With Lon Babby and the Phoenix Suns attempting to land a “first-rate talent evaluator,” the candidates – as expected – will include Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman.
Babby, the Suns’ president of basketball operations, cited the aforementioned evaluation component of the GM job one day after firing Lance Blanks last week and beginning a search that has included little news so far.
Weltman, who was offered the same position by Babby in the summer of 2010, has received permission from the Bucks to interview for the Suns’ job, according to a report by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
So if Weltman becomes the next lead judge of basketball talent for the Phoenix franchise, what level of expertise can we expect? Well, he hasn’t been the final decision-maker during any of his stops in an NBA front-office career that began in 1988, making the actual level of his influence difficult to assess.
But, according to league insiders, the 48-year-old Weltman has had considerable talent-evaluation input dating back to his work as director of player personnel for the Los Angeles Clippers. Weltman, the son of former ABA and NBA personnel executive Harry Weltman, got his first job as the Clippers’ video coordinator.
He became the assistant to legendary player-turned-general manager Elgin Baylor in 1994, and he had a big impact on the Clippers’ roster shakeup on draft night 2000.
Although the Clippers weren’t able to parlay their talent upgrade into appreciable success right away, Weltman did play a big role in moves that landed rookies Darius Miles, Keyon Dooling and Quentin Richardson as well as first-year swingman Corey Maggette that evening. The Clippers eventually built a talented young roster that included the aforementioned players along with Lamar Odom and Elton Brand.
Weltman moved from the Clippers to the Nuggets in 2001, and he spent five seasons as assistant GM during Denver’s turnaround. He worked for the Detroit Pistons for one season before joining the Milwaukee front office in his current position five years ago.
With Weltman working as the assistant to John Hammond, the Bucks have drafted John Henson with the 14th overall pick (2012), rising center Larry Sanders at No. 15 (2010) and point guard Brandon Jennings, who bounced back from Europe and lasted until No. 10 (2009).
So the Bucks have made some solid moves. They’ve also made some decisions that didn’t exactly work out well, such as taking Joe Alexander at No. 8 in 2008.
And in 2011, the Bucks drafted Jimmer Fredette at No. 10 and then put him in a three-team deal that brought Stephen Jackson, Shaun Livingston, Tobias Harris and Beno Udrih to Milwaukee.
Weltman’s overall influence in all these maneuvers is open to outside speculation, but among his peers, he’s considered a very good evaluator of talent. Whether the Suns make the same assessment remains to be seen.