Goggles' Grant

1994-1999, 2001-2002; 411 games played; 406 starts; 32.3 mpg, 10.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.0 spg, 50.3% FG percentage. 

Not the statistical output you'd expect to be at number one. But I have referenced the man's name so much already in this list. When you receive infinite praise from guys like Shaq and MJ, there's no doubt Horace is the best power forward in this franchise's history. 7 seasons in Orlando, the last was shortened severely (Which is why Horace's career Magic numbers look low) due to a falling out with Doc Rivers. It wasn't the first time Ho Grant was part of a coaching scandal. Brian Hill would know.

He was never going to make an All-Star Game while in Orlando, but Mr. Goggles was a center's best friend on both ends of the court. A defensive anchor and a man who could spread the floor on offense.

Summer of '94, Orlando needed a power forward with some experience to help make the young Magic (who just got swept out of their first ever series) a championship contender. Well, how about a guy with 3 championship rings still in his prime? Sure! Why not?! Horace Grant it is. So you can imagine the shock that would ensue with the Magic's immediate success and trip to the 1995 NBA Finals (Let's forget about how that concluded). The way Horace performed in those playoffs is straight up ridiculous. Along with bringing the defensive pain and running the court fabulously, Ho Grant had his own clutch moments as well.

Who knows what happens if Horace is healthy and playing in the '96 rematch with the Bulls where we got swept. Grant shot an unimaginable 65% from the field in that postseason. Yes, that Chicago team won 72 games and Michael Jordan was 'back', but Grant's impact on the court can't be measured by numbers. He was the glue that made those mid-'90s teams work.

Even after Shaq left, Horace was still doing his thing. Being a factor on both ends of the court and doing his best to make every Magic man on the court with him better. Grant did his best to keep Orlando relevant come playoff time. By the summer of 1998, Mr. Goggles was officially on the decline as his legs were giving out. Horace was had outlived his usefulness and was dealt to Seattle in '99 to try and bring in a youth movement. After winning his fourth ring with the Lakers, Grant made his return to Orlando.

That 2001-2002 season was the best Horace had in half a decade. Then Horace has a falling out with Doc in the early part of the '02-'03 season and he's gone, never to be seen in a Magic jersey again. The Orlando faithful still remember everything Grant did for this organization and we're all honored to have Horace as our best power forward in Magic franchise history.

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