Ranking the Best NBA Free-Agency Signings in Orlando Magic History
Since being founded in 1989, the Orlando Magic have made their fair share of solid free-agent signings. While not every signing was successful, the Magic have managed to build relevant teams despite residing in a relatively small market.
According to SportsMediaWatch.com, the Magic play in the 19th-biggest market in the NBA, which has arguably hurt the franchise's ability to lure high-profile free agents to Orlando. Fortunately for the Magic, Orlando's balmy climate and Florida's lack of an income tax have helped to mitigate the lack of national attention the team receives.
The Magic have been successful for the most part since its inception, as evidenced by the franchise's 959-879 overall regular-season record.
Orlando's direction has always been focused on building a legitimate title contender, which means it has rarely gotten bogged down in mediocrity. The Magic have either been one of the league's worst teams, giving them an opportunity to secure a top-five draft pick, or have looked to aggressively improve their roster in order to compete for a championship.
The best free-agent signings will be based upon a couple of factors, including team success and player productivity throughout their tenure with the Magic. Certain acquisitions stand out, though, as the front office struck gold on a few occasions.
5. Bo Outlaw
After playing his first four seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, Bo Outlaw signed a multiyear contract with the Orlando Magic in 1997. As it turned out, it was the best career decision Outlaw ever made.
During his tenure with the Magic, which lasted just over four years, Outlaw averaged 7.3 points and 6.8 rebounds and started 222 games. Four of Outlaw's top-five scoring seasons came as a member of the Magic, even if he never averaged double-digit points in his career.
Orlando was not great during the seasons in which Outlaw was a member of the team, the Magic only won two playoff games over that time span, but the blame shouldn't be levied to Outlaw. He was never anything more than a high-motor role player.
As it stands now, Outlaw ranks fourth in franchise history in blocks per game, eighth in steals per contest, third in true-shooting percentage and first in effective shooting percentage. The "Heart and Hustle" Magic squads of the late 1990s were defined by the tireless performances of Outlaw, Darrell Armstrong and Ben Wallace.
Outlaw is one of Orlando's most iconic players, as his name, glasses and style of play were all remarkable.
4. Rashard Lewis
When the Orlando Magic completed a sign-and-trade for Rashard Lewis in the summer of 2007, they were coming off of a solid season in which they were eliminated by the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Although the Magic agreed to pay Lewis $118 million over six years, the contract was viewed as only slightly above the market price at the time for a 27-year-old power forward.
With the emergence of Dwight Howard, who averaged 17.6 points and 12.3 boards per game during the '06-07 season, the Magic appeared to be one piece away from taking the next step.
Lewis was identified as that player by general manager Otis Smith, and the latter wasn't wrong for the first couple of seasons. During his first two seasons in Central Florida, Lewis averaged 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 40 percent from behind the arc.
The Magic were very successful in Lewis' first two campaigns with the team, as they compiled a regular-season record of 111-53. With Lewis playing the role as a stretch-4 perfectly, Orlando won the Eastern Conference and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.
Lewis averaged 19 points per game during Orlando's title run in 2009, which was second on the team behind only Howard.
Unfortunately for the Magic, Lewis' game began to decline sharply, which directly related to Orlando's inability to make another run to the NBA Finals.
The Lewis/Magic relationship worked perfectly for two season, but it turned into a major financial liability after that. Ultimately, Orlando decided to trade Lewis to the Washington Wizards for Gilbert Arenas, who was also signed to a lucrative contract that he couldn't play up to.
Still, Lewis deserves to make this list because he was a key player on the team that led the Magic to their second NBA Finals appearance in franchise history.
3. Hedo Turkoglu
The Orlando Magic used their entire mid-level exception to sign Hedo Turkoglu to a six-year deal worth $39 million, which was an offer the San Antonio Spurs chose not to match. Little did then-general manager John Weisbrod know that he had just signed the player who would develop into the predominant ball-handler on Orlando's 2009 Eastern Conference champion team.
During his first tenure with the Magic, which consisted of five seasons, Turkoglu averaged 15.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 43.2 percent from the floor.
Turkoglu's numbers improved toward the end of his first term in Orlando, which culminated during the 2009 postseason when Turk averaged 17.5 points, 6.4 boards and 5.5 assists per game.
After the Magic made their run to the NBA Finals, Turk decided to sign with the Toronto Raptors in free agency. That's when things started to go downhill for Turkoglu, as he was unable to provide value that equated to the five-year, $53 million contract he endorsed with his signature.
When the Magic traded for Turkoglu in December of 2010, they acquired a player who didn't have the athleticism he once did. Since then, the Turkish-born player has been labeled as an overpaid disappointment.
While that is definitely true now, Turk should be remembered as a key member of one of the best Magic teams in franchise history.
2. Horace Grant
After being a key piece of the first Chicago Bulls three-peat of the 1990s, Horace Grant signed with the Orlando Magic in the summer of 1994. During his five seasons with the Magic, Grant averaged 11.7 points and eight rebounds while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
Even though Grant's statistics were solid, he is on this list due to his integral role in Orlando's first run to the NBA Finals in 1995. During the '95 playoffs, Grant averaged 13.7 points, 10.4 boards, 1.1 blocks and one steal per contest.
In order to sign Grant, the Magic had to trade one of the franchise's first stars, Scott Skiles, to clear the necessary cap space. After that, Grant signed a six-year, $22.3 million contract that allowed him to opt out after one year.
Grant's departure from Chicago and arrival in Orlando changed the hierarchy of power in the Eastern Conference, even if Michael Jordan's decision to retire from the NBA was a much bigger factor in that.
1. Tracy McGrady
Deciding which player was going to rank as the best free-agent signing in Orlando Magic history was simple, even if it was technically a sign-and-trade. Without a shadow of a doubt, the signing of Tracy McGrady was the best free-agent move in franchise history, as the super-talented shooting guard was in his prime when he joined the Magic in 2000.
McGrady, who was a member of the Magic for four seasons, averaged 28.1 points, 5.2 assists and 6.9 rebounds per game. Numbers like that scream superstar, even if the manner in which McGrady hurt Orlando's overall productivity.
T-Mac led the entire league in scoring in each of his final two seasons with the Magic, which spoke to his offensive talents and Orlando's game plan. For better or for worse, Orlando's offense during the McGrady years was virtually completely dependent on his ability to create and bury his own shots.
McGrady's most impressive season occurred during the 2002-03 season, as he averaged 32.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.5 assists while shooting 45.7 percent from the floor.
Even though McGrady was one of the best players in the league during his time in Central Florida, he never led the Magic out of the first round of the playoffs. McGrady's inability to put a team on his back once the postseason rolled around is a major part of his legacy.
McGrady compiled a few more good seasons after leaving the Magic, but he was never the best player on a team that won a playoff series.