Jeff Weltman

Magic Notes: Vucevic, Ross, Clifford, Birch

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman knows he’ll have to fight off multiple suitors to retain Nikola Vucevic‘s services, Josh Robbins of The Athletic reports. While re-signing Vucevic is a priority, Weltman realizes there are teams with cap space that feel the same way.

“Vooch is going to have a lot of teams who will make him a priority for them, too. … Hopefully, we can get something done,” Weltman said. “You know, it’s the NBA, and as I always say, there’s a lot of real estate between the intentions and what gets done. But it is a priority for us.”

Vucevic is eligible for a max contract of five years and $189.7MM with the Magic or a four-year, $140.6MM deal with another franchise. Vucevic indicated he’s open to re-signing with Orlando as long as Weltman backs up his words.

“Everybody knows I’ve had a great seven years here,” he said. “But at the same time, we’ll see what happens. It’s a mutual decision, and it’s not just me.”

We have more on the Magic:

  • The team’s other prominent free agent, forward Terrence Ross, is also interested in returning, Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Ross enhanced his value this season by averaging 15.1 PPG and 3.5 RPG as the team’s sixth man while making a team-best 38.3% of his long range attempts. “It’s fun to be a part of an organization that is doing the right things … getting rewarded for it,” Ross said. “It would be great to be back, but we’ll see.”
  • Forward Aaron Gordon believes the hiring of coach Steve Clifford last season was the biggest factor in the team reaching the postseason, as he explained to John Denton of the team’s website. “I feel like we learned how to win, and that was one of the things that had been lacking here – a culture, a know-how and a standard,” Gordon said. “Coach (Clifford) did a great job of bringing that back and instilling it in us and teaching us what it means to win. And our guys did a great job of responding and coming out with tremendous fight.”
  • Vucevic’s future with the organization could impact whether it brings back center Khem Birch, as Robbins notes in his offseason outlook. The front office can make Birch a restricted free agent by extending a $1.82MM qualifying offer. If the Magic are confident they’ll re-sign Vucevic, Orlando might not give Birch that QO since it has Mohamed Bamba in place as Vucevic’s backup. Jerian Grant and Jarell Martin are also eligible for QOs but the Magic will almost certainly allow them to become unrestricted free agents, Robbins adds.

Magic GM Talks Markelle Fultz Acquisition

The Magic made a move at the trade deadline on Thursday that could have a major impact on their future. Orlando acquired 2017 first overall pick Markelle Fultz from the Sixers in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a protected 2020 first-round pick and a 2019 second-round pick.

A phantom shoulder injury, eventually diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, plagued Fultz’s tenure in Philadelphia and limited him to just 33 games in parts of two seasons. In just 19 games (15 starts) this season, Fultz averaged 8.2 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.1 APG. However, he will have the opportunity for a fresh start with a new organization, which excites Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman, per Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel.

Weltman addressed the acquisition of Fultz at a press conference during halftime of Orlando’s win over the Timberwolves.

On what a healthy Fultz can bring to Orlando…

“His size, his skill level, his vision, his competitiveness. This guy has the whole package. To have the physical profile of a Markelle Fultz, that big, strapping guard who can blow by you and attack the rim and can just pressure on you in all ways is something we’re all just looking for. Those are the guys who can dominate games these days.”

When the team expects to have Fultz on the court…

“As to the timetable, you guys have heard me say this to the point where you probably don’t want to hear me say it again, but I will anyway. We’re going to do it right. We are not going to do it fast. We look forward to getting him in here, getting our arms around him, [and] understanding everything that he’s dealing with. Getting him through that, it’s our job organizationally, from the performance directors to the coaches to all of us to put him in a position to succeed. And however long that takes, that’s how long it’ll take.”

Where Fultz will fit in with the current core of the Magic…

“As far as him fitting in here, we always say we try to bring in not just the player but the person. All the background work that we did on Markelle prior to the draft [and] in the days leading up to today [Thursday] have just informed us that he’s an exceptional young guy. He’s team-oriented, he’s coachable, he’s a hard worker, he’s a competitor. He’s kind of got all the ingredients that you’re looking for.”

Magic Likely Done In Free Agency

After re-signing Aaron Gordon to his four-year, $76MM deal, using part of their mid-level exception to reach agreements with rookies Melvin Frazier and Isaiah Briscoe, and adding a reliable backup point guard in Jerian Grant to spell incumbent starting point guard D.J. Augustin, the Magic are likely finished adding players to their roster through free agency this summer, reports Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel.

“We’re in a pretty good place with our financial flexibility, all things considered, but the roster is done as we sit here today,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman says. “We don’t feel like there are any holes that we need to shore up. We can always get better, and we’ll always be on the lookout for ways to get better. At this point, that would come probably more in the form of a trade if we were to do anything for the remainder of the summer.”

The Magic are currently projected to have a team salary around $110.9MM, assuming the team retains the services of backup guard Rodney Purvis, whose $1.4MM salary is non-guaranteed. Per Robbins, Orlando will also look to fill its open slots for two-way contracts and could bring in additional players on training camp deals.

The statement from Weltman all but puts to rest the speculation surrounding Isaiah Thomas, who was reported to be “negotiating a possible deal” with the Magic last week. Per Robbins, Orlando considered Thomas, but negotiations never took place, as the club believes Augustin is fully capable of leading this year’s squad.

“We’re always looking for ways to improve our roster at every position, but we are in capable hands with D.J.,” Weltman said. “D.J. is a very good player and he’s coming off the best year of his career under trying circumstances. D.J. represents what we want to be about: a professional who prepares, who plays for his teammates and who always brings the same personality to the team irrespective of the highs and lows of the season.”

Weltman also added that newly-acquired center Timofey Mozgov is not currently a candidate to be bought out, despite likely being buried on the depth chart behind Nikola Vucevic and heralded rookie Mohamed Bamba. Rather, the team hopes Mozgov will impact the team off the court through his experience and professionalism.

Should the Magic change their mind and decide to re-enter the free-agent fray, they still have nearly $7MM of their mid-level exception remaining after signing both Frazier and Briscoe to deals exceeding two seasons.

Southeast Notes: Oubre Jr., Richardson, Magic

The Wizards will have until October to offer Kelly Oubre Jr. a contract extension, but their current financial outlook makes that unlikely. As a result, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes, the 22-year-old heads into the offseason with every reason to hone his game; his performance in 2018/19 will determine his next deal.

Oubre Jr. took a step forward in his third season with the Wizards, averaging 11.8 points and 4.5 rebounds in a career high 27.5 minutes per contest. While those aren’t exactly max-contract numbers, he’s an intriguing young piece that could slot in alongside some highly-paid teammates as an additional component of the Wizards’ expensive, homegrown core.

The Wizards will have over $90MM tied up in contracts for John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter in 2019/20. Oubre Jr. will look to add to that figure by convincing the club to bring him back as a restricted free agent, similarly to how Porter signed his most recent deal back in 2017.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Steady improvement through his first three seasons has Josh Richardson in a position to make a name for himself in 2018/19. The swingman, who signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Heat through 2021/22, wants to take another step. “I’m capable of being a great player in this league and I think I showed flashes,” he told Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “I think I just have to do it consistently.”
  • The Magic have been strategically tight-lipped when it comes to their head coaching search, Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel writes. Team president Jeff Weltman has made an effort to avoid leaks throughout the process and it’s highly likely that the team has interviewed more candidates than the few that have been reported.
  • Fifteen-year Heat veteran Udonis Haslem doesn’t have a decision as to whether or not he’ll return next season. The 37-year-old tells Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel that it comes down to “having no regrets.”

Southeast Notes: Larranaga, Anthony, Whiteside, Weltman

Celtics assistant Jay Larranaga is on the Hawks’ radar in their search for a head coach, Sam Amico of Amico Hoops reports. Larranaga has been an assistant with the Celtics since 2012 after being a head coach in the G League. The son of college coach Jim Larranaga has also coached in Ireland. The younger Larranaga is also on the long list of candidates for the Knicks’ coaching vacancy, Amico adds.

In other developments around the Southeast Division:

  • Trading for disgruntled Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony wouldn’t make any sense for the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel argues. Miami already has a better defensive power forward in James Johnson and Anthony has already indicated he doesn’t want to come off the bench, Winderman continues. Anthony’s expiring contract wouldn’t give the Heat notable cap relief in 2019 because of the salary commitments they already have, Winderman adds.
  • Those salary commitments are also why it’s unlikely the Heat will deal Hassan Whiteside for an expiring contract or two, Winderman writes in a separate blog. In essence, they’d simply be giving away their center for nothing if they chose that route, Winderman continues. Whiteside has two years and $52.5MM remaining on his $98MM deal. The Bucks, Trail Blazers and Mavericks are among the potential landing spots for Whiteside if a trade goes through, according to Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype.
  • Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman will have final say in the head coaching hire, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel reports. Orlando is searching for a coach after firing Frank Vogel. “If you’re asking do I have autonomy to do this job, I can tell you simply that I would not have come here had I not,” Weltman told Robbins.
  • The Hornets’ coaching search could get complicated if they chose to pursue former Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes. Reuniting Budenholzer with center Dwight Howard wouldn’t be a good idea, given how their relationship deteriorated in Atlanta, Bonnell adds.

Southeast Notes: Budenholzer, Scott, Clifford, Weltman

The Hawks can expect a first-round pick if coach Mike Budenholzer bolts for another team, according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Budenholzer, who has two years left on his contract, was granted permission to interview for the Suns job. The Celtics received an unprotected first-round pick in the 2015 draft when the Clippers hired Doc Rivers in 2013, Cunningham notes. The Suns own extra first-round picks in the 2019 and 2021 drafts from previous trades, Cunningham adds.

In other developments around the Southeast Division:

  • Forward Mike Scott has emerged as a key member of the Wizards’ second unit in their playoff series against the top-seeded Raptors, Chase Hughes of NBCSports.com notes. Scott was the only productive bench player Washington had in Game 1, as he scored 14 of its 21 points. A productive series would help Scott land a contract this summer. He signed a one-year, $1.47MM deal with the Wizards last summer.
  • Steve Clifford, who was fired as the Hornets coach last week, believes the team didn’t play with the same attitude it showed in previous years. Clifford made the comments during a press conference posted on the team’s website. “We’ve always had spirit. We didn’t have that this year,” he said. “Some games (we did), but not nearly the togetherness and spirit we’ve had in other years. They know that.”
  • The Magic are in no rush to hire a new coach after firing Frank Vogel following the regular season, John Denton of the team’s website reports. President of basketball operations Jeff Weltman indicated that during a postseason press conference. “It is something that you’d rather do sooner than later so that we can get a guy in place and have our new staff around so that they can get their arms around our players, develop relationships and develop our young guys,’’ Weltman said. “All of that factors in. It would be better sooner, but as I always say … `we’re going to get it right before we get it fast.’ Hopefully, we can do both on this.’’

Southeast Notes: Wizards, Vogel, Peterson, Morris, Ross

Selfish play has put the Wizards in a tailspin, coach Scott Brooks told Candace Buckner of the Washington Post and other media members. Washington lost to the lottery-bound Hawks on Friday and have fallen to the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. “Not passing the ball to one another. Simple as that,” Brooks said. “Nobody wanted to share the basketball (Friday). When you do that you end up taking bad shots. When you take bad shots, you end up missing. Simple game.” The Wizards have also ranked last in defensive field goal percentage since February 28th, Buckner points out.

In other developments around the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic were devastated by injuries this season but that excuse may not be enough for coach Frank Vogel to retain his job, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. Vogel has not received a public vote of confidence since the All-Star break and team president Jeff Weltman wouldn’t comment last month on his coach’s job security, Robbins continues. Team CEO Alex Martins was also evasive this weekend when asked Vogel’s status, saying only  “We don’t deal with those issues until the season’s over,” Robbins adds.
  • Buzz Peterson, the Hornets interim GM, is expected to maintain a significant role in the front office under new president and GM Mitch Kupchak, Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports tweets. Peterson had served as the interim GM after Rich Cho was fired. Kupchak was officially hired on Sunday.
  • Wizards forward Markieff Morris was fined $15,000 by the league for “inappropriate comments” toward an official Friday night, according to an ESPN report. Morris made the comments when he was ejected during the first quarter against the Hawks.
  • Magic swingman Terrence Ross returned to action on Sunday night at Toronto after a lengthy absence, Robbins tweets. The former Raptor had not played since November 29th due to a knee injury and a subsequent bone bruise.

Southeast Notes: Howard, Billups, Frazier, Wade

Dwight Howard, recently traded to the Hornets from the Hawks, discussed his excitement to be in Charlotte, relays Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Howard spoke glowingly about his new owner, Michael Jordan:

“I’d just done a 2 ½-hour workout. After I was done talking to him, I wanted to jump back into the gym. That’s how he motivated me. You’re talking about the greatest basketball player to ever play. For him to call you on the phone and say, ‘I believe in you!’ ”

Howard also discussed his reunion with head coach Steve Clifford, his disappointment of lasting just one season with him hometown team, and how he will make a difference in the Charlotte community.

Here’s more from the Southeast division:

  • Hawks GM Travis Schlenk says that three or four teams were interested in trading for Dwight Howard, but the Hornets made the best offer, tweets Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal- Constitution.
  • While the Cavaliers await a decision from Chauncey Billups, another team covets the former NBA Finals MVP’s wisdom in the front office: the Hawks, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Billups recently interviewed for a front-office position with Atlanta.
  • Hornets GM Rich Cho says the team will be looking for a backup point guard and more overall depth in free agency, tweets Jordan Greer of The Sporting News.
  • The Magic‘s new president of basketball operations, Jeff Weltman, explains why the team traded two picks in a deep draft, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Weltman explained:  “We felt that at a certain point that the draft flattened out, and once we got past that point, we had three more picks, and we didn’t want to bring four rookies in. So what we did is we tried to identify kids that we thought could possibly be there later that we liked as much [as a] higher [pick]. And could we defer those assets [and] move them along to maybe turn them into future pieces and still come up with something that we liked?”
  • The Wizards believe that Tim Frazier can contribute right away, reports Chase Hughnes of CSN Mid-Atlantic, in an interesting piece full of great quotes from Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld and head coach Scott Brooks.
  • Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes that Dwyane Wade, who has come up often as a Heat target this offseason, is not necessarily leaving Chicago so soon despite the Bulls’ obvious entrance into rebuilding mode after dealing Jimmy Butler on draft day.

Raptors To Receive Second Rounder For Weltman

5:05 PM: The deal includes a provision that restricts the Raptors and Magic from trading with one another through the end of the 2017/18 season, Shams Charania of The Vertical reports (Twitter feed). This type of provision is common for teams trading executive/coaches, as it the league doesn’t want teams to make side deals. The last trade involved pick compensation for an executive was Boston’s Doc Rivers deal. The Clippers and Celtics were forbidden to trade with one another for the entire 2013/14 campaign once the trade was completed.

1:26 PM: The Raptors will receive a 2018 second-round pick from the Magic as compensation for Orlando’s decision to hire Jeff Weltman as President of Basketball Operations, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical tweets. The pick will be the lesser of two that the Magic currently control, Wojnarowski adds.

Orlando possesses an extra second-rounder as a result of a 2012 trade with the Lakers. The Raptors had traded away their second-round pick for next season to the Suns as part of the P.J. Tucker deal this February, so this agreement puts them back in the second-round mix.

Weltman reached a five-year agreement with the Magic on Monday. He had been Toronto’s GM, working under Raptors President Masai Ujiri.

Magic Choose Weltman As President of Basketball Operations

MAY 23, 9:31am: The Magic have announced the hiring of Weltman and will hold a press conference Wednesday, according to Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel.

MAY 22, 6:54pm: Bucks GM John Hammond also interviewed for the job, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.

5:43pm: Raptors GM Jeff Weltman has reached a five-year agreement with the Magic to become their President of Basketball Operations, sources told The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The deal was finalized in a meeting between Weltman and Orlando’s CEO Alex Martins, as well as the team’s ownership group, Wojnarowski continues. He replaces Rob Hennigan, who was fired last month.

The Magic had seriously considered making an offer to Cavaliers GM David Griffin, but focused their attention on Weltman in recent weeks, Wojnarowski adds. Weltman had been working under Raptors president Masai Ujiri. He previously had high-level jobs with the Bucks and Nuggets after starting his front-office career with the Clippers. He had been with the Raptors since 2013 after leaving the Bucks organization.

Weltman will have the ability to hire a GM who’ll report to him but Matt Lloyd, who had been serving as the interim GM, could remain with the organization, Wojnarowski adds.

The Raptors will likely fill the GM vacancy with assistant GM Bobby Webster, Toronto beat reporter Doug Smith tweets.