The first loss of the offseason for the Toronto Raptors is a big one, and it comes off the court.
The Orlando Magic are hiring Jeff Weltman as their president of basketball operations, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical. Weltman had been serving as general manager of the Raptors, having come over initially as the vice president of basketball operations and eventually assistant general manager, with his hire standing as one of president Masai Ujiri’s first moves upon arriving in Toronto. Prior to his time with the Raptors, Weltman was an assistant G.M. with the Milwaukee Bucks for five seasons, and worked in the Denver Nuggets’ and Los Angeles Clippers’ front office before that.
UPDATE: THe Magic have made it official.
In Orlando, Weltman will have some serious work to do. The Magic were reportedly interested in Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin, too, but “became further engaged” with Weltman as the process wore on, per Wojnarowski. Weltman will need to hire a general manager sometime soon, then embark on either fortifying a roster of ill-fitting parts or restarting an arrested rebuilding project. Either way, Terrence Ross should factor in prominently.
There’s ground to make up for the Raptors, too, as Weltman had been serving in his role with the team despite interviewing with Orlando. His imprint is all over the team the last few years, and losing him during the draft process and ahead of a pivotal offseason for the team is difficult. He was also a great counterpart to Ujiri, and the pair had a strong, effective working relationship together, with a sort of yin-and-yang balance, personality wise. At least if another trade opportunity between the teams materializes, Ujiri and Weltman already have a strong rapport.
The Raptors have a deep front office and lean on collaborative decision-making, and they still maintain their primary leader in Ujiri. The succession plan is not immediately clear, but they should be able to hold steady, even with a loss as big as Weltman. Around this time last year, Ujiri dropped G.M. from his title to free the spot for Weltman, a move that seemed aimed to keep the intelligent, hard-working executive in-house a while longer. The Pyrrhic problem with becoming a strong, well-respected organization, though, is that other teams will want your people eventually, and there’s only so much you can do to keep them for so long. There are only so many jobs in the league, and the bump to the role of president with autonomous decision-making power (and probably more money) in Orlando is a really good opportunity for Weltman, and a well-deserved one. (It’s also one that comes with five years of security, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst.)
It does open up the G.M. position, and while Ujiri remains the final voice in the front office, this could be an opportunity to promote the fast-rising Bobby Webster to the position in order to keep him from being plucked soon down the line, too. Webster was originally brought over from the league office and was touted as a salary cap expert, and has since grown into a consensus future G.M. candidate. Dan Tolzman, who’s been instrumental on the development side of the organization and has been with Ujiri for years, could be in line for a larger role as well. Both have been a big part of turning the Raptors into what they are today, and both were (or are) bound to ascend, in Toronto or elsewhere, at some point. Teresa Resch could factor into a shakeup, as well, and there are a few names with the 905 who could come up to help fill roles if need be.
There are enough good, capable people in the organization for everyone to take a bump up the ladder and the team still feel confident, so long as they continue to find and develop more good people at the back end.
Best of luck to Weltman in Orlando. More as the Raptors announce a plan in the coming days or weeks.