The Wizards may be delaying their search for a new executive so they can make a run at Raptors president Masai Ujiri, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic.
No permanent head of basketball operations has been hired in Washington since former president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld was dismissed in early April. The Wizards offered the job to Nuggets president Tim Connelly last month, but he elected to stay in Denver. There has been little reported movement since then, leading to speculation that Ujiri is the next target.
Katz notes that owner Ted Leonsis and consultant Mike Forde, who is leading the search team, haven’t reached out to the Raptors to request permission to interview Ujiri, and that likely won’t happen until the NBA Finals have wrapped up. Ujiri is a candidate for Executive of the Year after pulling off bold trades for Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol that helped Toronto reach the championship round for the first time.
Katz doesn’t believe Washington can win a bidding war for Ujiri because the Raptors are owned by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which is one of the wealthiest companies in the sports industry and has a pattern of giving Ujiri whatever he has asked for, including a G League team and a new practice facility. The Wizards also can’t compete in terms of basketball success, as they missed the playoffs this season and seem a long way from reaching the Finals.
However, they may be able to appeal to Ujiri with the prospect of living in Washington, D.C., giving him a chance to increase his involvement with Giants of Africa or the NBA’s new pro league in Africa, along with being in the same city as his close friend, former President Barack Obama.
With Ujiri still under contract for the next two seasons, the Raptors could demand a heavy price in exchange for letting him leave. Sources tell Katz that they asked for two first-round picks when Ujiri talked to the Knicks a few years ago and they received a second-rounder from the Magic when former GM Jeff Weltman went to Orlando in 2017.