24 October 2020

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Masai Ujiri’s NBA Rise

Since joining the Raptors, Masai Ujiri has been an enormous part of the rebuild of the Toronto Raptors. He has been involved in controversial trades, a controversial coach firing, genius draft steals, and savvy free agent moves that eventually led to the team’s first-ever championship.

He came in as a relative unknown, but bringing in Ujiri was one of the best decisions that Toronto has ever made. He is one of the best executives in the league, has the respect of his peers, and despite attempts from many other teams in the league, he has confirmed that he wants to stay in Toronto long term. What more can you ask for?

TORONTO, ON - SEPTEMBER 24: Masai Ujiri of the Toronto Raptors speaks to the media at a press conference after media day on September 24, 2018 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images)
Ron Turenne – Getty Images

Nick Nurse: Going into the 2019 season, the Raptors had the reigning coach of the year in Dwane Casey, but he had only taken the Raptors to one conference finals, and never further. Despite his past success, Ujiri let him go and brought in Nick Nurse despite much criticism. This move paid off hugely, as Nurse took the Raptors to their first-ever NBA championship in 2019.

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Draft Picks: Throughout his career, Masai Ujiri has made incredible draft picks, and even signed some undrafted guys who have made huge contributions for the Raptors. Whether he knew the players from previous connections, or just hit the jackpot on a sleeper, he has consistently wowed fans with some of his picks. Siakam is the pick of the bunch, as a 27th pick, but there are others. Delon Wright at 20, OG Anunoby at 23, Fred Vanvleet as an undrafted free agent, and even a draft-night trade for Norman Powell have all contributed to the Raptors’ recent success.

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 7: Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors handles the ball against the Philadelphia 76ers during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 7, 2019 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant – Getty Images

2019 Trades: With limited playoff success despite all of their winning seasons, Ujiri decided the Raptors needed to change something. Before this past season, he decided to trade franchise player Demar Derozan, along with Jakob Poeltl, to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The move broke the hearts of Raptors fans at first, seeing Derozan go, but eventually paid off as Leonard won finals MVP in the team’s first-ever championship. He also traded Jonas Valanciunas and Delon Wright for Marc Gasol during the season, another big piece, and starter for the championship Raptors.

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