Orlando still evaluating all options with No. 1 draft pick | News, Sports, Jobs

FILE – Orlando Magic NBA basketball team president Jeff Weltman answers questions at a news conference Thursday, April 12, 2018, in Orlando, Fla. Jeff Weltman and the Orlando Magic picked the No. 1 draft on Thursday, June 23rd, 2022, NBA draft. (AP Photo/John Raoux, file)

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The college basketball season ended almost 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.” That’s what Weltmann said on 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 it’s absolutely necessary, especially given the opportunity Orlando has by holding this No. 1 pick.

“The dialogue always takes place” said Weltmann. “But above all, we can do what 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.

Holmgren said he was convinced of it “nice people” lead the magic.

“They have a vision for what they want to do in Orlando,” said Holmgren.

Weltman wouldn’t say these are the only three candidates Orlando would consider for number one.

“It’s confirmed that there are many talented players at the head of this draft, that’s for sure.” said Weltmann.

This is the fourth time Orlando has been number 1. The Magic brought in Shaquille O’Neal in 1992 with the top pick. 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 2020.

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” said Weltmann. “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.”

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