Increasing frustration with the Toronto Raptors could lead team president Masai Ujiri to leave, with the Washington Wizards reportedly ready to pursue the executive.
Steve Bulpett of Heavy.com indicated that issues like the possible free agency of Raptors guard Fred VanVleet and recent departure of former head coach Nick Nurse could result in Ujiri leaving.
“Masai is really, really frustrated,” one general manager who has dealt with the Raptors said. “He’s frustrated with VanVleet also, because he hasn’t shown him any indication that he wants to stay. So I think he’s really down about that situation. Maybe it’s because everything’s still so fresh, but there’s a lot they have to get done there. It didn’t surprise anyone that Nick moved on.
After being linked to Ujiri in the past, it seems like the Wizards might look to pursue him again.
“I don’t know what they’re going to do, but I’ve been hearing that Washington is coming after Masai again,” the general manager added.
Ujiri has been connected to the NBA for the past two decades. Before joining the Raptors in 2013, he spent multiple seasons as the Denver Nuggets’ general manager and executive vice president of basketball operations.
In his first seven seasons with the Raptors, Ujiri built potent rosters that were able to achieve regular season success with six division titles.
Unfortunately, that success was stifled in the postseason during the first five campaigns. That stretch included being eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers multiple times.
However, in 2018, the departure of LeBron James from the Cavaliers provided the Raptors with a window of opportunity. By adding Kawhi Leonard during that offseason, Ujiri and the Raptors ended up capturing the franchise’s first and only NBA title in 2019.
Despite that success, Leonard left as a free agent just weeks later. Two years ago, the Raptors sent guard Kyle Lowry to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade deal.
This past season, the Raptors finished with a 41-41 record and were eliminated in a home play-in game against the Chicago Bulls. Not long after that defeat, Nurse was dismissed by the team.
Now, with VanVleet possibly asking for major money in free agency, the struggles to again be among the NBA’s elite may be too much of a challenge for Ujiri.
If Ujiri does leave, he could end up with the Wizards. After the team missed the 2023 postseason with a 35-47 record, it fired general manager Tommy Sheppard.
The Wizards have endured five consecutive losing seasons. However, Ujiri might be interested in joining them if he decides he wants a change of scenery.
Any decision by the 52-year-old might come relatively soon. That’s because the 2023 NBA Draft takes place next month, with free agency kicking off not long after that selection process.