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Magic enters the 2024 NBA Draft with a different mindset than in the past

For Jeff Weltman and the Magic, the franchise's president of basketball operations is accustomed to selecting sooner rather than later in the NBA Draft.

But after Jamahl Mosley's team reached the playoffs as the No. 5 seed in the East after a 47-win regular season, Orlando is no longer part of the lottery (Top 14) and will be drafted lower in the rankings for the first time in a long time.

The Magic, who have the 18th pick in Wednesday's first round, enter the draft confident about their options, but also aware that their positioning represents a contrast to the recent past.

“You have to adjust your expectations accordingly,” Weltman told reporters Monday at the AdventHealth Training Center. “But we have some good players in mind at 18 years old. Our guys have worked really hard on selection and that started around this time last year.”

Orlando last selected outside the lottery in 2020, when it chose guard Cole Anthony at No. 15.

This year's spot is the latest the Magic have selected in the first round since 2017, when they traded the No. 25 pick (Anzejs Pasecniks) to Philadelphia.

“We're excited about the draft, but 18 is different than picking in the lottery,” Weltman said.

The Magic have made five lottery picks in the last three drafts alone: ​​Jett Howard (2023, No. 11), Anthony Black ('23, No. 6), Paolo Banchero ('22, No. 1), Franz Wagner ('21, No. 8) and Jalen Suggs ('21, No. 5).

It raises the question of whether Orlando, which also has a second-round pick (No. 47), needs to add another young player to the roster, especially after Howard spent most of his rookie year with Osceola in the G League.

Weltman made it clear that he views Howard's first year with the franchise as “extremely successful,” but added that his time in the G League will be taken into account in the upcoming draft.

“The guy accomplished all the goals we set for him,” Weltman said of Howard. “It just happened to be in Osceola – not Orlando. But he's coming back a different kid, a different player, with different outlooks, and of course we hope he successfully integrates into our team.”

“I would never give a timeline on that, but we all try to clear the way for guys when we can,” he added. “Yes, that's part of the draft discussion, but with 18 and a team that made the playoffs, we have to recalibrate our thinking about the draft a little bit. It's not quite the same as it was in years past.”

Updated list of those who trained for Magic ahead of the 2024 NBA Draft

While the Magic pride themselves on developing young players like Banchero, Suggs and Wagner, the organization also knows that once success is achieved on the court, the focus can shift.

Rather than rebuilding its roster – something Weltman has already done once since arriving in 2017 – Orlando wants to not only return to the playoffs but also advance past the first round.

“We have a lot of guys whose careers we have to manage,” Weltman said. “So we've discussed how that works if we add another one. The better your team is – and hopefully we can maintain the level from last year – the more you start to recalibrate what that looks like.”

The challenge is to find a balance between developing an already young squad, potentially adding two more draft picks and working on returning to the playoffs.

“It's a different mindset to bring a player onto a winning team than it is to rebuild,” Weltman said. “We're trying to bring in young players and develop them.”

Jason Beede can be reached at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com

When you turn on …

What: NBA Draft, first round

When: Wednesday, 8.

TV: ABC/ESPN

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