A detailed 2013 Zach Lowe feature on Grantland pulled back the curtains on the Raptors' front office, revealing not only a strong analytics team making creative use of SportVU data but also tensions about how to put those insights into action.
Shortly after that story, Toronto hired Masai Ujiri as GM, replacing Bryan Colangelo, who sources say had allowed a rift to develop in the organization. Outside sources who know Ujiri describe him as a creative thinker, talented scout and good manager, but not a champion of analytics. While with the Denver Nuggets, he worked with Dean Oliver but opted not to replace him after Oliver left the organization for a role at ESPN. With the Raptors, Ujiri retained consultants Alex Rucker and Keith Boyarsky, who built the SportVU interface Lowe detailed along with team staffer Eric Khoury.
"It's a great part of the game to know," Ujiri told the National Post in 2013. "I think the NBA is trendy. I don't want to say it's the trend now. But that's the nature of us. I think analytics are a huge part. We have a good department that studies the game that way. I study the game that way."
Ujiri's moves in Toronto have given mixed signals about the role of analytics. He quickly traded overpaid Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay for high value, but was also willing to trade then-underrated Kyle Lowry for a meager package to begin rebuilding. Only when the New York Knicks declined a proposed Lowry deal did it become apparent that the Raptors had built an unexpected winner.
The structural issues in the organization have had the unfortunate effect of painting coach Dwane Casey as an archaic stat-hater, which is misleading. He worked closely with Oliver as an assistant coach in Seattle and Roland Beech as part of Rick Carlisle's staff in Dallas and gets high marks from both for being open to using analytics.