An investigation into who voted for Orlando Magic’s Jeff Weltman as executive of the year

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Norman Powell, Toronto Raptors
Norman Powell has established himself as a shooter and solid defender for the Toronto Raptors. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Masai Ujiri, Toronto Raptors

There is no denying the world of basketball management can be a bit of a country club. Everyone knows each other and everyone roots for the managers on their trees. It would not be surprising if former boss Masai Ujiri voted for Jeff Weltman.

But there is something to that too.

It takes a lot to stay the course and exhibit patience when everyone around you — from fans to the media to sometimes even ownership — is clamoring for change. But executives know how valuable patience can be and I think they appreciate managers who block out that noise and stay their course.

Weltman got some criticism from fans for doubling down on a roster that seemingly topped out at 42 wins and the 7-seed. Those players were mostly holdovers from the previous management group led by Rob Hennigan (now back with the Oklahoma City Thunder, by the way).

Weltman could have easily evaluated the year as a fluke and looked to put his own stamp on the team. No one would fault him for doing that — even if that sent a bad message to the rest of the league and their agents about the Magic’s priorities.

Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors /

Toronto Raptors

But Weltman stuck to his philosophies. He does not believe in any tanking development plan. He feels the best way to grow a team is to put them in competitive environments and to compete for something real — even if it is something small like just making the playoffs.

The only way to do that was to stick with the roster he had. It was not like he was going to be able to make big free agent moves if they left. If he had lost Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, the team likely would have been back in the Lottery ringer.

What other managers probably admire about what Weltman did was the artistry of his signings.

They signed Vucevic to a four-year, $100-million contract, but the deal was front-loaded starting at $28 million this year and declining by $2 million each year. The end of his contract could prove a valuable trade chip down the road.

Similarly, Ross’ contract goes from $12.5 million to $13.5 million next year but then declines, ending at $11.5 million in 2023. It is the same way he structured Aaron Gordon’s new contract last summer.

Executives know that these kind of deals will keep the Magic competitive in the short-term and give them some flexibility in the long-term. Orlando may not be that far away from making the big splashy move fans are waiting for.

Executives probably know this better than anyone.