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

UPDATE: Earlier on Friday, Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Nuggets had granted Tim Leiweke and MLSE permission to meet with Masai Ujiri about Toronto’s vacant General Manager position (you can find my reaction to that initial report in the original post below the asterisks). Late Friday night, Woj reported that “Ujiri will take the next couple days to fully consider the move,” but that the Raptors’ multi-year contract offer will likely lead to the reigning Executive of the Year’s departure from Denver.

Digging even deeper, Wojnarowski writes that the Kroenke family “doesn’t appear moved to make a competitive bid to hold onto him” and that citing a league source familiar with the talks, “Denver ownership ‘seems to be moving on.’”

As I had mentioned earlier on Friday, once the Nuggets granted the Raps permission to negotiate with Ujiri, the only real hurdle between MLSE and their coveted target was cleared. Based on these latest updates via Yahoo! Sports, I’d be surprised if there isn’t a reported deal in place by the time we wake up Monday morning, if not sooner.

I suppose nothing is really done until it’s done (as Raptors fans have learned in the past), but still, you’d have to assume that part of the reason the Kroenkes even allowed the Raptors to speak with Ujiri and part of the reason they don’t sound too eager to get into a bidding war for his services, is that he probably let them know he was interested in the Toronto job. I’m aware that Stan Kroenke has a reputation for undervaluing his front office staff, but in this case, would you want to start throwing massive sums of money around for a guy who may have admitted he now wants to be elsewhere?

On a final note, an interesting couple of quotes on the situation from Josh Kroenke in The Denver Post: First, while everyone knows by now that Ujiri’s contract expires on June 30, Kroenke told The Post that the Raptors position opened up as he and Ujiri were finalizing the details on a multi-million dollar, multi-year deal that had been agreed to in principle.

Here are two quotes from Kroenke in that aforementioned Denver Post story…

“In my mind, we had an agreement but it doesn’t matter because I would never hold someone back from an opportunity they might be curious about. Especially someone I hold in such high regard as Masai.”

“If it was any other team, I wouldn’t even have thought about granting permission to speak to him.”

(Again, you can read my thoughts on the original Friday afternoon report and some thoughts on the GM search in general below)

*******

As it became clearer and clearer that Masai Ujiri was targeted by Tim Leiweke and MLSE as the preferred General Manager of the future in Toronto, the only question remaining was whether the Nuggets would grant the Raptors permission to speak with Ujiri. Well according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, that permission has now been granted “and a meeting is expected to take place within the next 24 hours.”

Ujiri’s contract in Denver is set to expire this summer, and while common sense suggests that the incredibly wealthy Kroenke family and the Nuggets would go above and beyond to keep the Executive of the Year south of the border, Kroenke has a reputation for being frugal in these situations, with Woj adding that “current contract extension talks with Ujiri are believed to include figures that are nowhere near the commitment that Toronto’s willing to make.”

In addition, while Ujiri is reported to make between $500,000 and $1 million per year on his current contract, Wojnarowski reports that the Raptors are ready to make him an offer worth nearly $3 million per year. Again, the question was whether the Nuggets would allow the Raptors to speak with Masai. Now that that’s reportedly taken care of and the offer is expected to blow away any Denver offer, I tend to agree with Doug Smith when he wrote on Thursday that if Leiweke and Ujiri can get to talking, “I can see him being on the job by the end of the weekend.”

Earlier on Friday Ken Berger of CBS Sports reported that the Raps are also still pursuing Kevin Pritchard, but if you listened to our RaptorBlog Radio podcast on Wednesday, you’ll know that I see Pritchard, Ed Stefanski, Rick Sund and any other already recycled executives as pointless gets. That’s not meant to be a knock on their competence, but I just don’t see the point in removing Bryan Colangelo only to replace him with another run of the mill executive. If you’re going to move away from the Colangelo Era and attempt to forge a new identity, do it with an up-and-comer like Ujiri who has shown an ability to think outside of the box or a young guy like Troy Weaver who’s just waiting for his opportunity.

There’s obviously no guarantee that Ujiri, Weaver or any other young executive would be more successful than Colangelo and the aforementioned recycled GM’s, but I’d rather take my shot with some fresh blood and a fresh set of eyes instead of settling for the same tired Ol’ Boys club.

Not to mention, Ujiri stands head and shoulders above the rest right now, irrespective of his recent Executive of the Year award. Taking a team from 30 wins to 40 wins is often doable. Taking a team from 40-45 wins can be achieved with natural internal growth and a short-sighted move here and there. But taking a 53-win team, trading its marquee player, stripping it down, rebuilding on the fly and getting to 57 wins within three years, without falling out of the playoff picture even once along the way? Now that is impressive, and a heck of a lot more impressive than anything Colangelo achieved in Toronto.

Lastly, for those that believe Ujiri’s respect and admiration for Colangelo might create an awkward working environment or that it might lead to Colangelo having some say on basketball decisions, I’d say think again. Colangelo will eventually get a job offer from someone and is likely just biding his time until then. Not to mention, while I’m sure Ujiri is a nice man and that his gratefulness to Bryan is genuine, he also has an ego of his own. Do you really think that after putting a team together his way in Denver and after taking home Executive of the Year honours, that Ujiri would settle for going back to taking pointers from his old boss?

The answer is no. If the Raptors land Masai Ujiri, it will be Masai Ujiri’s team to run. Bryan Colangelo’s presence won’t change that.

Comments (28)

  1. Typical MLSE. Stupid overpay. But hey it doesnt affect the cap so I dont really give a fuck. I wonder if the earlier report from berger about them targeting a pritchard and weaver team was inaccurate. That would have been really intriguing. Or maybe they just didnt want to wait till indys run is over to woo pritchard.

  2. Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly, Ujiri is a good man to have at the helm. But $3 mil? The only thing you can be assured of is a hike in ticket prices.

  3. 3 Millions seems like a great deal. That’s what Leafs paid Burkie isn’t it?

    I don’t know why anyone would care about how much the Raptors offer a GM….

    Weird.

    I have never even heard of someone being concerned that their team might spend too much in this scenario. Fans of other teams usually cry about how cheap they are being. Rare to see people complain about their team willing to make a commitment like this.

    • lol! i know……..
      they make it sound like ther’re paying for the gm or player for that matter!
      as long as we win games and make the playoffs they can pay him $10 million for all i care.
      dont anyone worry the revenue about $3million in tickets alone per game and thats being generous

    • All people do is complain on here. The title of the blog could be ” Raptors sign Lebron James” and the comment section would still be full of complaints.

      • …and all you do is complain about the complaints.

        Get over it.

      • You must not have been a fan for a long time. The team hasnt won jack shit in 15 years of its existence. As fans, we have a right to criticize this team. Id say its better than gobbling up all the bs BC has been uttering

  4. Troy Weaver hasn’t done much of anything and is unproven….i’d rather have Ujiri. He had the guts to trade Carmelo. Melo did have a high trade value and clearly said he didn’t want to be in Denver, unlike Bosh (in defense of BC). Ujiri was smart enough to grab a steal in the 2011 draft with Faried falling to 22nd.

  5. Didn’t BC win the Executive of the Year the year before coming to Toronto as well? I hope they’re not bringing him in just because of that award.

    • Yes, and he won it again after joining the Raps making a slew of good moves. He certainly deserved both of those awards for what he did in Phoenix and Toronto, but his time is up.

      All of Colangelo’s moves of recent years have been high risk high reward trades, which we ended up on the losing end many, many times (Jermaine O’Neal, Hedo Turkoglu). He’s been able to clean up his messes, but it’s time for someone who can actually take a step forward without taking a step back first.

  6. Pritchard would be an upgrade over BC. In each of his stops he has shown the ability rto recognize real basketball talent.

    BC had to go. He has done nothing on the job and the roster he has put together is capped out and a 34 win team. He’s below ‘run of the mill’.

    • The team that started the season isn’t the one that finished. It’s not a 34 win team…..its more like a 4-6 seed in the East team now. See through the hate….

      • Stop seeing through the rose colored glasses

      • Are you serious? A 4-6 team in the East?

        More like a 6-8 team in the East, and that’s being generous.

        • Really….discuss who’s gonna be in the playoffs. Boston!?!?! they’re rebuilding. Atlanta!?!?! Rebuilding as well. Brooklyn is all hype….they’re gonna finish in the bottom half of the playoff picture. Milwaukee won’t have the same back court next season so they’re in trouble. Bulls, Heat, Pacers, are strong playoff teams. Knicks aren’t that good and it depends what they do in the offseason. Raptors have shown they can beat them.

          A backup pg and another big is all they really need to add. With a training camp focused on defense and they really are a 4-6 seed.

          • i agree with what ur saying except the part that u mentioned a back-up point guard.
            we need a starting point guard someone with some talent. maybe chris paul!
            lowry is not a legitamate point guard hes better in the 2 hole or off the bench.
            i would even consider eric bledsoe or try snagging deron williams out of brooklyn they r in need of change and desperate for moves.
            the key too success in the nba is a dynamic point guard!

    • You know it’s bad when just about ANY candidate would be better than Colangelo.

  7. hopefully we can go out ans snag chris paul! longshot!

  8. I hope that in some sort of beautiful irony Bargnani ends up wherever Colangelo does.

    • That would be funny …

      I wonder about the future of Casey now with a new GM … do the Raps go after a more proven coach?

  9. I love that people are complaining about the potential salary of a GM that doesn’t count against the cap.

    It’s not your money, who cares?

    We’ve been dying to have Colangelo ousted and now that he has there are still all you negative nancy’s out there.

  10. The average NBA player salary is over 5 mil. per year. The GM is more important to a team’s success than an average player.

  11. I hope Ujiri works out, but I won’t be getting excited until he proves himself over the next few seasons here in TO. At the moment, he’s Executive of the Year for a series of creative moves that accelerated team success. Great – Colangelo has done that not once, but twice. And we all want him out.

  12. Dont know why everyone is so excited … This guy is going to be handcuffed the first yr , no capp room no draft pick and gays huge contract plus getting a buyer for barny . He virtually is stuck with what we have . Only move he can make is amnesty or trade barny

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