Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Top 10 Orlando Magic Small 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, and Tracy McGrady was just recently crowned as the #1 shooting guard in Orlando Magic history.

Let's see who reigns supreme as the best small forward.

Missing the cut:

Monty Williams

1999-2002; 225 games played; 42 starts; 17.9 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 49.4% FG percentage. 

Casual fans forget that Monty was in Orlando for 3 seasons. One of the veteran pieces of that Heart & Hustle team, Williams could score from anywhere inside the 3-point line. He never mastered any particular go-to move, but he was very disciplined when it came to his shot attempts (and his high field goal percentage fully depicts that).

Despite a lack of athleticism, Monty could post you up, drive on you, shoot over you, and nab the occasional offensive rebound for a score. He was deceptively quick. Williams enjoyed being a leader on the court, just as he currently is as the Head Coach of the New Orleans Hornets.

However, Monty couldn't really be depended on in the playoffs as whatever patience he had on the court sort of went out the window. For whatever it's worth, Orlando got to see Monty's 'prime' (though Spurs fans may disagree) before his career ended fairly early.

Michael Ansley

1989-1991; 139 games played; 6 starts; 15.1 mpg, 7.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 52.3% FG percentage. 

The second rounder that Orlando chose with their 37th pick in the '89 Draft, Ansley was a small forward who never attempted a 3-pointer. That's a big explanation for his splendid field goal percentage. A big issue with Ansley was that in his starts, which were few and far between, he was rubbish. The man was just meant to be a very efficient bench player.

It is odd though that his NBA career ended abruptly at age 24. Ansley went to Europe in 1992, and never came back. Michael has spent over a decade playing in Polish basketball leagues. Here's an older interview with Michael, who was still playing in Poland into his 40s.

Matt Harpring

1998-2000; 54 games played; 22 starts; 19.1 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg, 34.9% FG percentage.

I liked Matt a lot, I really did. Coming from a football background, it's no surprise he looked like a linebacker whenever playing basketball. Constantly sacrificing his body, Harpring began his rookie season so well but quickly began to struggle at the tail end of that 50-game Lockout year. As expected for most rookies, Matt's first playoff series was a rocky one with Philly dispatching of us in 4 games. With that said, Matt was deservedly named to the '98-'99 All-Rookie First Team. Some big names on that list.

I am surprised Matt didn't shoot more than half a 3-pointer per game during his time with us as he could drill his open looks back then. Of course, that wouldn't hold true for the remainder of his NBA career. Then the injuries popped up the next season, most specifically with his left ankle, and Harpring couldn't be seen as a reliable piece going forward in the rebuilding of the franchise.

Even in college, Harpring was plagued with injuries. The lockout assisted Matt in healing up. Without those extra few months, Matt wouldn't have been ready to begin his rookie campaign. Makes you wonder how he played the entire '98-'99 season. So with Harpring still being hampered by injury (played only 4 games) in his sophomore season, the Magic front office decided to cut its losses. In need of big man help, we traded Harpring in the summer of 2000 to Cleveland for Andrew DeClercq.

10. Trevor Ariza

2006-2007; 89 games played; 7 starts; 15.6 mpg, 5.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 46.4% FG percentage.

AIRiza spent 3 seasons in Orlando, only one full season (that proved to be Trevor's best) in a Magic uniform. Trevor was the bright spot of the Steve Francis trade that also returned the contract of Penny Hardaway. Ariza was your classic hustle guy who was trying to prove himself off the bench and make a name for himself other than a dunk freak.

Injuries and the inability to knock down the open 3 prevented Trevor from truly showing us what he could do aside from some great defense and several disgusting dunks. He was rivaling Dwight Howard on certain jams.

Trevor was maybe the only Magic player in the 2000s to have benefited more under Brian Hill than Stan Van Gundy. Which is why, for system reasons, SVG played a role in shipping Trevor off to the Lakers for Maurice Evans and Brian Cook.

Obviously we all know who won that deal with Ariza (even though he broke his foot in early 2008) as the Lakers won the 2009 championship with Trevor playing a huge role in defending the Magic's Hedo Turkoglu. It's still crushing to think about that we had Trevor and he's a main reason why Orlando doesn't have a championship.

Trevor has been a career mercenary, bouncing around trying to a bigger player than he really is. It's ok to be just a piece in a puzzle, Trevor. Especially if you're getting paid three to $6 million per year.

9. Corey Maggette

1999-2000; 77 games played; 5 starts; 17.8 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 47.8% FG percentage.

Drafted 13th overall by the Seattle Supersonics in the 1999 Draft and acquired by Orlando via a draft day trade involving Horace Grant, Orlando had high hopes for the Duke product. Raw yes, but fantastic hops and a lot of energy for the game. Corey didn't have a consistent jumper, but the guy was built like a tank and knew how to get into the paint. Unfortunately for Magic fans, we'd only get one season with Maggette. The only way we could dump Derek Strong's contract, was if the front office included a young, talented player. Corey was that guy.

If we don't trade Maggette to the Clippers, then the Magic don't have the cap space needed to sign two superstars in the summer of 2000. For all his skill and athleticism, Corey has rarely been known as a winner. His NBA path hasn't really deterred those viewpoints. Maybe he never should have bailed on Coack K and Duke so early as John Thompson stated on draft night.

"Unlimited potential" is right, but that potential never developed into team victories. Corey on countless occasions in the past decade has stated that he still likes Orlando, and would love to play for this franchise again. Time isn't on the 31-year-old's side now.

8. Donald Royal

1992-1996, 1997; 288 games played; 76 starts; 19.8 mpg, 7.6 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.1 apg, 42.2% FG percentage. 

Technically, Donald Adam Royal was with the Magic for 6 seasons, but he had 2 seasons where he played a total of 3 games in Orlando pinstripes. Folks forget that Donald Royal started 68 games during our NBA Finals run in the '94-'95 season. In fact, Royal was the starter in place of Dennis Scott through the Magic's 1st round playoff sweep of the Boston Celtics. Royal doesn't get replaced in the places until Game 3 of the 2nd Round against the Chicago Bulls, where the series was 1-1 heading back to Chicago.

Yes, 3-D was playing the majority of the small forward minutes during that time while coming off the bench, but that doesn't diminish Donald's accomplishments or usefulness.

Royal was also the Magic's NBA Player Association representative in the summer of '95 during that 80-day work stoppage that didn't delay anything. I am curious when, and how much, Donald's cancer affected his play. It's obviously why his successful career was cut short.

7. Matt Barnes

2009-2010; 81 games played; 58 starts; 25.9 mpg, 8.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.7 apg, 48.7% FG percentage. 31.9% 3-point percentage.

He's only a 30-year-old, yet Barnes has played for 8 different teams. The UCLA man really will kill you if you mess with him (or call him 'Kelly'). Signed to a 1-year $1.6 million deal in the summer of 2009, Matty was brought in to play alongside Vince Carter as the man who would stop the likes of Paul PierceLeBron James, and Kobe Bryant. Even with his 'attitude baggage' and injury worries, Magic fans know that Otis Smith acquired a steal. This team needed a tough player who would have his teammates' backs if needed and could get into an opponent's head.

pure scrapper and regular pain in the ass that you wanted on your side. Barnes was never touted as a scorer, but on the nights he did rack up points it was a pleasant bonus. Matt was an above average rebounder and underrated passer at his position. It seemed like he scored all of his points by slashing or hitting open 3-pointers.

The Magic's postseason run could have been better had Barnes not been worn out by injury. We cruised to two sweeps before running into the Boston Celtics brick wall in the Eastern Conference Finals. The wear and tear of all those games caught up to him and it took away from his slashing ability and even jump shots. Had he been healthy, I think the Magic would have moved on to their second straight Finals. Suffice to say Otis doesn't offer Barnes the money he wanted last summer, and off to the Lakers Matty went.

6. Gordan Giricek

2003-2004; 75 games played; 52 starts; 32.8 mpg, 12.3 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.0 spg, 44.0% FG percentage. 36.7% 3-point percentage.

Not bad for a 25-year-old rookie. Many fans have omitted how miraculous 'Giri' was for us when he immediately showed up in Orlando from that Grizzlies trade that also brought us another rookie in Drew Gooden. He had some big shoes to fill with Tracy McGrady's best friend Mike Miller being traded away. For the rest of that '02-'03 season, Giricek definitely accomplished that. The crafty Croatian proved to be a more than an adequate scoring addition.

It was almost amazing to see some of the solid scoring performances that Gordan put up in a Magic uniform. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't All-Star worthy, but he was a European rookie playing as a 2nd or 3rd scoring option.

Even though much of the team would choke after Game 4 of that haunting seven-game 1st round series against Detroit, Giri got stronger. Very efficient shooter. The 3rd quarter of Game 3 and second half of Game 4 was Giricek being a deadly assassin. Gordan would be dealt away during our disastrous 2003-2004 season for DeShawn Stevenson.

It wasn't that Giricek was playing bad, he just suffered from a rebuilding move. Plus, the front office knew that Gordy was going to cost us a lot more money than we were willing to pay at that time.

5. Jerry Reynolds

1989-1992; 193 games played; 65 starts; 25.1 mpg, 12.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 2.8 apg, 1.3 spg, 41.0% FG percentage. 

You can call him 'Ice', I won't. Jerry Reynolds has had a very odd and lengthy basketball pathChosen 13th in the '89 Expansion Draft, Orlando in hindsight got a pretty sweet steal (look at the scrubs behind him). Random factoid, but apparently Jerry Reynolds coined the term '24/7'. Coming out of LSU, Reynolds spent his first 3 seasons in the league with Milawukee, then only year in Seattle before he landed in the Magic front office's lap. Jerry wasn't exactly a solid shooter, but then again few Magic men were in the franchise's first 3 seasons.

Still, Jerry came storming out of the gate in that '89-'90 season. Look at all those 20-point+ efforts. Even mustered a 34-point performance.

On a squad of atrocious defenders, Jerry wasn't all that bad. It became pretty evident early on in the 1990-1991 campaign that Reynolds could be deadlier off the bench. Plus, Matt Guokas allowed Dennis Scott to grow as a starter. Reynolds' 3rd season in Orlando proved to be his worst (38% shooting is a no-no).

Then injuries crept up on him and he was waived early on in the 1992-1993 season before playing a game. After a return to Milwaukee, the rest is basketball obscurity for one of the founding fathers of Orlando basketball.

4. Mike Miller

2000-2003; 194 games played; 154 starts; 33.4 mpg, 14.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.5 apg, 43.1% FG percentage. 37.7% 3-point percentage.

Your 2000-2001 Rookie of the Year. Mike's rookie season was coincidentally his most healthiest in his NBA career to date. Drafted 5th overall, the Florida Gator was immediately viewed as a potential fit for a franchise on the rise again. Grant Hill's injury woes ended up being a main reason why Miller and Tracy McGrady had such a close friendship and bond on the court. Of course Mike Miller's injury problems were the main culprit for Mike getting shipped out of town. Also, Miller never really could step his game up in 2 short postseasons (Game 4 in '01 was too little too late). A lot of that was obviously injury-related.

With that all said, I was pretty frustrated (T-MAC was just flat out pissed, and he didn't hide it) when Mike was surprisingly traded at the 2003 deadline. Those two definitely had some great chemistry on the court. It looked like Miller was getting his act together too. I attended Mike Miller's last game in a Magic jersey, one hell of a comeback win against the Hornets. In the end, it was definitely the right move. Miller couldn't stay healthy, and we made the playoffs that season thanks in large part to Gordan Giricek and Drew Gooden.

Miller's had a fairly decent decade-long career that just needs to be completed with an NBA championship. Sorry Mike, I hope you don't get one while you're in a Miami Heat jersey.

3. Grant Hill

2000-2007; 200 games played; 195 starts; 32.3 mpg, 15.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 48.0% FG percentage.

G-Hill very well could have been number one on this list if he played in just two-thirds of the games during his 7-season tenure (that's not exactly asking for much). Alas,Magic fans had to settle for just under 35%. Once named a successor to Michael Jordan, even though Hill signed his Magic contract with crutches by his sides, the Duke product was touted as the sure thing of the McGrady-Hill duo.

Oh how wrong we were. Hill played just 4 games of his first 2000-2001 season. Funny that he was voted into the All-Star Game by the fans. Then 14 games. Then 29 games. Missed the entire 2003-2004 (He picked the right one). This documentarymakes anyone cringe. His best season in Orlando was by far 2004-2005 where he got voted to his 7th (and so far last) All-Star Game. Then he played his 67th game on April Fools Day before succumbing to injury yet again, and the team missed out on another postseason.

Grant stuck it out all 7 years of his $93 million contract. Don't get me wrong, two legs, one leg, or no legs, Grant Hill was still beastly on the court. The biggest tease for Orlando came in the form of Grant's only playoff series that he played for us, which was in '06-'07. Though we got swept by Detroit, Hill finally got to prove that he could raise his game up in the postseason.

There's no doubt that Hill never lollygagged around, he wanted on the court as much as possible. Constantly put his body and life at risk to live up to his crippling contract. Ankle and hernia problems were just too much to overcome. Grant and his wife Tamia are probably the perfect NBA couple. Both are some of the kindest people on the planet who are constantly donating and volunteering their time to others. But, Rich DeVos paid for Grant to contribute on the court, not just off it.

Towards the tail end of his final season in Orlando, G-Hill said he owed it to the city and franchise to stick around at least another season (since he was finally showing some semblance of staying healthy). Liar or not, he made the right move going to the miracle workers of the Phoenix Suns training staff because Grant's only missed 14 games in his 4 seasons in Arizona. The 38-year-old is still going strong. Just shoot us all now. However, barring a trade, it doesn't look like G-Hill will be getting that NBA Championship he's seeking.

2. Dennis '3-D' Scott

1990-1997; 446 games played; 322 starts; 31.0 mpg, 15.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.3 apg, 1.0 spg, 42.0% FG percentage. 39.2% 3-point percentage.

It's tough to say that the second best small forward in Orlando Magic history underachieved, but I can't stop to find myself so frustrated with Dennis' 7-season Magic career. Immediately out of Georgia Tech, 3-D started 73 games (played in all of them) and made the All-Rookie team, finishing 3rd in ROY voting.

Drafted 4th overall in 1990, Scott had injuries weigh him down during a large chunk of his NBA career. Then there was the actual weight he gained subsequently from those games missed. 3-D was never a fitness model. But man could 3-D stroke some treys. Yes, he benefited vastly from a shortened 3-point line. Only Ray Allen has made more 3-pointers in a season than the 267 Dennis made in the '95-'96 season. That was also the season that Dennis made the most 3-balls in a game. Blame the league, not 3-D.

My biggest problem with Dennis was that his shooting percentages in the playoffs, especially that one post-Shaq season, were mediocre at times. But, that's what you get with a volume scorer who made a living drilling 3s. I wish Dennis had more of a defensive presence to counter his lulls of bad offense. Still, Scott did quite well in our 1995 Finals run.

3-D was definitely a barometer on how a game would go, as the 1996 playoff campaign tends to prove that. Also, considering how many 3s he did take, Dennis' passing ability was very underrated. Then again, it helps when you had Shaq to pass to.

Even with everything stated above, Dennis very well could have been in a Magic jersey possibly longer than Nick Anderson had 3-D not gone berserk at his own basketball camp. One of the most puzzling meltdowns I've ever seen. I could just imagine Rich DeVos back then getting a cane and literally pulling the hook on Scott upon seeing the news footage.

Anyway, now Dennis is enjoying life as an NBA TV analyst. Would have been cool if he would've dropped some more rap tracks. Here's Dennis reminiscing with Shaq.

1. Hedo 'Turkey Dance' Turkoglu

2004-2009, 2010-Present; 433 games played; 358 starts; 33.1 mpg, 15.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.9 apg, 43.5% FG percentage. 38.9% 3-point percentage.

Mr. 4th Quarter (sorry for the music), as well as the Michael Jordan of Turkey. Shocking I know. How can a guy with so many inconsistencies in his game and attitude be the best small forward in Magic franchise history? Clutch,clutchclutchclutch, and more clutch. Turkoglu had to be a fantastic finisher or else more people would be talking about his lack of defense. Having a 6'10" point forward can be brilliant or a disaster.

Under Stan Van Gundy, it's been successful for the most part. Brian Hill just didn't like trusting Turk with much, especially crunch time situations. Hedo's swagconfidence, and odd behavior were both awesome, yet sometimes made you want to kick a puppy at times. Turk always seemed to play the game like he was a little kid. Overall, it's amazing how Turkey Dance has been around for 6 seasons in Orlando.

Hedo earned plenty of experience playing for the Kings and Spurs early on in his career. His 5-year $30 million deal in the summer of 2004 appears to be a bargain looking back now. In his first Orlando campaign, the Magic may have made the playoffs had Turkoglu not broken his arm against Charlotte. Even as a 6th man, there was no denying how awesome Turkoglu was. Even B-Hill's ineptitude couldn't prevent Turk from being a stud by his 3rd season in Orlando.

Thanks in large part to SVG, Hedo was the 2007-2008 Most Improved player as I think most of us can agree it was a consolation prize for being snubbed from the All-Star Game (which he'll probably never make now). At that point, Hedo was the man to go to in clutch time. Turkoglu also knew how to raise to playing level in the postseason.

The 2008-2009 dream sort of came out of nowhere. A lot of that was because of Turk's production drop-off during that regular season. But once playoff time came,Mr. Clutch was back. All I need to show is Game 7 of the 2nd Round in Boston, and you should know why he's #1 on this list. I dare you to watch the highlights from that game and not agree with me. If you didn't know, Hedo brought it throughout that illustrious postseason. It's just a shame that we would split after that Finals run.

The love Dwight has for Hedo is undeniable. I'd like to see another full season of these two together. Old Hedo was shown in glimpses last season. In shape or not, Hedo could surprise us with a better season (whenever it begins) than '10-'11. A few more alley oop connections and some more drives to the hole would help the cause. Whether he does or doesn't, Hedo Turkoglu is the best Magic small forward in the franchise's history.

No comments:

Post a Comment