Everyone is waiting to see whether Giannis Antetokounmpo will sign a supermax extension with the Bucks or become a free agent in the summer of 2021. Kawhi Leonard could be a free agent that summer, same with Paul George (even if he says he wants to stay in L.A.). Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo, Kyle Lowry, and other All-Star level players also could be free agents next offseason (and that’s not even getting into superstar players who may be available by trade).
However, for an NBA owner looking to solidify his franchise for a decade or longer, the biggest and best free agent on the market could be Raptors’ president Masai Ujiri.
Ujiri is in the final year of his contract with Toronto and while the Raptors want to keep him, Ujiri largely dodged the question speaking to the media Saturday. Ujiri said his focus was getting the Raptors relocated to Tampa Bay for this season, not his next contract, reports Michael Grange at Sportsnet Canada. The Raptors, for their part, would give him a contract tomorrow.
“I can promise you, it’s not [Raptors owners Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment],” said a source with knowledge of the ownership’s thinking. “They’d have to be nuts not to [want to sign him]. It’s not like there’s a Plan A and a Plan B. There’s only Plan A, and it’s him.
“But he’s a very deliberate guy, and the kind of guy you have to respect his space.”…
The two sides haven’t talked in depth about his contract since February, according to sources.
“I don’t know what the timeframe will be,” [Ujiri] later added. “I go into this thing with a very positive mind and attitude. And we hope it goes that way.”
If Ujiri wants a new challenge, there will be NBA owners from coast-to-coast lined up to bring in the man who has transformed franchises in Denver and Toronto into winners. Ujiri may choose to remain in Toronto, but he will have options.
Wherever he decides to hang his hat, Ujiri will be the highest-paid executive in the league. Daryl Morey just got an estimated $10 million or more to run Philadelphia, Ujiri’s next contract will be close to $12 million a season, Grange has sources estimating.
That’s a lot of money for an executive. However, if for the cost of a backup point guard (Spencer Dinwiddie) or good sixth man (Jordan Clarkson) an owner can secure an executive who brought a title to Toronto and whose teams have regularly won 50+ games and gone deep in the playoffs — and who, in Toronto, built the best player development program in the league — then that’s a steal. It’s money well spent.
Ujiri can write his own ticket. The question is, what does he want next? Nobody really has that answer except for Ujiri. And he is playing it close to the vest (which helps keep the pressure on the Raptors to spend).