Rumor: Raptors want two first-round picks as compensation if Masai Ujiri leaves for Knicks

Raptors president Masai Ujiri
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Raptors owner Larry Tanenbaum said team president Masai Ujiri is “here to stay.”

But what if Ujiri wants to leave for the Knicks?

Ian Begley of SNY:

one NBA team recently demanded two first-round picks when another team inquired about letting its exec out of an existing contract, per SNY sources. The transaction – which would have involved an exec generally considered a tier below Ujiri, sources said – didn’t get to the finish line.

But teams talk, and a baseline of two first-round picks is where multiple SNY sources familiar with the dynamic of such negotiations expect any Knicks-Ujiri talks to start.

When talking about the Knicks-Ujiri hypothetical, it’s fair to assume that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tannenbaum will want at least two firsts in a package for Ujiri.

It’s unclear how much Begley is reporting on the Raptors and Knicks specifically or extrapolating from a somewhat similar situation. If it’s the latter, this is of only limited utility. Different teams have different approaches on these issues.

Besides, this is only talk of Toronto’s starting point. New York would offer less. The teams would negotiate toward the middle.

The Knicks sent the Kings compensation for general manager Scott Perry, and he’s serving under team president Steve Mills. Does that show New York would be willing to send the Raptors compensation for Ujiri? Or would the failed Mills-Perry regime show the Knicks the futility in offering compensation for an executive? Good luck guessing what Knicks owner James Dolan will do, though higher-ups in his organization are reportedly obsessed with Ujiri.

Of course, even if New York and Toronto agree on compensation, Ujiri would also have to agree. The Knicks’ young core – R.J. Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr., Kevin Knox and Frank Ntilikina – is already underwhelming. Losing multiple first-round picks would make rebuilding even more difficult and could push Ujiri toward staying with the Raptors – or demanding more money from New York.

At that point, the Knicks might say they’re already giving up draft picks and that additional salary for Ujiri is a bridge too far.

It’s all a very delicate balance.