ORLANDO, Fla. — The college basketball season ended nearly three months ago, the NBA draft lottery was more than a month ago and the draft itself is later this week. Seems like the process should be completed.
Orlando Magic President Jeff Weltman sees it differently.
“I’m telling you, it’s still early in the process,” Weltman said Monday.
Translated: The Magic have yet to decide what they will do Thursday night when the draft rolls around and they have the #1 pick. Other teams called to estimate what the asking price would be if they wanted to trade against this pick, and Magic rated all of the top contenders.
But Weltman sees no reason to decide anything unless absolutely necessary, especially given the opportunity Orlando has with this No. 1 pick.
“The dialogue is always ongoing,” Weltman said. “But above all, we can do whatever we want. That’s the real benefit of being number 1.”
The top contenders for the election are known: Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. trained for Orlando earlier this month, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren met with Magic for several days last week, and Duke’s Paolo Banchero trained with former Magic guard Mike Miller.
Weltman wouldn’t say these are the only three candidates Orlando would consider for No. 1.
“It’s confirmed that there are a lot of talented players at the top of this draft, that’s for sure,” Weltman said.
This is the fourth time Orlando has been number 1. The Magic brought Shaquille O’Neal into the top pick in 1992. Chris Webber was Orlando No. 1 in 1993 and was traded that same night for Penny Hardaway and a package of future picks that eventually became Vince Carter and later Miller. And in 2004, the Magic chose Dwight Howard with the first choice.
Thursday’s No. 1 will join a young core in Orlando that already includes top 2017 pick Markelle Fultz, two top 8 picks from the 2021 draft in Franz Wagner and Jalen Suggs, and Cole Anthony – the number 15 – belong in the 2020 draft.
Orlando also has No. 6 picks from the 2017 and 2018 draft, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. It’s possible Orlando could have as many as six lottery picks, nine top-16 picks and 12 first-rounders on his roster by the start of next season.
It’s all part of the challenge for the Magic — who also have #32 and #35 this year — starting Thursday: Finding more youth to match the current core, finding ways to do better next season and to be sustainably better for years to come.
“We want to get better, but not at the expense of mediocrity,” Weltman said. “And we want something sustainable. But for that you have to raise the standard. You can’t stay downstairs forever, you know. So those are conversations we’re having, which players are doing that for us.”