5 ways the Orlando Magic have changed the NBA in 35 years

The Orlando Magic have had some transformative players and moments that have helped shape the NBA. (Photo by Larry W. Smith-Pool/Getty Images)
The Orlando Magic have had some transformative players and moments that have helped shape the NBA. (Photo by Larry W. Smith-Pool/Getty Images) /
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Tracy McGrady, Orlando magic
There was nothing Tracy McGrady could not do as he dominated teams from the inside and out. Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport /

5 ways the Orlando Magic have changed the NBA

Playing the Cap

The salary cap has been around in the NBA since the mid-1980s. The various exceptions and changes to it have evolved. But a lot of teams thought about it basically. You sign your own players, make trades and that was that.

Managing the salary cap or using cap space were not a big thing even though free agency had been in the NBA for quite some time (thanks to the efforts of Oscar Robertson and the formation of the NBPA in the 1960s).

What the Magic did though with the salary cap at least on two occasions truly revolutionized the league. John Gabriel was at the forefront of executives who started to use the salary cap in a new way.

How did the Magic acquire Horace Grant and sign him to a then-impressive six-year, $22.3 million contract (the structure of it according to Basketball-Reference was very funky and illegal under the current CBA)? They performed one of the first salary dumps in league history.

The Orlando Magic traded starting point guard Scott Skiles to the Washington Bullets with two future first-round picks (two of the four the Magic received in the Anfernee Hardaway trade) for a future first and future second-round pick.

Other teams protested because it was such a clearly bad deal — the Bulls actually charged the Magic with tampering because Grant made it clear Orlando was his preferred destination.

The Magic dumped their starting guard and two first-round picks for two future picks. But there was nothing illegal about it. And it worked to clear away $2.1 million salary for the 1995 season (the same amount Grant would receive in the first year of his deal).

This was salary cap maneuvering 101, something a lot of teams do now. And adding Grant was a key piece to the Magic’s Finals run in 1995. He was as important as any player the Magic had on the team.

Of course, this was the same kind of creativity the Los Angeles Lakers would eventually use to acquire Shaquille O’Neal, dumping Vlade Divac to the Charlotte Hornets for a high schooler named Kobe Bryant.

This would not be the last time the Magic got creative using the salary cap.

Orlando in rebuilding and tearing apart the 1995 team after the lockout-shortened 1999 season opted for a bold plan of trading away all their players for expiring contracts with the intent of putting together a super team through free agency.

No team had really tried such a bold plan and everyone expected that Magic team to play well at all. The goal was not only to get three big-name free agents but also add a top pick.

Of course, the Heart & Hustle team did not comply. They went 41-41 and nearly made the Playoffs. The Magic still enacted their plan, dumping most of the roster from the famed 2000 season and adding Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill to give the team some major star power (future injuries aside).

Orlando is again using its cap room to stay positioned for future moves. But so much of how the league operates really started with how the Magic manipulated the cap to set up their run in the mid-1990s. They were on the forefront of this and it helped lead to their success.