Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri has accepted a five-year, $15 million contract to run the basketball operations of the Toronto Raptors, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The NBA’s Executive of the Year this season, Ujiri is considered one of the most accomplished young executives in sports and has been coveted by several organizations over the past two years. Denver offered Ujiri a contract extension, and the decision to leave the Nuggets was especially difficult given his strong relationship with team president Josh Kroenke. As much as anything, that led to the Ujiri’s delay in deciding whether to take the job with Toronto.
Ujiri, 42, had been considering the Toronto offer for a week and finally informed the teams of his decision on Friday. His contract with the Nuggets – whom he rebuilt into a Western Conference contender in the post-Carmelo Anthony era – expired on June 30.
For new Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment CEO Tim Leiweke, the hiring is a coup for his burgeoning sports empire and the Raptors. For Ujiri, this is a homecoming to a Raptors organization where he previously served as an assistant GM before accepting the Nuggets’ job in 2010.
Ujiri will work with his old boss, Bryan Colangelo, who had to cede top basketball authority in the Raptors’ management restructuring.
Ujiri inherits a well-respected basketball executive in the front office, Ed Stefanski, who has another year left on his Raptors deal. Ujiri is likely to let Raptors coach Dwane Casey continue as coach for the 2013-14 season, league sources said.
Denver won 57 games and finished third in the Western Conference this season. Denver could promote assistant GM Pete D’Alessandro, or look outside for another candidate to replace Ujiri. Before the Nuggets’ offered the job to Ujiri in 2010, Cleveland Cavaliers assistant GM David Griffin had turned down an offer from Denver. The Nuggets could turn back to Griffin again.
Other top possible candidates among the assistant GM ranks include the Houston Rockets’ Gersson Rosas, the Brooklyn Nets’ Bobby Marks, the New Orleans Hornets’ Tim Connelly, Atlanta Hawks’ Wes Wilcox and the Orlando Magic’s Scott Perry.