As first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the current NBA Executive of the Year and former Raptors Assistant GM is heading back to Toronto:
Masai Ujiri has accepted Toronto GM job, sources tell Y!
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) May 31, 2013
The deal is being reported at 5 years, $15 million, which is a healthy sum for any front-office executive. But let’s forget about the money for a second (really, it’s a pittance for MLSE). What we have here – like we had when Brian Colangelo was initially hired, actually – is another sign that the Raptors’ front-office job is an extremely attractive position for top-level NBA executives (and having Tim Leiweke on board probably didn’t hurt, either).
It’s tough to make too many judgements on Ujiri and his record, given that he’s only been an NBA General Manager for the better part of two seasons. What we have seen, though, is his ability to make shrewd moves designed to build a contender around a team lacking a true superstar – possibly the most difficult thing for an NBA GM to do, and something that the Raptors will have to do, given their current roster construction and salary situation. By all accounts, he’s an extremely hard worker, a very smart basketball mind, and he’s loyal to the Raptor organization for giving him his start (and, barring that, he’s got 15 other million reasons to be). These decisions can always be second guessed down the road, but, for now, Masai was the obvious best fit for the job, so kudos to the organization for actually being able to land him.
I’ll avoid any speculation on the moves that Ujiri will need to make now that he’s running the basketball side of the organization (I’d imagine my fellow writers will have plenty to say about that), but his job isn’t going to be an easy one. The team is filled with redundancies, bad contracts, and one toxic situation in Andrea Bargnani that will have to be remedied in the very near future. There’s plenty of promise on the roster too, though, and some pieces to work with – the cupboard may not have what you’d prefer to eat, but it’s not exactly bare, either – and with a new face in the front office, I’d imagine quite a few personnel changes will be coming down the pipe soon.
The major dark cloud hanging over all this is the influence that BC will have, or not have, with the basketball decisions of the new regime. In this way, it’s bound to be a bit odd that Masai will be making decisions “over” his old boss in Toronto, and, if he had a spottier track record, it may be a cause for concern. But this is a man with his own management style, not a yes-man general manager, and, god willing, he’s been given his walking orders from Leiweke and the board to take control of the organization and steer the ship. Ujiri’s been reported as someone who prefers to focus solely on his basketball team, so if Colangelo can accept his role, the two’s relationship has the potential to become very symbiotic (they’re also good friends). Here’s hoping.
No, nothing’s certain when it comes to offseason moves. But, at least as far as we can tell at this point, the Raptors seem to have nailed the first step in moving this franchise out of the mire.