Wizards fans received an inkling of hope for an otherwise despondent franchise on Tuesday morning's Sports Junkies. Greg Brady of Toronto's Sportsnet 590 The Fan called in and floated the possibility of GM Masai Ujiri leaving the Toronto Raptors for the Washington Wizards this summer.
"I would not dispel those Masai rumors about the Wizards," Brady told The Sports Junkies Tuesday. "There's a lot of people here that are stuck in the moment, trying to enjoy the moment. But I think there's every chance that Masai Ujiri's running your team, the Wizards, next season. I think that's a reasonable possibility."
The Raptors are headed to the NBA finals for the first time in history, they have arguably the world's best player in Kawhi Leonard and Ujiri is beloved in Toronto. Since his arrival as GM in 2013, the Raptors have won at least 48 games every year; he's turned a perennial loser to a contender. Why would he leave such a cozy situation?
Although it's smooth sailing for the Raptors right now, there's uncertainty on the horizon. Kawhi Leonard is in the final year of his contract and although he's an absolute god in Toronto (see game seven against the Sixers), he's from Southern California and the Lakers and Clippers rumors loom large. If he leaves in the off-season, the Raptors will flip from title contenders to rebuilders. Keep in mind, to acquire Leonard last summer Ujiri had to trade All-Star Demar DeRozan, a massive risk considering Leonard's impending free agency and DeRozan's consistency. If Leonard leaves, the Raptors will have Most Improved Player candidate Pascal Siakam, but not much else. They'll have to squeeze everything they can out of the aging core of Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Serge Ibaka and Danny Green.
On April 30, NBC Sports Washington's Ben Standig reported that Ujiri had expressed interest in Washington D.C. Ujiri is the director of the "Basketball Without Borders" program, and he believes he could do more for it in the nation's capital. Ujiri considers himself a global ambassador of the game, and there's no denying the platform is better in Washington, D.C. than Toronto. He's good friends with former president Barack Obama and his wife grew up in the D.C. area.
There are lots of roadblocks to Ujiri's path to Washington which Chris Miller, Adam Wise and Drew Gooden discussed on Wizards Talk.
"Masai is going to come with a big price tag, I don't know what that budget is," Gooden noted. "You're going to have to pay to play basically for what is going on with the Washington Wizards right now."
Luring Ujiri means the Wizards couldn't hire anyone until Ujiri is ready to talk, which won't happen until Leonard makes his free agency decision. Free agency starts after the draft, meaning the Wizards would be without a GM when they select ninth come June 20. If that happens and Ujiri decides to stay in Toronto, whatever GM the Wizards do hire won't have time on their side.
There's no doubt that there are obstacles to bringing Ujiri to Washington, D.C., but this is a former Executive of the Year who's in contention this year as well. If anyone is worth the trouble, it's him.
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