A Brief History of Trading the No. 1 Pick
1993: Penny for your thoughts
Orlando Magic fans know the story of the 1993 Draft really well.
The team had one ping pong ball in the hopper to win after finishing Shaquille O’Neal’s rookie season at 41-41, going to the fourth tiebreaker to miss the playoffs.
That was a turn of fate. As was what happened on draft night.
This was another of those runaway drafts. Chris Webber was a college icon with the Fab Five at Michigan. Everyone believed he was a generational player — indeed, his Hall of Fame induction later this year will confirm that.
The only problem was the Magic were a team on the cusp of competitiveness, not the likely candidate to have the first pick in the Draft. The league was still big. Having a power forward next to a bruising center was a sound building philosophy. It would not have been crazy to pair Webber and O’Neal together.
But Magic general manager Pat Williams knew he would need a guard to deliver the ball to Shaquille O’Neal. This was the model that built champions for years and years before.
We know the history from there: Anfernee Hardaway made a big impression on Shaquille O’Neal while they filmed the movie, Blue Chips. Hardaway also turned heads in an open scrimmage he had with several players on the Magic. Orlando knew this was the point guard the team needed.
The story then goes that Pat Williams got a call from Warriors general manager Don Nelson asking what it would take to get the top pick. Williams joked it would take six. That started a negotiation that brought the number to three picks (one would become Vince Carter, later traded back to Golden State in a roundabout way, and another would become Rookie of the Year Mike Miller).
Orlando got what felt like a king’s ransom for the top pick. And they got their guy. They certainly did better than Boston did in getting Jayson Tatum in a similar situation — a contending team wanting a player who was not the consensus top pick.
The Magic were picking a player based on need as much as on the best player available. But the picking on need begins to matter a whole lot more when you are closer to contention.
Within two seasons, the Magic were in the NBA Finals and Shaq and Penny were ruling the NBA.