The Toronto Raptors have morphed from a perennial also-ran to one of the most consistent winners in the league over the last few years, as the presence of Masai Ujiri in the front office has brought stability and executive excellence to a team that had to suffer through some lean years under names like Rob Babcock.
Ujiri’s 2020-21 season was unusual in that he spent most of the year mired in the lottery rather than competing for a championship. One would think that the Raptors’ run back to the postseason would get Ujiri some notoriety from the national media. Unfortunately, the Raptors were disrespected in awards voting once again.
Memphis Grizzlies executive vice president of basketball operations Zach Kleiman won the award this year, with Ujiri receiving just one vote for first place. What more does this guy have to do to get the recognition he deserves from the rest of the league?
Ujiri has helped the Raptors become a playoff fixture and springboard off of that to win their first championship. Even after retooling the roster and taking a team no one expected to be as good as they were to the postseason, Ujiri has to settle for seventh place. His Toronto tenure is more impressive than the voters will make it seem.
Toronto Raptors executive Masai Ujiri needs more recognition.
After truly putting his hands on this roster in 2014, Ujiri managed to turn a declining Andrea Bargnani and Rudy Gay into a lottery pick and a host of quality reserve players. Trading Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross for Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, and Serge Ibaka helped turn the Raptors into championship contenders.
On top of the fact that most of his late draft picks turned into high-level NBA players, the fact that he had the intestinal fortitude to pull the Kawhi Leonard trade off and win the title wasn’t enough to get him some silverware. The winner in 2018-19 was Bucks GM Jon Horst, who couldn’t beat Ujiri’s Raptors in the playoffs.
Even if you want to give the award to someone from Memphis this year, Ujiri deserved more love than he got. Taking a team from 29 wins and the No. 4 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to 48 wins and two playoff wins deserves some serious consideration and adoration from the larger basketball landscape.
While Ujiri does have one Executive of the Year from his tenure in Denver, his tenure in Toronto needs some formal recognition to show the rest of the league that he has been one of the best at his craft for the better part of a decade. Perhaps improving upon a breakout 2021-22 season might get him the hype he deserves next year.