Jeff Weltman

Jeff Weltman Sits Down With Orlando Magic Pod Squad to Talk About Team's Outlook

Dan Savage
Director of Digital News

Magic President of Basketball Operations Shares His Thoughts on Preseason Performances, Players' Development and More

ORLANDO – The Orlando Magic made the decision this offseason to continue on their path of developing their young talent and giving those players a pathway to success this season. 

While there’s an expectation for the squad to “level up,” there’s also an understanding that there will still be some growing pains throughout training camp, the preseason, and even early in the regular season as players enter into the next stage of their development. 

Through two preseason games, the Magic’s youth has been on full display, which has led to some up-and-down showings. After a tough meeting in Memphis, Orlando rallied for a win in San Antonio. 

“We’re continuing the work that we did last year,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman told the Orlando Magic Pod Squad on Friday. “We’re rolling out the same guys. We did not trade future draft picks. We didn’t go sign significant veteran free agents. We brought our team back. We want to allow these guys to develop their own through line (and) show us who they’re going to be.” 

“We have, obviously, a lot of decisions ahead of us. So, we are young and we’re going to stay young. We’re going to let these guys learn on the fly. With that, you’re going to have a lot of figuring out. You’re going to have a lot of understanding what it takes to win, and you can see some guys overthinking a little bit and not sure exactly where to be. But the thing that I’ve seen of our team that I really like is that a lot of the figuring out, a lot of the uncertainties that you’re seeing kind of show up as over passing, not sure when to cut. And basically, what that is, is those guys are understanding that it’s their job to make their teammates better. And they’re trying to figure out how that works in the NBA. I’m encouraged by what I’ve seen so far.” 

With a roster featuring seven lottery selections under the age of 25, including Paolo Banchero (first overall – 2022), Markelle Fultz (first overall - 2017), Jalen Suggs (fifth overall - 2021), Jonathan Isaac (sixth overall - 2017), Mo Bamba (sixth overall – 2018), Wendell Carter Jr. (seventh overall - 2018), and Franz Wagner (eighth overall - 2021), to go along with other promising young pieces such as Cole Anthony, Bol Bol, R.J. Hampton, Caleb Houstan and Chuma Okeke, it’s no surprise that there’s been some clunkiness early in the preseason. 

Along with youth, missed training camp sessions due to Hurricane Ian, as well as injuries to veteran players such as Fultz (toe) and shooting guard Gary Harris (left knee rehabilitation) have added to some of the inconsistencies in the Magic’s preseason contests. 

“Markelle, with the way we’re currently constructed, kind of snaps the team into place,” said Weltman. “I feel like Markelle, again, has really turned a corner. This summer, Markelle came back 10-pounds lighter and with a crazy focus.” 

Fultz isn’t expected to miss too much time as he recovers from a fractured big left toe, but it is still an unfortunate setback for the former No. 1 overall pick, who put in a ton of work this offseason. 

“I think our young guys are really turning that corner and I think Markelle may be at the front of that line,” Weltman added. “Just understanding that discipline off the court, the focus that you bring back. I know how eager he was to explode out of the gates this year. So, it’s unfortunate that he had that little setback.” 

Still, there are plenty of reasons to be excited about Orlando’s outlook following training camp and two preseason games. At the forefront of that list is the Magic’s frontcourt lineup, which it rolled out for the first time against the Spurs. 

The trio of Banchero, Carter, and Wagner all possess high IQ, a skilled offensive arsenal and a defensive mindset. Those are traits that can be found up and down the Magic’s roster, which Weltman hopes will lead to a future of positionless basketball in Orlando. 

“Part of what we’re hoping is that between Paolo, and Franz, and even some of the other guys, there’s so much versatility that the positional part will kind of figure itself out,” Weltman explained to the Pod Squad. “It’s more how do I play with this guy. If I’m at the three, I’m at the four, I’m at the five, the coaches have talked about putting some of these big guys at the two, it’s like how do I play with these guys, that’s the real question. We’re hoping to move past positions. That’s part of what we like about a lot of these guys is good feet, good IQ, team orientation. With the right defensive concepts, we’re hoping to be at a place where that question almost becomes irrelevant. But that’s going to take time.” 

It will definitely take some time for the Magic’s prized rookie, who is adjusting not only to new teammates but to the league as well. 

“Paolo is so talented, and he so understands the big picture,” Weltman explained. “He’s a really smart guy and he understands the different levels that he’s going to have to go through to become the player that he wants to become.” 

In the meantime, he’ll have a great supporting cast around him. Carter has continued to develop as a vocal leader off the court, while making leaps as a player on the hardwood. 

“(Wendell) is one of the greatest teammates I’ve been around,” Weltman said. “He’s all about others. The old (saying) 'you can tell a personality by the player;' he plays that way. … His game took a huge leap last year. I think (the game in San Antonio) shows that he’s ready to take another leap. He’s put in so much work. He really brings people together. He cares about winning first and foremost. His game can grow in so many ways.” 

Listen to Weltman explain his thoughts on Wagner, Anthony, Suggs, Bol, and more by checking out the full episode here.