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.