It required five postseasons with no name before Masai Ujiri had seen sufficient.
With DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry anchoring the backcourt, the Toronto Raptors had apparently tapped out. In five seasons from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the Raptors won more regular-season games than another Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors watched more first-round exits compared to trips to the Eastern Conference finalsrather than reaching the NBA Finals.
And last July, Ujiri made his movement. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the leading scorer in franchise history in the peak of his profession — combined with Jakob Poeltl along with a top-20 shielded 2019 first-round pick into the San Antonio Spurs to get Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and cash considerations. The Lowry-DeRozan backcourt was divided, the athlete of the Year Dwane Casey was let go after seven seasons, and also a new era in Toronto had started.
The results have, up to now, been positive. Despite Leonard lost about a quarter of this year, the Raptors now have greater championship chances than they did at this time last year. As Ujiri’s home run effectively put the rest of the league on notice. If DeRozan is not secure, who is? The same as Miami’s Big Three triggered the era of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal for other perennial underachievers to follow suit.
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