On Thursday, ESPN.com gave fans the opportunity to determine the five ultimate players for every franchise in the NBA. Voting commenced for several days and for the Orlando Magic, the players chosen were Penny Hardaway at point guard, Tracy McGrady at shooting guard, Grant Hill at small forward, Rashard Lewis at power forward, and Shaquille O’Neal at center.
However, are these the correct choices?
We can find out.
Utilizing linear metrics like statistical plus/minus, PER, and Win Shares/48, it is easy to determine which players for the Magic should have been chosen based on their production. Hardaway and McGrady were no-brainers, so there’s no need to go over their statistics.
It’s a little difficult to quantify a player’s impact and influence on the team since there are a number of variables involved, but these are some things be taken into account on a smaller scale since those intangibles do matter.
So without further ado, let’s begin.
Grant Hill v. Hedo Turkoglu
|Grant Hill||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
|Hedo Turkoglu||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
Hill: NBA All-Star (2005) | Turkoglu: NBA Most Improved Player (2008)
If we’re comparing the totality of both players’ careers, there would be no debate about the choice since Hill — at his absolute best — was a top 10 player in his prime with the Detroit Pistons before injuries derailed his career. However, we’re strictly looking at Hill and Turkoglu during their tenures with the Magic and that’s where things get interesting.
Hill was an All-Star in 2005 and deservingly so, given that he put up All-Star caliber numbers in 67 games but the problem is that there’s little else on his resume, given that he missed so much time due to issues with his ankle. Turkgolu’s stats don’t jump off the page, but he rates as the superior player to Hill even if it’s not a clear-cut comparison.
Also, Turkgolu get bonus points for his durability.
It certainly doesn’t help Hill’s cause that he was only able to play for two extended seasons with Orlando before he departed for the Phoenix Suns, where he’s still a member of the team and still going strong at the age of 37 thanks to their excellent training staff.
It’s unfortunate because Magic fans were robbed of seeing two of the most dynamic players in the NBA in their primes play together (the other being Tracy McGrady).
Turkoglu, as weird as it may seem, should go down as the best small forward in franchise history. Not only because Turkoglu was slightly better than Hill, but also because he had a greater impact on the Magic. Turkoglu won the Most Improved Player Award in 2008 and helped lead Orlando to the NBA Finals in 2009, all while developing the moniker as “Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
Horace Grant v. Rashard Lewis
|Horace Grant||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
|Rashard Lewis||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
Grant: All-Defensive Second Team (1995, 1996) | Lewis: All-Star (2009)
This is a tough one.
Lewis is probably a teeny bit better when comparing skill-sets and taking into account his tenure with the Seattle SuperSonics, but this one is too close to call.
Likewise, Grant had the benefit of playing with the Magic for a lengthy period of time. And their impacts as well as their roles with their respective teams mirror each other. Grant was brought in as a free agent to help complement O’Neal and Hardaway, while also being seen as the final piece of the puzzle for Orlando in their quest for a championship.
Same song and dance for Lewis, who was signed by general manager Otis Smith to be the ying to Dwight Howard‘s yang offensively.
Both players were key cogs on the two teams that made it to the NBA Finals.
Again, the only thing that Grant has on Lewis is longevity. Should longevity usurp superiority?
To be frank, there’s no wrong answer.
A convincing argument can be made for either player.
The choice here is to go with Lewis because he’s the better player even if his production doesn’t entirely bear this out, while also having a greater hand in shaping Magic history. Lewis’ tour de force in the 2009 NBA Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers will go down as legend, and he defines the current era of Orlando by playing at the stretch four.
Grant, best known for his trademark goggles and punctuating “The Steal” with a slam dunk in Game 1 of the 1995 NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Bulls, can not quite equate Lewis when looking at all the factors despite having the benefit of playing more games and producing eerily similar statistics.
Plus, Lewis still has more years ahead of him in the City Beautiful to cement his status.
Shaquille O’Neal v. Dwight Howard
|Shaquille O’Neal||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
|Dwight Howard||GP||MP||PER||stat. +/-||Win Shares/48|
O’Neal: NBA All-Star (1993, 1994, 1995, 1996), NBA Rookie of the Year (1993), All-Rookie First Team (1993), All-NBA Third Team (1994, 1996), All-NBA Second Team (1995)
Howard: NBA All-Star (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010), NBA Defensive Player of the Year (2009, 2010), All-Rookie First Team (2005), All-NBA Third Team (2007), All-Defensive Second Team (2008), All-NBA First Team (2008, 2009, 2010), All-Defensive First Team (2009, 2010)
There’s no debate here, actually.
O’Neal should be regarded as the franchise’s best center for now.
That is something that can change, given that Howard’s career with the Magic is still being written and some of his best years remain in front of him.
Unlike the other choices on the ballot, this is one that could switch in the future.