Denver Nuggets Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri named 2012-2013 NBA Executive of the Year

On Friday we learned from Doug Smith that the Raptors have until Monday to decide whether or not to pick up Bryan Colangelo’s option for next season. Smith also reported that Tim Leiweke and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment have hired a search firm to narrow down a list of potential Colangelo successors. Two names mentioned in that report were Pacers General Manager Kevin Pritchard and Thunder Vice President and Assistant GM Troy Weaver.

Saturday morning, Adrian Wojnarowski hit us with something that most Raptors fans surely considered once or twice when news emerged that Colangelo’s days may be numbered, and that’s that Toronto is reportedly targeting Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri.

As most of you are probably aware, Ujiri spent three years working under Colangelo in Toronto before being hired by the Nuggets, where he went on to handle the Carmelo Anthony situation better than Colangelo handled the Chris Bosh situation, to oversee a 50+ win team, and eventually took home the NBA’s Executive Of the Year award for this season’s performance.

I’d argue that Ujiri winning the award had more to do with his first two years on the job than this year, but nonetheless, we’re talking about a young basketball executive who has enjoyed nothing but success in his first three years on the job.

Wojnarowski, citing league sources, writes that Ujiri is the top choice of executive recruiting firm Korn/Ferry International, who MLSE hired to conduct the search. The 42-year-old, who became the first African-born General Manager in North American professional sports when Denver hired him in 2010, will see his current contract with the Nuggets expire this summer.

According to Woj, Ujiri turned down the 76ers job last year and he’s “one of the NBA’s lower paid GMs,” but he also mentions that “Tim Leiweke has expressed a desire to make a serious financial and organizational commitment to an elite executive to turn around the franchise.”

While I can definitely understand why it would be tough for Ujiri to leave Denver when the Nuggets are much closer to contention than the Raptors are, you’d have to think that between his familiarity with Toronto and the Raptors, and the potential for a raise, MLSE would be one of the organizations that could at least make him consider a move.

On a final note from the Wojnarowski report, the Yahoo! Sports writer states that Colangelo “could stay with the franchise under a new top basketball official.” I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Colangelo wouldn’t stick around to take the ego hit of working under his former Assistant GM, but that’s just me.