5 worst Orlando Magic starters of the Tracy McGrady era
Andrew Declercq (2001-04)
139 starts, 3.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.9 PFPG
Undoubtedly there was a gigantic hole left when Shaquille O’Neal left in free agency. In a league that was obsessed with size and had several of the best centers in league history playing at that time. Orlando had a once-in-a-generation player and lost him for nothing.
That was a deficit that was difficult to make up. But at least the Magic did OK in Rony Seikaly with their first attempt to replace him in 1997.
Nobody knew that was the best the Magic would do at center until Dwight Howard arrived. Orlando never found the right center to step in.
They could have found one through the draft, but all of those efforts failed. They tried to find aging veteran legends to fill in that spot. But that was always a short-term solution.
Instead, the Magic kept going back to a tried and true veteran who was a hard worker but always a bit out of his depth as a starter.
I mean, just look at the stats. How could any team survive with a starter of nearly half a season every year averaging 3.7 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game?
That was Andrew Declercq. The former Florida Gators center never should have been the starter, but he kept finding himself starting alongside Tracy McGrady. He was there for all four of McGrady’s seasons in Orlando. And the Magic just could not stop playing him. They needed him.
There were other solid options during McGrady’s time. But they were not difference-makers. In addition to drafting Steven Hunter, the team had John Amaechi, who played very well in 2000 with 10.5 points per game and even turned down more money to stay in Orlando for McGrady’s first season in 2001. But he never improved on the Heart & Hustle season, averaging 7.9 points per game in 82 games (36 starts).
In the 2001 season, DeClercq ended up starting 51 games anyway. He was the established starting center in nearly every year in Orlando. Somehow he kept winning that battle.
Or no better option materialized. And it certainly held Orlando back.