A few hours before their franchise-altering night, the Orlando Magic made a rare change.
Heading into Tuesday evening’s NBA draft lottery in Chicago, president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman was scheduled to be the Magic’s on-stage representative.
But before the lottery started, coach Jamahl Mosley told Weltman he was “feeling a little lucky” and asked if he could replace him on stage — a unique switch that Weltman agreed to.
How much did that impact the Magic ultimately winning the lottery and securing the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft for the fourth time in franchise history?
As Weltman put it, “it didn’t hurt.”
“I haven’t been very good at this,” said Weltman, after the Magic fell in the draft lottery the previous three times he’s been the representative. “It’s funny. Coach was feeling lucky, we let him roll the dice and tonight he’s the coach of the year.”
The Magic winning the top pick in the June 23 draft ended a trend of staying at or falling from their pre-lottery positioning in their previous 14 tries dating to 1993.
After ending the 2021-22 regular season with the second-worst record, Orlando entered Tuesday tied with three other teams for the best chances of getting the No. 1 pick (14%) but also had a 59.8% chance of falling outside the top three.
There wasn’t a singular lucky charm Mosley brought with him that made him believe the NBA draft lottery misfortune that surrounded Orlando for nearly 20 years was going to end.
Rather, it was a collective of recent events that made the 43-year-coach max him feel like it was the Magic’s turn to get lucky.
Three people close to Mosley had birthdays on Sunday: His oldest son, CJ; Orlando assistant coach Nate Tibbetts; and Magic guard Cole Anthony.
Mosley also attended a memorial service on Sunday for the father of one of his closest friends — a man Mosley said was a mentor.
“Figured we got people looking out over us trying to make sure we get that No. 1 pick,” Mosley said.
If there was a singular good luck charm for the Magic inside McCormick Place, it may have been Cole DeVos — grandson of former Magic owner Rich DeVos and son of Magic chairman Dan DeVos.
Tuesday was Cole’s first time attending the draft lottery in person.
“I was giving Jeff a hard time, like ‘maybe it’s a good thing that we have Jamahl up there because you were up there in the past…and we haven’t had the best of luck the past few years’,” Cole said. “Having Jamahl up there, we had a couple of good luck charms. I felt good. The past few years I’ve been nothing but nervous, but walking in the building I felt good.”
Cole wore his grandfather’s watch, which was passed down to him when Rich died in 2018, for the first time during Tuesday’s lottery.
“I was actually thinking about putting it in a case,” Cole said. “[Tuesday] felt like the right day to put it on for the first time. I know he’s looking down ecstatic for us and happy for this organization. This team was his pride and joy.”
That same joy was felt by the Magic’s on-site contingent, with Orlando’s front office staying in Chicago for the rest of the week for the draft combine that started Wednesday.
Orlando has the opportunity to control its destiny by adding another the top prospect to its young core that could include several former lottery picks (Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Mo Bamba — a restricted free agent, Wendell Carter Jr., Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz) and first-round picks (Anthony, Chuma Okeke, R.J. Hampton, Moe Wagner) from the last five years.
“You walk into this situation with a group of young men that actually through an 82-game season,” Mosley said. “They can talk about that experience and help the new group coming in getting to that next level.”