It seems as though the Orlando Magic have a chance to rise above the abysmal heights the team has been treading for many years. Unlike poor free agent signings of the past, the young core, led by rookie of the year contender Paolo Banchero and exceptional sophomore Franz Wagner, gives fans something to get excited about.
You would expect that recruiting players would be simple given the lack of a state income tax and the attraction of amusement parks for the families of players. This helped the team bring in Tracy McGrady to keep them relevant or draw in former All-Stars Horace Grant and Rashard Lewis to propel them to the top of the standings in the past.
However, it hasn't shown to be the case, particularly lately. The Magic have not found free agency to be nearly as useful as they had planned.
Rather, the Magic have lost both of their NBA Finals appearances because they have had trouble luring in the kind of difference-makers who would steer the team toward championship success. On other occasions, they have succeeded in landing that player, only to have it backfire horribly.
Teams can only select players in three different ways: through the draft, trade, or free agency. Since it gets the most attention from local radio stations, newspapers, and social media these days, the latter is frequently the most remembered.
In the very short history of the franchise, the team has made numerous attempts to use free agents to change the team. While some have succeeded, our NBA Expert Picks notes there have also been some challenging setbacks that the team's supporters still find hard to remember years or even decades later.
Do you agree with any of the selections? Leave a remark with your own ranking of poor Magic acquisitions.
5. Al-Farouq Aminu - 3 years, $29.2 million in 2019
The signing of Al-Farouq Aminu, which occurred during the crazy 2019 free agency period when teams were giving out money like lollipops at a doctor's office, is the most recent move to reach this list.
As a result, Orlando offered Aminu over $30 million to suit up for 35 games for the team.
Before joining the Orlando Magic, Aminu played for the Portland Trail Blazers for four years, the majority of which he spent as a starter. Although he never stood out, he was reliable and his $30 million, four-year contract was reasonable for that team.
After the Magic benched Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac in favour of Terrence Ross at forward, Pascal Siakam took advantage of their lack of size to win the 2019 Playoffs. The move made at least some sense. Orlando then awarded him a $29.2 million, three-year contract.
But Aminu found it difficult to settle in with his new team nearly right away. He missed most of the 2020 season due to a meniscus tear, which made matters worse. When Isaac suffered his horrific knee injury that season—the first of many—the Magic found themselves in a smaller position than before.
Aminu eventually made his way back to the floor as a starter after a protracted hiatus. Aminu was marginally better than the season before, but it was already obvious he would not be able to fulfil his contract or be a reliable player in Orlando for the long run.
Aminu may be viewed as the "other" player in the 2021 trade that brought Nikola Vucevic to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Orlando Wendell Carter, and a few draft picks. Aminu was a member of the Bulls for six games before leaving the league.
4. Jonathon Simmons - 3 years, $20 million in 2017
Do you recall Jonathan Simmons? He made his big-time debut with the San Antonio Spurs in the mid-2010s, which earned him a chance to play a larger role with the Orlando Magic. That a young guy would try out for a rebuilding team like the Magic seemed like a huge deal. However, that did not turn out well and effectively signalled the end of Simmons' NBA career.
Following his undrafted status in 2012, Simmons fought his way through the NBA D-League (yes, that's still the name) and the American Basketball League until he was given an opportunity to play for the Spurs. After being plucked from Brooklyn's Summer League team in 2015 by San Antonio, Simmons won MVP of the Championship Game and was soon signed to a professional contract by the Spurs.
During his two seasons with the organization, he averaged roughly six points per game and was an important reserve player for San Antonio. In 2017, San Antonio made him a qualifying offer of $1.6 million, but they later withdrew it and let him depart.
Two days following the Spurs' withdrawal of their offer, Orlando awarded Simmons a $20 million, three-year contract. That deal appeared to be a solid one for the first several months, as Simmons consistently scored more than 20 points, including a career-high 29 in December. He reached an even greater height in February 2018 with a 34-point performance.
In his debut season in Orlando, he averaged 13.9 points per game, surpassing that mark one more time. However, he persisted in troubleshooting from beyond the arc, and things only got worse the next season as he shot 22.9 per cent from three in 41 games and never scored more than 18 in a game.
3. Rashard Lewis - 6 years, $118 million in 2017
Forward Rashard Lewis was an excellent player during his prime, making two All-Star teams, one of which was with the Orlando Magic. His contribution to the Magic's 2009 NBA Finals run and league transformation was crucial.
However, Orlando paid him much too much and effectively waged a counterbid to get his services. Even his metamorphosis into the archetypal stretch-4 the NBA would utilize over the course of the following ten years was unintentional.
In the 1998 NBA Draft, Lewis was selected by the Seattle SuperSonics in the second round. Lewis made an All-Star Game in 2005, and it didn't take long for him and Ray Allen to start pushing the soon-to-be-dormant franchise as high as they could.
Lewis signed a six-year, $118 million contract with Orlando in 2007 after spending nine seasons in Seattle. The team was willing to pay Lewis a lot of money. The first mistake made by the Magic was moving him from small forward to power forward; this was due to Dwight Howard's practice-related rotator cuff injury and Hedo Turkoglu's outstanding play as a big playmaker.
Nevertheless, he had a strong game, and the Magic advanced to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since Shaquille O'Neal's departure in his rookie campaign.
His first appearance in the All-Star Game while wearing a Magic uniform came in 2009, when he also made a game-winning shot in the postseason. The Magic advanced all the way to the NBA Finals, but the Los Angeles Lakers decisively defeated them there.
2. Channing Frye - 4 years, $32 million in 2014
When the Orlando Magic signed Channing Frye to a four-year, $32 million contract, he was a solid player. However, he was not a terrific player and turned out to be a major disappointment for Orlando, failing to provide the rebuilding club with the experienced leadership it required. He also left the team rather abruptly after realizing they weren't prepared to contend.
Frye lived in Phoenix for the entire year prior to signing with Orlando. 2014 was one of his greatest and healthiest seasons yet, as he averaged 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game while starting all 82 games.
Upon his arrival in Orlando, Frye's play abruptly came to an abrupt end.
He scored 7.3 points a game on average during his rookie campaign with Orlando. It was 5.2 points per game in his second. However, during that period, at least, his three-point percentage held steady.
It was the middle of his second season when the Magic front management finally had enough. At the 2016 trade deadline, the franchise sent Frye to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Jared Cunningham and a future second-round selection. Cunningham never made a play for the Magic, who turned into a money dump.
Only a few months passed before Frye made the already painful Channing Frye encounter in Orlando more worse. Yes, that was the year that Kyrie Irving and LeBron James won a championship for Cleveland. In the same season that he left the humiliated Magic, Frye won an NBA title.
Prior to and throughout his tenure with the Magic, Frye was a reliable stretch big. However, his tenure in Orlando was the least fruitful of his remarkable career, therefore the franchise was greatly disappointed with his free-agent signing.
1. Bismack Biyombo - 4 years, $ 72 million in 2016
There was not much of a close call here. The Orlando Magic made the decision to give a guy who was, at most, a capable backup center and rebounder, a four-year contract worth $72 million. For a player who would always be buried in the depth chart behind Nikola Vucevic, that is $18 million a year. And then, after the magic added a third center on draft night, most likely behind Serge Ibaka.
Following one of the worst transactions in team history, the Magic wasted their cap space, so signing Biyombo just didn't make sense without a second move that never materialized. They were enamoured with a Playoff hero who turned out to be a fleeting figure.
Biyombo's previous deal was a $5.7 million, two-year deal with the Toronto Raptors. During that season, the big man from Congo participated in every game for the Raptors, starting roughly 25% of them. In addition to averaging 5.5 points and 8.0 rebounds a game, he also made 62.8 per cent of his free throws, which turned out to be career highs.
He left his imprint throughout the 2016 postseason, leading the Raptors to the Eastern Conference Finals with an average of 9.4 rebounds and 6.2 points per game.
After declining his player option for the upcoming season, Biyombo an unrestricted free agent. The Raptors were unable to retain Biyombo after they signed DeMar DeRozan again. With what Orlando paid him, maybe they would have been anyhow.
During his two seasons with Orlando, he participated in nearly every game he was eligible to play in. In his first season, Biyombo averaged six points and seven rebounds per game; in his second, he had an identical average of 5.7 points and rebounds per game. And then it was done.
The big man's NBA career began with the Charlotte Hornets, then Orlando traded him back to them. Timofey Mozgov and Jerian Grant were acquired by the Magic as part of the three-team trade. Biyombo's contract was suddenly someone else's concern.
By coincidence, the player at the top of this list, Bismack Biyombo, has had a similar road to the worst free agent signing in team history. Biyombo is currently a member of the Phoenix Suns and might very well win a championship for his troubles.