Monday's NBA: Orlando Magic keeping options open with No. 1 draft pick

Khobi Price
Orlando Sentinel

For the Orlando Magic, who have the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, it would seem as if the pre-draft process should have been winding down by Monday.

The college basketball season ended more than 21/2 months ago and almost five weeks ago, the Magic won the draft lottery that secured them the top pick in Thursday night’s draft.

Most pre-draft workouts and interviews wrapped up early this week, with many of the top prospects traveling to New York City for the draft.

Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman

But as Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman sees it, “it’s still early in the process” and there’s plenty of time for Orlando’s organization to mull over what it’s going to do.

“My dad used to tell me if the paper is due on Friday, don’t turn it in on Monday,” Weltman said when speaking with reporters on Monday. “We’re going to continue to evaluate. New information comes in all the time.”

This “paper” is due Thursday evening, but the sentiment remains – the Magic are going to use all the time they can before deciding what they’ll do with the draft’s No. 1 pick.

Weltman said he expects the Magic to use the No. 1 pick.

It’s rare for the top pick to be traded. Since the draft lottery started in 1985, the No. 1 pick has only been traded three times on or before draft night (1986, 1993 and 2017).

But Weltman wouldn’t rule anything out. Deadlines create movement, options and offers that weren’t previously on the table until the last possible moment.

“It’s our job to explore any avenue to get our team better,” Weltman said. “We’ll take as much time as we can to do that.”

Former Duke forward Paolo Banchero, Gonzaga big man Chet Holmgren and Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. have been considered the three prospects expected to draw consideration for the top pick since before the college basketball season ended.

Many rival executives and scouts have believed the No. 1 pick will come down to two players – Holmgren and Smith – since the Magic won the draft lottery.

But the Magic have brought in various players throughout their draft board for workouts in Orlando to get a closer look at them ahead of Thursday.

“The conversation doesn’t just stay on that pick because we have to be prepared to jump around,” Weltman said. “We have to be prepared for conversations to become real. It’s not like we’re just talking about the top two or three guys.”

The Magic also have two second-round picks, Nos. 32 and 35.

Weltman acknowledged they’ve considered consolidating those picks by attempting to trade into the back end of the first round or other avenues.

There will be limited playing opportunities for an Orlando team that could have around 10 players under the age of 25 on the roster for next season.

“How many young guys can we get through the woods? They’re not all going to make it through maybe, but they have to have a chance,” Weltman said. “We do pay attention to that. We are having discussions with teams. Because we’re a team that has two early second-round picks and those are treated differently financially in the salary cap, especially to tax teams, it puts us in a position to have some conversations.”

Former Hawks assistant Chris Jent joins Lakers coaching staff

Los Angeles – The Lakers have hired Chris Jent to be an assistant coach on the staff of new coach Darvin Ham, according to people with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Jent, who had been an assistant coach with Atlanta, worked with Ham when both were assistants with the Hawks.

Jent also has ties with LeBron James as an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers when James played there from 2006 to 2010.

Jent, 52, had been with the Hawks for the last five seasons, and he was the acting coach last season when head coach Nate McMillan was placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols.

Quinton Crawford, who had been hired by Ham as an assistant coach, has instead decided to become an assistant on the staff for Dallas head coach Jason Kidd, according to those people with knowledge of the situation, while Rasheed Wallace and Jordan Ott are in Ham’s pool of candidates for assistants.