By John Denton June 19, 2017
ORLANDO – Still evaluating prospects and potential trades for Thursday night’s NBA Draft while also discussing the needs and areas of concern of the current roster, Orlando Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman and GM John Hammond have been working extra time in recent days.
Such work would typically already be done long before the final days leading up to the draft, but Weltman and Hammond have been forced to juggle multiple responsibilities in double time after being hired by the Magic in late May. The two veteran NBA executives are confident that their decades of experience as front-office leaders and talent evaluators will help them shorten the curve prior to a draft that holds major importance for the Magic.
Orlando owns the sixth, 25th, 33rd and 35th picks in the draft and it is hopeful that it will emerge with one, if not multiple, difference-making pieces. It’s the Magic’s first draft with Weltman and Hammond calling the shots and they feel the franchise is in a good spot despite the time crunch they have been faced with of late.
``In a typical year, all we’d do right now is listen, talk to teams, figure out what’s out there and discuss what our options are,’’ said Weltman, who was hired on May 22 and officially brought Hammond on board a day later. ``By this time, in a typical year, everything (in the evaluation process) would be behind us, but since it’s a new group, we’re still watching video and comparing notes on players and putting in extra work. … We’ve been in the office late every night.
``We’re trying to do multiple jobs right now, but we’re getting to a place where we can be caught up and have the appropriate discussions,’’ he added. ``Now is the time to talk to teams and figure out what’s truly out there and assess what our options are.’’
With four picks and a strong desire to make major impacts to the roster, the Magic should have plenty of options come Thursday night. The draft class is thought to be a deep and highly skilled one despite not having one surefire superstar at the top. The Magic are confident that the depth of that talent will extend to the sixth slot – the position where they are slated to first pick following a 29-53 season that left them outside of the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season.
Philadelphia’s trade with Boston for the No. 1 spot became official on Monday and all indications are that the youth-filled Sixers will select point guard Markelle Fultz first overall. The Lakers and Celtics will select No. 2 and 3, while Phoenix and Sacramento will pick No. 4 and No. 5 prior to the Magic being on the clock.
Weltman said he doesn’t feel pressure to try and move up in the draft because there should be solid players available at No. 6 when Orlando selects.
``We’ve had discussions with everyone up and down, and you’re more kind of feeling out where (teams) are and what they’re trying to do,’’ Weltman said. ``I do think that we’re in a very good position at six, where you can make a case that six is going to be as good as one. I think the way that the draft is viewed right now, six is a pretty good spot to be in. So we’ve talked to everybody, but I don’t think we’re working in overdrive to try to get to a certain part of the draft. We’re very content sitting at 6.’’
Another thing that makes Weltman content is working alongside of Hammond, something that he’s done previously with the Clippers, Pistons and Bucks. The two formed a dynamic duo in Milwaukee for four seasons and orchestrated the drafting of all-NBA forward Giannis Antetokounmpo. Their familiarity should help the Magic on Thursday night when chaos can sometimes rule in NBA draft rooms.
``We’ve been through this a few times and I think for the most part we’ve had good fortune going through this,’’ Hammond said. ``I’ve always thought of Jeff as a great evaluator of talent. He’s great on draft night in those decision-making moments. So we’ll find a way to make it work.’’
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