Top 15 Orlando Magic Rookies
3. Anfernee Hardaway
16.0 PPG, 6.6 APG, 5.4 RPG, 2.3 SPG, 82 games, 82 starts, 36.8 MPG
Anfernee Hardaway was NBA-ready from the moment he stepped on the court.
Anfernee Hardaway and Shaquille O’Neal were both acting in a movie called Blue Chips before the 1993 NBA Draft. Shaq was impressed with Penny’s skill set and heavily influenced Orlando’s decision to trade the first overall pick to take Hardaway third overall.
At 6-foot-7, Hardaway generated praise for his ability to handle the basketball and have elite court awareness. There were comparisons to NBA Legend Magic Johnson before Anfernee Hardaway stepped foot on the hardwood.
Anfernee Hardaway initially started at the shooting guard position, learning how to run an NBA offense from incumbent starting point guard Scott Skiles. By mid-season, Hardaway had won the job of starting point and sent Skiles to the bench.
O’Neal and Hardaway were the perfect tandem. Hardaway quickly learned how to draw defenders on drives to the basket to set up creative passes to get O’Neal the ball around the rim. Within 6-8 feet of the basket, O’Neal usually scores.
Orlando was first in the NBA in two-point field goal percentage because of Hardaway’s ability to not only get his teammates open but also score around the rim.
There are few 22-year-olds with such a high basketball IQ and can become the floor general for a playoff basketball team. He was 14th in the league in assists per game as a rookie.
He was such a well-rounded player. He was efficient on offense with scoring and creating for others, but he was also excellent on defense.
Hardaway’s frame allowed him to guard most perimeter players in the NBA and instantly made the Magic a difficult matchup. One could argue that his best skill was his defensive anticipation and how to disrupt passing lanes or use active hands to poke the ball away.
Hardaway was sixth in steals per game in the league as a 22-year-old rookie and was among the best rebounding guards as well. He was everywhere on the court.
He helped the Magic win 50 games his first season and had an impressive playoff debut even with the first-round exit.
Hardaway averaged 18.7 points in the three-game sweep to the Indiana Pacers, with 6.7 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.7 steals per game. He played an eye-popping 44.3 minutes per game. The Magic quickly realized they found one of the best players in the NBA.
Hardaway proved that the draft night trade was worth it and Orlando had officially arrived as a playoff contender with such a young team. A potential dynasty was on the horizon for the organization, and Hardaway was at the helm.