May 10, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs president of sports franchises R.C. Buford looks at his cell phone before game three of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 102-92. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Masai Ujiri finishes out of the medals in Executive of the Year balloting


Jun 28, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough (right) introduces Alex Len (left) during a press conference at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The Toronto Raptors’ General Manager, Masai Ujiri, finished fourth in balloting for the NBA’s Executive of the Year. The award, voted on by other executives, was captured by the San Antonio Spurs’ R.C. Buford. The only argument I have with Buford’s selection is: why did it take so long for him to win this thing? There’s no debate about the excellence of the Spurs, as a team and as an organization, and Buford has led them for 12 seasons. During that time, the Spurs have compiled a 688-280 regular season mark (including a league-best 62-20 this season), and won 3 championships. The guy is Executive of the Decade.

Ryan McDonough in Phoenix came second. He did enough to win the award in most seasons, but it was clearly past Buford’s turn. The Suns were expected to compile a 76ers-like record, but every move McDonough made was bang-on, including the selection of Jeff Hornacek as head coach. I thought McDonough sending Marcin Gortat to Washington as the season started was the final proof of a desire to tank the season. Instead, the desert men played small ball with amazing skill, Goran Dragic was Most Improved Player, and the Suns finished 48-34. Neil Olshey of Portland came third, which I’m not wild about. The Trail Blazers were clearly a team on the rise, and he was smart enough to leave well enough alone, apart from some tinkering. That’s fine, but he shouldn’t bump out our man for the bronze.

Masai also recognized he had a young group with the potential to take a big step, but early in the season it appeared that step was backwards. He made The Trade after concluding an offense consisting of 4 men watching Rudy shoot wasn’t likely to succeed. Masai allowed our new people to settle in, and found his roster had suddenly developed chemistry. Sometimes the best move you can make is none at all, and that’s what Masai did (didn’t?).

Masai was Executive of the Year in ’12-’13 at the head of the Denver Nuggets, and finishing fourth with a new team the following year offers proof of how good at his job this man is. I think our situation in Toronto has dramatically improved on so many levels, and the best for our team is yet to come.

Tags: Masai Ujiri Toronto Raptors

  • Jensan

    Brian, after reviewing your comments, the Toronto GM, made two good moves based on subtraction. AB and Rudy, the depth that he provided was two solid backups.
    Having patience , if there is an addition to the starting five next season, and Lowry is maintained, Masai’s position would be elevated, however the west domination of the Eastern Conference ( T.O not withstanding) allows for acknowledgement of Masai’s work not a medal based finish.
    As once was stated many years ago in TV land “Patience Grasshopper”.
    If Vasquez, Lowry and PP are resigned, and a starting 5 impact player is added to the extension of Casey and an offensive coordinator is given to enhance the team. Than a medal consideration would be expected for Raptor’s GM

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Jensan:
      You are right to mention the Bargnani trade. I probably should have, as a positive for Masai’s candidacy.
      I agree about patience. “No wine before its time” and all that. As I said about a week ago, I’d love to see Jay Triano back as Offensive Co-ordinator. Nick Nurse had that job this season, and I guess he was OK, but we could do better.
      Can Masai find a gem with our #1 draft pick?
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Guy

    Very much disagree with Buford receiving this award. Reason being, it was awarded on ceremony, not merit. Most definitely he should have won this previously. Shame on the NBA for that. However, this isn’t a Lifetime Achievement award, it’s the Executive of the Year…Year… & Buford didn’t do anything remarkable this past season. Essentially, he was given this award for signing Marco Bellinelli because, other than him, this is the same Spurs roster that was a Ray Allen desperation 3 pointer away from winning the title last year.

    Contrast that to McDonough in Phoenix. As stated in the article, he hired Hornacek, who did a fantastic job, & the Suns were expected to be battling for the first overall pick. But what happened? They finished 14 games over 500 & didn’t get eliminated from the playoffs until the final day of the season…..and they play in the western conference!!!

    And Ujiri? Traded Bargnani & Gay. Two high salary, inefficient players. That, in itself, was good, but he also got back value. Bargani’s trade yielded salary relief & several draft picks, one a 1st rounder. Gay’s deal also garnered financial flexibility as well as team chemistry by adding four team-first players. The Rudy Gay trade was the catalyst for an incredible in-season turnaround. The Raptors were 20 games over 500 after that trade, 3rd in the conference & division champs. Numbers not even the most optimistic would have imagined.

    Take your pick between McDonough & Ujiri, but to me, it seems pretty clear they had a far greater impact on their teams this season than Buford did with the Spurs.

    • Newmarket_Brian

      Hi Guy:
      Yes, it’s weird that the other executives (who are the voters, unlike all the other awards) decided that this is the year Buford get his recognition. Maybe there should have been two awards: one the Fast Rebuild Trophy (McDonough) and the other a Lifetime Achievement Cup (Buford).
      As I said in my reply to Jensan below, I should have mentioned the Bargnani trade, so I’m glad you did as well.
      If Masai can uncouple us from the last of our bad contracts, resign Kyle, and grab some tasty youngsters in the draft, he’ll be a candidate again next year.
      Thanks for commenting. You expressed Masai’s & McDonough’s cases very well.