7-time NBA All-Star
Join Date: Jun 2009
Penny Hardaway appreciation thread
I hear a lot of people call him overrated and say that Grant Hill was much better, but if I had to choose one of them in their primes, I'd take Hardaway. Penny was one of the best 6'7" passers ever, could easily play either guard position and some small forward at either end, he was an excellent post up guard, he was great in the open court, he could hit 3's, he was excellent at penetrating and he was a very good defender.
In his short prime, Hardaway made back to back all-nba teams and finished 3rd in MVP voting in 1996.
Proving he wasn't just Shaq's sidekick.
Shaq was injured to start the 1995-1996 season, but Penny led Orlando to a 17-5 record to start the season. He won the player of the month award for November by averaging 27 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 6.5 apg, 2.2 spg and 1 bpg on 51% shooting proving he could step up and carry a heavier load if needed. Orlando finished with 60 wins as Penny played all 82 games and led Orlando to a 20-8 record without Shaq.
The next season, Shaq left for the Lakers and Penny struggled through an injury-plagued season, but Orlando was still 38-21 with Penny in the lineup. Shaq had been replaced by Rony Seikaly who was coming off back to back injury-plagued seasons where he averaged just 12 ppg and 7-8 rpg. At age 31, Seikaly averaged a career high 17.3 ppg playing alongside Penny Hardaway.
The injuries also piled up for the Magic. Horace Grant missed 15 games, Nick Anderson missed 19 games and Dennis Scott missed 16 games. By that point, the missed free throws had affected Nick so much that he was a 40% free throw shooter(down from 70%) and he shot below 40% from the field(as did Dennis Scott). Somehow, Penny had this Magic team on pace for 53 wins in the games he played. Without Penny, they were just 7-16.
In the 1995 finals, Penny averaged 25.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg and 8 apg on 50% shooting.
The 1997 playoffs
He averaged 31/6/3 in the playoffs and he took Pat Riley's Heat to the maximum 5 games. Down 0-2, Penny erupted for 42 points in game 3 and 41 points in game 4 to push the series to a decisive 5th game. Penny had 33/6/10 in game 5, but the Magic were overmatched. The Heat had won 61 games in the regular season led by the superstar duo of Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway and the Magic were without Rony Seikaly in game 5. Despite that, Orlando only lost by 8.
In game 3, Penny carried Orlando to a win facing elimination despite Rony Seikaly, Dennis Scott and Nick Anderson combining for 4 points on 2 for 13 shooting. In game 4, Orlando won despite Rony Seikaly being out and Anderson and Scott combing for just 10 points on 4 for 13 shooting. Penny became the first player in NBA history to score 40 points in back to back playoff teams that his team scored less than 100 points in.
Penny proved he was capable of being a franchise player in 1996 when he led the team without Shaq and finished 3rd in MVP voting as well as 1997 when he carried a severely undermanned and overmatched team vs a great Heat team. That team had no business taking Miami to a decisive 5th game. Look at what Penny's 3 best teammates from the regular season did in the series.
Rony Seikaly- 6.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1 bpg, 0 apg, 31.8 FG%(played just 3 games)
Nick Anderson- 5.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 33.3 FG%
Dennis Scott- 3 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 1 apg, 26.1 FG%
We got some false hope of Penny returning to form in Phoenix. Penny averaged 16.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 5.3 apg and 1.6 spg on 47.4% shooting. Unfortunately, he and Jason Kidd only played together in 45 games(Phoenix was 33-12 in those games). That's a 60 win pace. Penny stepped up in Kidd's absence in the first round of the 2000 playoffs. With Kidd only playing 1 game, Penny averaged 19 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.8 spg and 1 bpg to lead Phoenix to a sweep over a Duncan-less Spurs team. He continued his strong play in round 2 vs the Lakers averaging 21.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 5.6 apg, 1.4 spg and 1 bpg on 49% shooting. He finished the 2000 playoffs with averages of 20.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 5.7 apg, 1.6 spg and 1 bpg on 46% shooting.
After playing in just 4 games in 2001, Hardaway was finally healthy in 2002 and he played 80 games. He started off very strong averaging 19.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg and 4.6 apg in November. Unfortunately, Penny's playing time decreased as Phoenix tried to get Joe Johnson some more playing time.
I have no doubt that Penny would have been a hall of famer had he not had that knee injury in the 1997-1998 season. He was skilled, versatile, unselfish, athletic and unlike many star perimeter players, a winner.