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Report: Masai Ujiri leaves Denver to take over Toronto basketball operations

May 31, 2013, 5:41 PM EDT

Masai Ujiri Getty Images

Nuggets GM and current NBA Executive of the Year Masai Ujiri couldn’t turn down the combination of more money and more power— he is leaving the Denver Nuggets to take over as the guy in charge of basketball operations for the Toronto Raptors.

That according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Ujiri reportedly made $500,000 last year, so it’s hard to turn down the pay raise. And the increased power. Confirmation of this is expected from the teams soon.

Ujiri grew up in the Raptors organization, this was the one team that was a draw to him outside of Denver. Denver made a classy move letting Ujiri — whose contract didn’t expire until June — a chance to speak with Toronto. Ujiri gave them a chance to make an offer, but it appears the Nuggets couldn’t match.

Ujiri just won the NBA Executive of the Year award for how he rebuilt the Denver roster in the wake of Carmelo Anthony forcing his way out of town. He will be missed in the Rocky Mountains.

This is a real coup for Toronto — they had been a rudderless organization for years under Bryan Colangelo, a collection of players with seemingly no big picture plan or system.

Ujiri will bring a better big-picture view. There are some good players — Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas — on the roster but also a lot of questions about style and fit. Plus some tough financial decisions (they are at the luxury tax line for next season already if everyone comes back). Ujiri is the perfect guy to make those calls.

Denver will start its search for a replacement immediately. The draft is coming up in a month so there is a time crunch here.

  1. erckle31 - May 31, 2013 at 6:25 PM

    If someone offers to sextuple your salary, you better take that job.

    • don444 - Jun 6, 2013 at 4:40 AM

      I don’t disagree with you in general, but I’d remind you that money isn’t everything in life when it comes to happiness and it doesn’t tend to represent the cure-all for life’s ills that most assume it does. A job promotion carrying with it a much smaller rise in salary could actually represent a better option at a given point in time depending on the overall circumstances. Every situation needs to be closely examined and thoroughly reviewed as six times the money might also translate into twenty times the headaches.

      • Kurt Helin - Jun 12, 2013 at 6:08 PM

        So you’re saying mo money, mo problems?

  2. rickyspanish - May 31, 2013 at 6:38 PM

    How could he not go to Toronto? Beautiful city and complete control of a team is hard to pass up.

  3. saint1997 - May 31, 2013 at 7:09 PM

    Sorry Kurt but the draft could be tomorrow it really doesn’t matter – Toronto traded away their first round pick firstly to Houston and now it is owned by OKC. Remember?

    • Kurt Helin - May 31, 2013 at 8:12 PM

      I said Denver was in a time crunch due to the draft. Also, I never suggested the Toronto turnaround would be instant.

      • saint1997 - Jun 1, 2013 at 1:37 AM

        I’m certain you edited that

  4. bluenoser23 - May 31, 2013 at 7:24 PM

    I hope hiring this reigning exec. of the year as Raptors GM works out better for them than the last reigning exec. of the year they hired to be GM (i.e. Colangelo)

    • don444 - Jun 1, 2013 at 2:15 AM

      To be fair they are different individuals with different ideas, but yeah, you’ve basically hit the nail square on the head for those who’d prefer to believe this is just the greatest thing that could have happened to the Raptors and that it will prove to be the catalyst for some Golden Age to come.

  5. 4thquartermagic - May 31, 2013 at 8:04 PM

    Congrats to Masai and Toronto.

    Masai: You earned this opportunity and I’m glad Toronto will pay you what your worth. Best of luck to you.

    Toronto: You put your money where your mouth was.

    Denver: Middle finger to you Josh Kroenke. You wanted a great GM at mediocre GM salary. Now Iguodala will surely opt out. George Karl will put together another 7-8th seed playoff team which will result in another first round exit. You officially have the same front office/coaching you’ve had for a decade. Definition of insanity is expecting a different result next year.

    Not a sad day for the Nuggets franchise but definitely a step backward.

    • denverhoopdreams - May 31, 2013 at 9:09 PM

      I disagree with the comment that this isn’t a sad day. Let’s just look at the opposite of sad, “happy,” while you might be happy for Ujiri, would you said you’re happy with the Nuggets franchise at this moment? Surely not. Definitely a sad day, especially considering how pumped Masai got me with some of his comments after the playoffs.

    • denverhoopdreams - May 31, 2013 at 9:10 PM

      The Kroenke’s must be drinking the same water that the Rockies management is…

  6. hojo20 - May 31, 2013 at 9:48 PM

    Toronto will never be good because no elite free agent will want to sign there.

    • badintent - Jun 1, 2013 at 2:54 AM

      Toronto is a world class city with great people. The biggest problem is the super high income taxes on high earners.The federal and province income taxes are over 15% than even NY or Cali’s.When Paul Monitor played for the Blue Jays ,making around $3-5 million a year , he paid an extra $300,000 in income taxes to play there , compared to the average US city.But he embraced the city ,the people and the lifestyle. Great schools, low crime and decent Jays teams helped make his decision to sign for several years.

  7. lbmclean - May 31, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    if Loria bought the Nuggets it would be an upgrade

  8. 303bengalguy - May 31, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    kick to the balls… and I’m now in that nauseous onset that comes right after the kick.

  9. pavelfitzgerald - May 31, 2013 at 11:56 PM

    I disagree with the negative tone about Toronto but otherwise thought the article was spot on.
    Let’s not forget that Toronto is the 4th largest sports market in North America. It’s the only team in the NBA where a whole country will cheer for you when you get it going. Remember them in the Carter, McGrady, Davis, Junkyard days? That place was crazy. I’m sure this also feels like home to him too having learnt his craft there. Now comes the tough decisons

  10. don444 - Jun 1, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    Good for him as the extra money and the added influence are obvious plusses. With that said, Toronto (doesn’t matter how large it is, American athletes generally just don’t want to be employed there) is a veritable NBA outpost, if not graveyard, and the ultimate outcome of this move is likely to be that Ujiri will come to be known as something much less than the wizard many think of him today. By decade’s end he’ll be just another ex-front office guru searching for another shot at glory.

    • don444 - Jun 8, 2013 at 4:12 AM

      It’s regrettable that this post was largely disrespected and panned as what I said was perfectly true regardless of some not being willing to face facts. Whatever, if many of you people had my intelligence you’d be much better off in life.

  11. rushbacker - Jun 1, 2013 at 2:06 AM

    I’m so furious with the cheapskate Kroenke’s right now. They let a brilliant young exec walk over less than a midlevel exception. . . and the fans will undoubtedly get to watch George Karl coach his way to yet another first round exit. Without so much as a whimper, as usual. I can get over losing– it’s part of sports. Being a fan of an organization that isn’t committed to at least trying to win is just brutal, though. I can’t see myself paying to go to any games this year.

  12. bluenoser23 - Jun 1, 2013 at 1:38 PM

    Toronto: The place sports saviours come to die. (see Brian Burke, Bryan Colangelo, J.P. Riccardi, et el). I’m sure Ujiri is a smart guy, etc. but you’ll forgive this lifelong Toronto sports for not getting overly excited until I see some wins being put on the board. I’m still waiting for the Jays to reap the benefits of their latest saviours (Dickey, Johnson, Reyes and Cabrera). Remember? The guys that almost everyone said would put the Jays in the World Series this year? Yeah….right. I’m fresh out patience (or hope) waiting around for Toronto’s next sure thing.

  13. leeeroooyjeeenkiiins - Jun 1, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    He’s reportedly already trying to move Bargnani before July 1. Off to a great start!

  14. canadatude - Jun 1, 2013 at 5:34 PM

    American athletes are overrated by their media and fans. In case you haven’t noticed, the Olympic basketball teams haven’t won much in a while. It’s a global player market. Just look at the San Antonio Spurs roster.

    • don444 - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:15 AM

      Foreign countries have made great strides over the years, as would only be expected to happen eventually, but the lion’s share of the world’s top basketball talent is still in the United States. As for USA Basketball specifically, they are 62-1 in international competition since 2006, the reigning champions of the FIBA World Championship and the last two Olympic Games during that timeframe. So, what exactly, in the hell are you talking about?

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