2023 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Jeff Weltman sets the table for team’s success

Apr 11, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman speaks during a press conference for the new Orlando Magic G-League stadium at Osceola Heritage Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 11, 2023; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman speaks during a press conference for the new Orlando Magic G-League stadium at Osceola Heritage Park. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

Orlando Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has been criticized for one thing during his tenure in charge of the team. Well, maybe two things depending on how you feel about his seeming obsession with length and his lack of care and attention to adding shooting.

That criticism has focused mostly on his patience.

Offseason after offseason — whether it was after the Magic’s playoff breakthrough in 2019 or their playoff disappointment in 2020 or whether it was heading into this season with cap room — the Magic seemed content to stand pat. More like they seemed content to wait out their team’s internal development and growth.

At times, this has been frustrating. Certainly after the playoff breakthrough and certainly after the setback of staying in the 8-seed for the 2020 Playoffs in the bubble, it seemed like the team needed to be a bit more daring to improve its playoff fortunes.

At times, it has been necessary. Something that preserves the progress the team made and bet on the team’s internal growth and development, a hallmark of his team’s growing culture.

Then again, nobody seemed to have an eye on the bigger picture and development of this team than Weltman. He had a vision for the team’s future and was content to let things play out. He was sticking to his internal and team philosophy.

This season for the Magic was about building a foundation. And the best way to do that is through consistency. The best way to build a foundation is through dependability and reliability.

The Orlando Magic’s season was about building the team’s foundation for the future. Jeff Weltman’s patience helped foster that growth. And one big decision made the future clear.

To be sure though, this is going to be the challenge for Weltman as his team enters the next phase. That stability and continuity helped the Magic show some real growth — improving from 22 to 34 wins. That faith was rewarded.

The Magic were successful because they focused on their big picture. They did not chase the sugar high of quick success. They wanted to build something sustainable and long-lasting. And so simple was always better. They did not introduce many new variables to their equation and bet on internal growth leading to a clearer picture.

The season was a success because of the foundation that Jeff Weltman laid in the roster and the foundation Jamahl Mosley helped build on the court along with the quality of the men Weltman has always focused on drafting. Now the team has a clearer picture and at least a sense of what they can become.

The team took some major steps. And there are young players who show enough promise to buy into and try to develop.

Of course, it helps to make the big decisions correctly.

Weltman’s season was a success simply by selecting Paolo Banchero. He cut through the clutter of all the noise or let everyone make noise and picked the player who had the clear star potential and would become the Rookie of the Year.

Banchero’s presence changed everything for the Magic without a doubt. He gave the roster a ton of clarity with his star potential. He helped everyone seem to slot into his role. And certainly, the Magic’s future is clearer because Weltman got that pick right.

Weltman has been good at a lot of these big swing decisions — he made a killing in the Nikola Vucevic trade to set up the Magic’s rebuild successfully even if some could criticize the fairly weak return for Aaron Gordon and Evan Fournier in those trades. The draft pick was a good one.

Now comes the task of getting the small decisions right. And that might be the biggest key to the Magic’s future success. Weltman has to supplement the roster.

And that will mean he can no longer just trust in what he has. The Magic clearly still need more.

Entering the 2023 season, Weltman worked to keep the roster that won only 22 games intact, adding only the draft pick to the group essentially.

Related Story. What the Orlando Magic can steal from Nikola Jokic. light

He re-signed Mo Bamba to a two-year deal and then traded him at the trade deadline. He re-signed Gary Harris to a two-year deal as well. There is at least the chance the team waives him and signals a bigger move this offseason.

Weltman has been smart with the contracts he has given out. He has left the Magic with plenty of outs and flexibility to make moves.

The Magic stuck with Bamba but gave themselves an easy out with Bamba’s second year being non-guaranteed. It might not have worked out, but the Magic found a way to get out of it easily.

Still, that is an opportunity lost. And while the consequence of that miss may not have mattered in 2023, a similar miss in 2024 will hurt as this team grows and gains playoff expectations.

The Magic will have roughly $20-23 million in cap space with the potential to reach nearly $50 million depending on the contracts they guarantee. Orlando could easily spend a lot of that money on one big player or they could split it up between several players.

There will be some other roster management to come too — both Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony are extension-eligible this offseason — and some bigger decisions to make too. The free ride and the time to roll the roster over will be ending soon. Orlando has to bolster its roster and put it in a position to win more consistently.

President of Basketball Operations. Orlando Magic. JEFF WELTMAN. B+.

President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman has played his rebuild hand perfectly so far though. He has kept the team flexible to make big moves while still ensuring he retains talent and gives them the chance to grow.

Hitting big on the first overall pick set everything else up for success and set the table for the team’s future. Adding that to the Franz Wagner pick and mining Markelle Fultz and the contract for Wendell Carter, and it is hard not to get excited for the Magic’s future because of all of those possibilities.

But now comes the directive to level up and to keep leveling up. The Magic met success on the court this year but they know they have to keep growing.

For Weltman, that means continuing to add to this roster with players who will not only grow with this team but add to it this year and help them accomplish their short-term goals as much as their long-term goals. That will not be so easy.

There is still a very good chance Weltman bides his time again and makes smaller moves to position himself for the big move when it comes. Fans may be asking when that big move might come if it ever does.

But that is what Weltman values. He is going to trust in his team’s development and growth internally. That comes with continuity. And this season might provide more clarity on what the team actually needs so he can make grander moves in the near future.

Next. Evaluations: Caleb Houstan seeks his opportunity. dark

For now, Weltman did his job in building the team’s foundation and giving them the room to grow. Now onto the challenges ahead.