The Denver Nuggets have granted the Toronto Raptors permission to speak to the NBA’s Executive of the Year, Masai Ujiri, and a meeting is expected to take place within the next 24 hours, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
Masai Ujiri was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year. (USA Today Sports)Unless Denver responds soon with a market-value contract extension to keep its general manager, Ujiri is prepared to leave Denver for the chance to rebuild the Raptors organization, league sources said.
Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke is aggressively pursuing Ujiri to become the Raptors’ general manager and plans to present an offer that will pay him nearly $3 million annually over the course of a multiyear contract, league sources said.
Denver has long been reluctant to pay its top front-office executives market value, and current contract extension talks with Ujiri are believed to include figures that are nowhere near the commitment that Toronto’s willing to make.
Ujiri’s contract with the Nuggets expires on June 30 and it’s possible an agreement can be struck that will allow him to leave sooner.
Ujiri is one of the NBA’s lowest-paid general managers, making below $1 million a year.
Ujiri, 42, was voted the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year and has emerged as one of the elite front-office minds in the league. Since leaving Toronto in 2010, Ujiri has done a masterful job reshaping the Nuggets into a Western Conference contender in a post-Carmelo Anthony era.
Toronto has stripped one of Ujiri’s mentors, president Bryan Colangelo, of ultimate say on basketball matters but Colangelo will remain on the business side of the Raptors’ organization. Ujiri had been the assistant GM for the Raptors, and his hiring would be hailed in Canada as a signal that the franchise is serious about again becoming relevant in the NBA.