The Washington Wizards’ search for their next general manager has become a little bumpy. The team initially focused on Denver Nuggets president of basketball operations and Maryland native Tim Connelly, but were soundly rejected by the native son.
Since the firing of president Ernie Grunfeld, the team’s 10-week search has gone relatively silent even with the NBA draft coming in less than two weeks.
If reports out of D.C. are true, that could be because the team has a major name in mind: Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri.
Could Masai Ujiri get the Michael Jordan treatment?
Ujiri’s Raptors team currently has the Golden State Warriors on the ropes in the NBA Finals and on the cusp of the team’s first ever championship. Ujiri has received plenty of credit for that position as he’s the man who traded for postseason MVP Kawhi Leonard and built up the team’s current talent level.
Given that championship-building GMs don’t grow on trees, the Wizards are reportedly considering a massive package to try and lure Ujiri away from Toronto, according to Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington.
How massive? Standig compared the possibilities to the pitch Wizards owner Ted Leonsis gave to lure Michael Jordan as the team’s president of basketball operations in 2000.
Among the options mentioned are an annual eight-figure compensation package and an ownership stake and control of Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the parent company of not just the Wizards, but also Capitol One Arena and the Washington Capitals. That kind of stuff could move the needle.
The Athletic also reported the Wizards’ interest in Ujiri, noting that the team wouldn’t want to get in a pure money fight with the Raptors given the deep pockets of the latter’s parent company, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
Also reportedly working in the Wizards’ favor is that Ujiri’s wife is a D.C. area native and the move could put Ujiri in a better setting to manage his outside interests, including the "Basketball Without Borders" program that he directs.
Working against the Wizards is, well, let’s just take a look at the state of the Wizards’ basketball operations.
None of this means Ujiri will say yes to the Wizards
Here’s the thing about the Wizards. They’re bad. They’re really bad, and also facing a bleak long-term outlook.
The team went 32-50 last year, doesn’t own any of its second-round picks until 2024 and still owes John Wall, who is out until 2020 after a slip at home ruptured his Achilles, a whopping $170 million over the next four years. For years, the team flailed under Grunfeld, and now the team is left with a dearth of talent and a loaded cap sheet.
Even if Leonard ends up leaving the Raptors, the team is still miles ahead of where the Wizards are right now. A move to Washington would mean a full rebuilding project for Ujiri ... or he could just stay in Toronto where his team is loaded with talent and money. To some, that’s not a hard call.
We’ll see if Ujiri has any interest at all once the NBA Finals are over.
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