It’s been about two months since Masai Ujiri officially signed on to become the new General Manager of the Toronto Raptors. During that time, Ujiri has yet to make the blockbuster moves that fans were anticipating after acquiring the reigning NBA Executive of the Year.
Regardless, a lot of attention has been placed on his player transactions; with Ujiri addressing the Raptors’ needs for depth, outside shooting, and toughness through the acquisitions of Steve Novak, Tyler Hansbrough, D.J. Augustin, Dwight Buycks, and Austin Daye.
Yet, Ujiri’s more fascinating moves may be what he’s doing to change the front office and coaching staff instead. Here’s your quick introduction on the new hires set to represent the Raptors this season, starting with executives:
Former Team: Milwaukee Bucks
Role: Assistant General Manager (John Hammond)
New Position: Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations
– Weltman spent the last five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and six seasons before that as an AGM for Denver.
– Considered serious candidate for Phoenix Suns GM job this offseason.
– Believes that because of the unpredictability of the draft and how young today’s prospects are, teams are forced to or should take the “draft best player available” approach.
– Strongly values analytics, but doesn’t consider it to be the only driving force in decision-making.
Weltman will be walking into a role he’s very familiar with, so he shouldn’t feel overwhelmed. He’ll be teaming up with Masai Ujiri, whom he helped land a scouting gig back in their Denver days, so the comfort and respect level should be there from the very beginning. Though it’s always difficult to gauge how much of an influence Assistant GMs have in transactions, Weltman has been given significant credit for the Clippers acquiring Darius Miles, Keyon Dooling, and Quentin Richardson back in the 90s. His recent tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks have been a hit and miss affair with mediocrity, with a handful of solid moves (drafting Larry Sanders and John Henson, and trading for Tobias Harris) and an equally handful of questionable transactions (trading away Tobias Harris, and acquiring Monta Ellis, drafting Joe Alexander).
Former Team: NBA League Office
New Position: Vice President, Basketball Management and Strategy
– Member of NBA front office team in negotiations of new Collective Bargaining Agreement [CBA]
– New duties will expand to scouting and player development
– Spent the last seven years in NBA front office
With the always-growing complexity that is the NBA CBA, the Raptors’ decision to hire the cap expert that the other 29 NBA teams go to is a sound move. Though it looks like he’ll be more than just the Raps’ on-hand “capologist”, having someone who knows the ins and outs of the CBA (loopholes included?) will be handy for Ujiri.
Former Team: Denver Nuggets
Role: Scouting Co-ordinator
New Position: Director of Scouting
– Scouting Co-ordinator in Denver since 2011
– Joined Nuggets organization as media relations intern, advanced to media relations manager
– Work will range from college and pro scouting, to data management
– Credited with a role in finding Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried
After receiving offers from several teams, Tolzman’s decision to reunite with Ujiri speaks volumes to the kind of work relationships the new Raptors GM had with his staff back in Denver. With the Raptors’ underwhelming scouting history, and the nightmare of Jim Kelly still swimming through the minds of some Raptors fans, a young and fresh opinion that Ujiri trusts will go a long way in helping rebuild this organization. Plus, he’s apparently not too bad at a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Former Team: NBA League Office (2006-2011)
Role: Assisted International Basketball Operations Department
New Position: Liaison between basketball and team business operations
Tomorrow we’ll look at the the Raps’ new coaches.