According to a tweet from Peter Vecsey, Milwaukee Bucks assistant general manager Jeff Weltman has been hired by the Toronto Raptors as the lead assistant for new GM Masi Ujiri. Weltman will remain with the Bucks through the draft on June 27th.
Weltman had previously interviewed for GM positions with the Los Angeles Clippers and Phoenix Suns (twice), including earlier this summer. Weltman has been with the Bucks since 2008 when he followed John Hammond from Detroit. Prior to that he worked as an assistant GM in Denver and as Director of Player Personnel with the Clippers. He was given a three-year contract extension by the Bucks this past season at the same time as Hammond. Joining the Raptors now amounts to a reunion for Weltman and Ujiri. The latter was hired by Denver after being introduced to then-GM Kiki Vandeweghe by Weltman.
Weltman has generally been regarded as an analytically-savvy basketball mind, having followed a familiar route to many other such people that began as a video coordinator. The Bucks have embraced advanced statistics in recent years, employing at least one statistical analysts and installing the revolutionary SportVU video tracking system that is gaining in popularity. Weltman surely played a large role in the adoption and use of such metrics, the sort of experience that would be very attractive to a Raptors organization trying to revamp its scouting, coaching, and management philosophies.
JW: Because, by and large, when you are drafting freshmen and sophomores, you are not projecting them into your rotation immediately. You are hoping they become that, and obviously the higher you draft, the more you hope. But, when it's all said and done, everyone would like to pick best player available. And I think that the way it has evolved is that it has almost made it that is what you have to do.
To non-traditional metrics, like tracking defense:
JW: The problem with that is you get into an area where it is not always objective. So, one guy's help might be another guy's no-man's land. And it depends on who is viewing the tape, and you need to have some sort of consistency throughout that whole process. And I think Jon [Nichols] has been really good at being able to apply consistency to our evaluations. So that when he presents us with rankings, they make sense to us. You know, "Yeah, I can see that."
To team chemistry:
JW: What we try to do, I can tell you this: We, as an organization, are very much of the mind that our team off the court is as important as it is on the court, to our success, to our ability to win games. And we pay a lot of attention to doing our due diligence on kids in the draft off the court. For NBA guys we talk to as many people as we can, try to keep records on who is who in the league, and know the types of people we want to have on our team.
Somebody is sure to step into Weltman's role with Milwaukee, and I expect he or she will do an admirable job. But losing a smart, experienced person from the front office is never a good thing for an NBA team. We wish Jeff all the best in Toronto. We'll miss him.