Orlando Magic Draft Evaluation: Redrafting the Jeff Weltman Era

Jeff Weltman has collected some solid players for the Orlando Magic through the draft. But is still seeking the big fish. (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jeff Weltman has collected some solid players for the Orlando Magic through the draft. But is still seeking the big fish. (Photo by Gary Bassing/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic
Chuma Okeke, middle, is introduced as the Orlando Magic’s top 2019 draft pick during a news conference at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Friday, June 21, 2019. At left is Orlando Magic general manager Jeff Weltman, and at right is head coach Steve Clifford. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

Looking back at the three years of drafts from Jeff Weltman and the Orlando Magic reveals a type and a solid track record to find players who contribute.

For any small-market or rebuilding team like the Orlando Magic, the draft is at the heart of everything they do.

Not every team is the Los Angeles Lakers or Miami Heat where they can camp out and wait for free agents to fall into their laps. Even the Boston Celtics, a big free-agent player, have built the core of their team largely through the draft.

The free-agent piece is the final piece of the puzzle, not the first piece. That was perhaps the backward way the Magic tried to build in 2000 after signing Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. But that era of Magic basketball died because the team selected Steven Hunter, Jeryl Sasser and Reece Gaines.

As you may recall, in Rookie of the Year Mike Miller‘s second year, the Magic rose to fifth in the Eastern Conference. But they traded him in year three. Better drafting might have helped save that era of Magic basketball.

Then again, Orlando made one of its best draft decisions ever at the end of that era when the team picked Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor.

Every team in every draft is going to have some pick they regret. There are inevitably some players who slip through the cracks, are late bloomers or find the exact right situation to make the most of their talents. Different pressures and different development plans are so critical in the growth of young players.

The Magic are in a bit of a tricky spot and their next steps will be vital.

The team has already established itself as a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference. But it is still looking for that next step to get into true contention — doing something more than getting to the first round and bowing out without much of a fight.

To do that with the limited cap room the Magic have, they will need to make shrewd trades that help young players on the roster grow within their roles and improve the team overall. But it will still be vital for the team to get the most out of the draft — whether it is by trade or not.

Over at FanSided, the network has tasked us site experts to re-draft the 2017 Draft (Jeff Weltman’s first with the Magic).

As things shook out, I ended up taking Jonathan Isaac with the sixth overall pick once again. Even though three of the players taken ahead of him in our redraft were actually drafted after Jonathan Isaac, I still felt good about drafting him ahead of the players beneath him.

Drafting is so important to everything the Magic are doing. It feels like it is time to re-evaluate the Magic and how they have done with their draft picks on their current roster, especially looking at the picks Weltman made.

The point here is not to say the Magic should have picked this player or that player. The point is to say whether the Magic got appropriate value from the player they selected and whether that picked has worked out well. At least to the best we can for the moment.