By John Denton
May 23, 2017
ORLANDO – A key, decision-making piece in some of the NBA’s best turnarounds in recent years, Jeff Weltman will now be looked to to pull off a similar feat with the Orlando Magic.
A Magic franchise stuck in the worst five-year stretch in franchise history officially hired the highly respected Weltman on Tuesday to be its President of Basketball Operations. Weltman, who has 28 years of NBA experience and worked previously as GM of the Toronto Raptors, will have the ultimate say on player personnel, coaching and basketball staff.
“Jeff Weltman brings tremendous experience and a team-first approach to our president of basketball operations position,’’ Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “Jeff is a strategic thinker and strong leader, has great relationships in the industry and will bring a collaborative approach to our basketball operations leadership.’’
Added Magic Chairman Dan DeVos: “Our commitment to winning a championship is stronger than ever. With the growing demand on basketball operations, a new organizational structure and greater investment was needed. We feel Jeff is a tremendous long-term fit and brings great experience, strong values and a successful track record. We take our commitment to the community on and off the court very seriously and look forward to an exciting future.’’
Weltman, 52, helped construct a Raptors team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016 and has qualified for the playoffs each of the past four seasons. He has an extensive history working in NBA front offices, serving as the director of player personnel with the Los Angeles Clippers, director of basketball administration with the Detroit Pistons, assistant GM with the Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks and executive vice president of basketball operations and GM with the Raptors.
“We would like to thank (Raptors chairman) Larry Tanenbaum, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and (Raptors President of Basketball Operations) Masai (Ujiri) for their willingness to allow Jeff and his family to join the Magic,’’ Martins said.
The Magic fired GM Rob Hennigan and assistant GM Scott Perry on April 13 – a day after the team’s disappointing 29-53 season ended. Interim GM Matt Lloyd, who has run the team’s draft preparation since the front-office shakeup last month, is still with the Magic and will be a candidate for the team’s full-time GM job.
Frank Vogel, who became the team’s head coach last May, will continue in that role under Weltman.
The Magic hoped to have a leader of the Basketball Operations department in place prior to the June 22nd NBA Draft. The Magic have four of the first 35 picks in next month’s draft, owning the sixth, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks to add talent around a core of players that includes Nikola Vucevic, Evan Fournier, Bismack Biyombo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton and Mario Hezonja.
Weltman will also have approximately $14 million in salary-cap space to spend when the NBA’s free-agent courting period begins on July 1.
The Magic turn to Weltman to try and help them escape the worst five-year stretch in franchise history. Orlando has posted a 132-278 record (a .322 winning percentage) since 2012 – the second-worst mark in the NBA over that period with only the Philadelphia 76ers being worse at 109-301 (.266 winning percentage).
Orlando’s last playoff berth came in 2012. The five-year playoff drought is a first in the 28-season history of the franchise.
Weltman has a long track record of helping long-suffering franchises make major strides and become a perennial playoff power.
During his final season with the Clippers (2000-01), L.A. improved its win total by 16 victories – the biggest turnaround in the league. In Denver, he helped engineer personnel moves that helped to turn the Nuggets into one of the exciting, young teams in the NBA. Denver posted the sixth-biggest turnaround in NBA history 2003-04, improving its win total by 26 games and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1995. In 2004-05, the Nuggets won 49 games, the fourth-most since the franchise joined the NBA in 1976.
Following a season with the Pistons and five years with the Bucks, Weltman was promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations in Toronto in 2013. Prior to this past season, he was named Toronto’s GM. The Raptors have enjoyed an unparalleled run of success in franchise history over the past four seasons, qualifying for the postseason four times and winning three playoff series.
Weltman also has basketball in his bloodlines as his late father, Harry, was a GM in the defunct ABA and formerly with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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