The Toronto Raptors went “all-in” at the NBA Trade Deadline, but Masai Ujiri and company didn’t risk their future in doing so. Now it’s up to the players to prove Ujiri right.
Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri cares deeply about this organization. He loves this passionate fan base and is the unquestioned leader of this “golden era” in Raptors’ basketball.
Perhaps most importantly, though, Ujiri listen to his players. Remember when his superstar backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan publicly asked him for help following the team’s dreadful 102-101 loss to the Detroit Pistons on February 12th? Ujiri heard their message loud and clear, and he immediately went out and acquired Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic just two days after Lowry and DeRozan made their public requests.
You can try to frame this as Ujiri “giving in” to his star players, but that’s far from the case. Instead, based on Ujiri’s history with this organization, he constantly has his finger on the pulse of this team and he knows the exact buttons to hit at precisely the right time.
More from Tip of the Tower
- Cam Phillips making his mark on Toronto Argonauts offence
- Toronto Argonauts: 4 storylines ahead of matchup against Redblacks
- Federico Bernardeschi ready for new challenge with Toronto FC
- Toronto Argonauts overcome Roughriders in entertaining Touchdown Atlantic
- Buffalo Bills: Von Miller drawing inspiration from Bruce Smith
It’s a skill that has made virtually every decision Ujiri makes appear to be a sure thing as opposed to a calculated gamble. A big reason behind these successful decisions is his players.
Let’s be realistic here, what person doesn’t like working for a boss that listens to them and even considers their opinion? Everyone, right? Well, the Raptors are no different and when the team apparently asked Ujiri to go out and try to acquire P.J. Tucker at the Trade Deadline, guess what? That’s exactly what he did.
In comes Tucker and Ibaka, out goes Terrence Ross, a first-round pick (the lower of the two 2017 first-round picks between the Raptors and Clippers), Jared Sullinger, and a pair of second-round picks.
Ujiri is a patient, yet extremely opportunistic, NBA executive. He has a proven track record of knowing when to say no, like when the Oklahoma City Thunder told him their absurd asking price for Ibaka, and an uncanny ability to pull off the unexpected trades, like when he shipped Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, or Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks … okay, maybe he just knows how to fleece James Dolan. Regardless, we’ve seen Ujiri work his magic time and time again. However, it’s his fearless ability to trust his players that could truly pay dividends for the Raptors.
Yes, Ujiri went out and got players he’s coveted in Ibaka and Tucker, but he’s also said to this roster, “we’re all-in.” That kind of confidence can be contagious and tends to have a ripple effect throughout a locker room, which we’ve begun to see during the Raptors past three games.
Looking at the big picture, when you consider the Raptors maintained their prospect pool, didn’t drastically impact their financial flexibility, albeit the little they have, and, outside of Ross, kept their core intact, I’d say Ujiri’s re-tooling of the roster at the Trade Deadline was a massive success.
Now the team has the rest of the Eastern Conference, more specifically a wounded Cavs team, in their cross-hairs. Ujiri clearly feels like this roster can compete with Cleveland, perhaps even pull of the improbable upset, now it’s up to the players to prove him right.
And if things don’t work out, so be it. At least Ujiri finally found out what he truly has with this core of players and the Raptors’ future will be much clearer because of it.