2013-14: Toronto Raptors, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations
2008-13: Milwaukee Bucks, Assistant General Manager
2007-08: Detroit Pistons, Director of Basketball Administration
2001-06: Denver Nuggets, Assistant General Manager
1994-01: Los Angeles Clippers, Director of Player Personnel
Jeff Weltman has been a name regularly appearing in general manager searches over the past several years, most notably as one of the final three candidates in the Phoenix Suns job last year that ultimately went to Ryan McDonough.
If a coach's son is born to be a point guard, Weltman might well have been bred to be a general manager. His dad Harry was a long-time professional basketball executive, previously an owner of the Spirits of St. Louis ABA team and the team's GM. Harry also served in the front office in Cleveland and New Jersey, which has led to his son's name emerging as a candidate for the Cavs job. Turns out though, Harry also had a long history with Joe Dumars.
Jeff's own experience in the league dates back to 1988, working the videos for the Clippers. Now 49 years old, he's already spent most of his life in NBA front offices.
Already a rising name last season, Weltman's star likely rose this offseason with his move to Masai Ujiri in Toronto and helping the team move from a 34 win team to third in the Eastern Conference and threatening to hit 50 wins. Working with Ujiri, the team immediately unloaded Andrea Bargnani for cap space and three picks, including a future first rounder. They also shopped Rudy Gay, eventually settling for a package of cost-saving spare parts.
The moves took the Raptors from an asset-poor, cap-stretched team to arguably the most competitive squad in the franchise's history.
While Ujiri bringing Weltman in as his number two could be what finally lands Weltman his shot at general manager, it was Weltman who helped Ujiri get his start as an executive. While Ujiri was an unpaid intern scouting international players on his own dime, the two met and Weltman introduced Ujiri to Kiki Vandeweghe, who brought him on as a paid scout.
He also manned the number two spot under John Hammond in Milwaukee with mixed results - the highlight being Hammond's Executive of the Year win in 2010. But during this time, he built a reputation as a well-balanced, analytics-savvy executive. Back in 2011 he did a two-part interview with SB Nation's Brew Hoop, which is definitely recommended reading.
The key takeaway gets right to the point:
There was a great quote coming out of last year's MIT Sloan Conference in Boston, which I think was the fourth or fifth one (editor's note: 2011 marked the fifth conference),and it's grown significantly of course. There was a piece written... and the writer was coming to the conclusion at the end of the piece, and basically said: The honeymoon period with the analytics guys is over.
Now this position is commonplace enough where it is not an outsider looking in; it is part of the establishment. And as such, the analytics guys have been right, they have been wrong, they have differed from one another. And they have basically proven, the bloom is off the rose, so to speak.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us, in our minds, here the Bucks, with the conclusion that analytics has a strong part of our evaluation process. Is it the end-all, be-all? No, nothing is.
The Bucks had fairly solid drafts during Weltman's tenure, including guys like Brandon Jennings, Jodie Meeks, Larry Sanders, John Henson, and trading down for Tobias Harris. He also played a role in bringing Ersan Ilyasova back to the league from overseas. But he was also around during the 2012 trade of Andrew Bogut for Monta Ellis, creating a curious (and ineffective) backcourt of Ellis and Jennings.
Overall though, the team consistently lingered in the bottom of the conference, essentially making the team the face of the mediocrity treadmill.
His season with the Pistons was the one preceding the franchise's fall into irrelevance. He was responsible for the draft preparation, scouting, and free agent visits - though, honestly, the team didn't make many moves that season.
It's with the Nuggets that we get the next best look at his performance, where the franchise went from one of the league's worst teams to a promising rebuilding squad led by Carmelo Anthony and Nene. Adding George Karl, signing Andre Miller, and a blockbuster deal of three first round picks for Kenyon Martin pushed them firmly into a playoff team - though one that was eliminated in the first round each year.
While Anthony and Nene were hits in the draft, the team also had far more misses - including Nikoloz Tskitishvili with the fifth pick and Julius Hodge. Although one recurring theme from his time with both Milwaukee and Denver is a willingness to move around in the draft. He spoke on this in the Brew Hoop interview:
We try to assess our roster at the end of every season, figure out where our needs are, figure out too, what the draft is telling us. Because sometimes your needs will say, this is where we should go, but the draft will tell you, you need to go other places. Or else maybe you should move down in the draft, because the need that you have is not the right guy to pick at this number.
Between the Nuggets and Pistons jobs, he also did some writing for Scouts Inc. If you have ESPN Insider and are interested in taking a look at his body of work, here's his archive.
Pros: Openness to analytics and progressive thinking. Long experience, including among highly respected executives. Regarded as an intelligent, thoughtful fellow. Teams seemed to improve during his time with them.
Cons: Never been a part of a legitimate contender, always a pack of also-rans. Difficult to pinpoint any style or philosophy.