3 biggest free agent wins in Orlando Magic history
1994: Horace Grant
Heading into the 1994 offseason, the Orlando Magic had now been a team for five seasons. Within those five seasons, they had begun to grow into a big-time team with lots of potential.
Shaquille O’Neal had been named the Rookie of the Year two seasons prior and made the Magic instant playoff contenders. In the summer of 1993, the Magic acquired Anfernee Hardaway in a draft trade with the Golden State Warriors for Chris Webber.
Hardaway and O’Neal had become an incredible one-two punch scoring at high volumes. Hardaway averaged 6.6 assists per game and was top 15 in the NBA during the 1994 season. O’Neal continued his assault on the record books and looked like a surefire hall of famer even at that early age.
Orlando reached the postseason for the first time in franchise history in 1994.
On top of this, the Magic also had great role players like Dennis Scott who shot 39 percent from three-point land. Nick Anderson had become a great floor general within his position as guard.
But after the Indiana Pacers knocked them out in the first round of the playoffs in a sweep, they knew another piece may be needed to help the puzzle.
Horace Grant averaged a double-double (15.1 points and 11.0 rebounds per game) in 1994 with the Chicago Bulls, earning his lone bid to the All-Star team. He was a good complement and the final spot within the starting lineup on a team that was competitive with the upper echelon of the NBA. He was key to the Bulls’ three championships in 1991, 1992 and 1993.
In the summer of 1994 though, Orlando signed Grant in one of the worst-kept secrets in the league (Chicago had Orlando investigated for tampering). That included the Magic revolutionizing the use of cap space by trading Scott Skiles with draft compensation to clear the cap room to sign Grant.
The move would prove to be worthwhile.
In the 1995 season, Orlando made the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Grant played a key role averaging 12.8 points per game on 50-plus-percent shooting from the field. He also did not miss a beat in rebounding with an average of 9.7 per game.
This move helped push Orlando over the edge and was a refresher for Grant that allowed him to continue his success. The Magic now had a veteran who could keep the young team on the right path.
O’Neal’s rise to becoming a champion was inevitable. And the Magic were always the team of the future with Hardaway paired with him. But Grant made them the team of the present and elevated them to title contenders.