It required five postseasons with no name before Masai Ujiri had seen sufficient.
Together with Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan anchoring the backcourt, the Toronto Raptors had seemingly tapped out. In five seasons from 2013-14 to 2017-18, the Raptors won more regular-season matches than another Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors watched more first-round exits than trips to the Eastern Conference finals, never reaching the NBA Finals.
And therefore, last July, Ujiri forced his move. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the top scorer in franchise history in the summit of his profession — combined with Jakob Poeltl along with a top-20 shielded 2019 first-round pick to 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 a brand new era in Toronto had begun.
The results have, up to now, been optimistic. Despite Leonard missing about a quarter of this season, the Raptors currently have better championship chances than they did at this time last year. As such, the home run of Ujiri effectively put the rest of the league on notice. If DeRozan isn’t secure, who is? The same as Miami’s Big Three triggered the age of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal for other perennial underachievers to follow suit.
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