Magic hire Raptors GM Jeff Weltman as president of basketball operations
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Jeff Weltman is finally getting the chance to run his own team after more than two decades of toil in NBA front offices. Faced with the daunting task of remaking the Orlando Magic, he wasted little time in adding a familiar face to help him.
Hours after the Magic formally announced Weltman Tuesday morning as their president of basketball operations, he named longtime NBA executive John Hammond the club’s new general manager.
The two worked together in Milwaukee years ago, though the tables were turned back then with Weltman reporting to Hammond.
Considering their history, if they didn’t come as a package deal, Orlando’s moves certainly have that feel to them.
“John brings tremendous experience and is a great talent evaluator,” said Weltman, who was an assistant general manager under Hammond in Milwaukee from 2008-13 and the two also worked together in Detroit from 2007-08. “He has experience in everything from day-to-day operations to player development.”
Hammond replaces Rob Hennigan, who was fired last month after the Magic failed to make the playoffs during his five-year tenure. He will work under Weltman in a newly structured Magic front office that now features two well-respected, veteran executives that inherit a team that went 29-53 last season.
It is unlikely they will be overwhelmed by the challenges they face. The pair has a successful track record in the NBA.
The 52-year-old Weltman joined the Raptors in 2013 as their vice president of basketball operations before taking over last September as GM under team president Masai Ujiri, who elevated his trusted confidant in hopes of keeping other franchises from hiring him away.
In addition to stops in Toronto, Milwaukee, Denver and Detroit, Weltman also has worked with the Los Angeles Clippers. While he is not well-known to the casual basketball fan, he has long had a reputation in NBA circles as an accomplished talent evaluator and decision-maker.
Weltman, who is scheduled to be introduced at a news conference on Wednesday, spent one season as the Toronto Raptors’ general manager, the last of his four years with the organization.
Hammond, 62, spent the last nine seasons as the Milwaukee Bucks general manager. In Hammond’s 26 years in the NBA, his teams have made 15 postseason appearances.
“He built a great team in Milwaukee, and won a championship while in Detroit.” Weltman said in the release. “We are very fortunate to have him as part of the Magic family.”
While the Magic have the No. 6 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, Weltman and Hammond face an uphill battle in returning the Magic to the postseason with a roster that has been in constant transition under Hennigan.
Weltman and Hammond will work with head coach Frank Vogel, who is entering his second season with Orlando, to fix a roster that has many weaknesses. Hennigan surprised many last summer when he traded for Serge Ibaka and signed Bismack Biyombo to a four-year, $72 million deal.
The moves, coupled with incumbent center Nikola Vucevic and high-flying power forward Aaron Gordon, created a log jam in the frontcourt, and the Magic shipped Ibaka to Toronto in February for Terrence Ross and a first-round draft pick.
And in this era where shooting is placed at a premium, the Magic were 29th in the NBA in 3-point percentage and 25th in 3-pointers made this season.
Orlando’s needs are many: a consistent shooter and scoring threat; possible upgrade at point guard position, although Elfrid Payton finished the season strong. In addition to the sixth pick, the Magic also have 25th, 33rd and 35th picks in next month’s draft, but they only have about $14 million in salary cap room to spend on free agents this summer.
Magic president Jeff Martins believes Weltman is the right person to get the job done.
“Jeff brings tremendous experience and a team-first approach to our president of basketball operations position,” Martins said in team release. “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.”
The Magic reportedly were interested in hiring Cleveland Cavaliers GM David Griffin to take over the basketball operations in Orlando. But the Cavs are still playing in the postseason and could be headed toward a third straight NBA Finals matchup against Golden State, meaning those efforts, whether realistic or not, likely would have taken until mid-June before they were resolved.
Instead of waiting, the Magic went after two accomplished executives known for team building.
It’s unclear what role Matt Lloyd, who has been the interim general manager since Hennigan was fired, will have with the team going forward. He had been a candidate for the Magic’s general manager job.