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Masai Ujiri has been a constant in the Toronto Raptors’ journey back to relevancy since coming back to the organization as an executive in 2013. Now in his contract year with the Raptors, fans and teams around the league are eagerly awaiting Ujiri’s next move.
However, Ujiri is still the president of the Raptors and there are still several tasks on his plate.
Acquiring a big
The NBA trade deadline is just over a month away (March 25th), the Raptors are sitting in the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference and it’s been tough to maintain a .500 record this season.
The priority for Ujiri has always been about winning and although the Raptors have been playing better as of late, the current roster is at least a piece away from contending for a championship. The Raptors could really use some more depth in the frontcourt and the front office may be looking to make a move for a talented big man such as Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, or DeMarcus Cousins who could all potentially be hitting the market.
Bold track record
As president of basketball operations, Ujiri has made countless bold moves since taking over for Bryan Colangelo. Two of the first moves Ujiri made in 2013 were trading Andrea Bargnani to the New York Knicks and hiring Bobby Webster who is now the Raptors’ general manager.
Whether it’s finding steals in the draft like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby and Norman Powell, or it’s pulling off blockbuster trades to acquire stars like Kawhi Leonard, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, the Raptors’ front office has done an amazing job of creating a winning culture by acquiring the right pieces.
One foot out the door?
While most fans have come to expect the unexpected from Ujiri over the years, it’s hard to know where Ujiri’s priorities are at this moment. Widely regarded as one of the top front-office executives in the league, Ujiri will garner league-wide attention if he does not sign an extension with the Raptors before the offseason. One team that has had their eyes on Ujiri for a while now is the Washington Wizards.
If the Wizards do make an attempt at luring Ujiri away from the Raptors, history shows that the pitch may have to be about more than just money. Ujiri has shown a diehard passion for the Raptors organization over the years and has even gone on record saying that he’s committed to helping the team win another championship.
The Raptors’ number one priority this offseason should be finding a way to re-sign Ujiri. But if Ujiri does decide to move on, the Raptors have given themselves a good back up plan when they signed Webster to a multi-year contract extension.
Fighting for justice and equality
In addition to the many tasks at hand with the organization, Ujiri has also had to deal with a long legal and personal battle.
After the Raptors won the NBA Finals, Ujiri was involved in a physical altercation with Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Alan Strickland, who was working as part of security for the Finals at Oracle Arena on the night of the title-clinching game.
Strickland filed a lawsuit against Ujiri, but when bodycam footage of the incident was eventually released, it was clear that Strickland shoved Ujiri twice after he tried to present his team credentials. Charges against Ujiri were recently dismissed but Ujiri says his moment of glory was taken away from him.
Ujiri has filed a countersuit against Strickland for using excessive force against him and also has spoken out about being treated disrespectfully based on the colour of his skin.
Ujiri has been an outstanding activist outside of his role as a Raptors executive, founding Giants of Africa and directing the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa program. As one of the most prolific figures in the NBA, Raptors fans are anxiously waiting to see what’s next for Ujiri.