Can the Toronto Raptors repeat themselves
NBA Finals - The Making of the Toronto Raptors: The Golden Hand of the Masai Ujiri
The Toronto Raptors are close to the first title in their history, the Canadians could already secure the Larry O'Brien Trophy in Game 5. The formation of the team is characterized by many coincidences, great risks and an aggressive strategy. SPOX explains how the key figures on the team came together.
Game 5 of the NBA Finals will take place on Tuesday night at 3 a.m. in Toronto - at DAZN the game can be seen with German and US original commentary!
The story of today's raptors cannot be told without their architect. The Nigerian Masai Ujiri, who once played as a player in Germany (Wolfenbüttel!), Initially made a name for himself in the NBA as an unpaid scout and was named Executive of the Year in 2013 in the service of the Denver Nuggets, as the only non-American who ever received this award.
His biggest trade was when he sent Carmelo Anthony to New York for half of the Knicks' squad.
In the same summer, Ujiri moved to Toronto and has been in charge of basketball there ever since, first as general manager and since 2017 as team president. Since his arrival, the Raptors have had their most successful time by far, topping their own records several times in the regular season.
Ujiri has a reputation for making controversial and sometimes uncomfortable decisions, but mostly having a golden hand. One of his first moves in Toronto was Andrea Bargnani to the Knicks, a critically acclaimed deal. Since then, he has put together a potential master team with a number of other deals - here are the most important of them.
Masai Ujiri in the SPOX interview: "Had a queasy feeling with Melo"
2013/2014: Kyle Lowry's Non-Trade
At Lowry, Ujiri was lucky. The point guard was already there when the manager came, and he didn't really want him: Ujiri thought Lowry was talented, but difficult to deal with. Early in the 2013 season, Ujiri traded the then star Rudy Gay and Lowry was supposed to follow him - a deal with the Knicks seemed almost sealed before their owner James Dolan vetoed the deal shortly before the deal.
Lowry has since reached five All-Star Teams in a row and has become one of the NBA's top point guards, the rise of the franchise being very closely linked to him - and his good friend DeMar DeRozan. Although the Raptors failed regularly in the playoffs in recent years, Toronto had never been so consistently good before. But that wasn't enough for Ujiri.
When Ujiri traded DeRozan last summer, Lowry resented him. In February there were a few rumors even around Lowry that a trade to Memphis (for Mike Conley) should have briefly been in the room. It didn't come to that, they both spoke out. Now they are closer than ever to achieving the common dream.
2015: Greivis Vasquez becomes two top performers
Aside from Lowry, Powell is the longest-serving player in the Raptors. On draft day 2015, Ujiri sent his point guard Greivis Vasquez to Milwaukee for the then number 46 pick Powell and a future first-round pick, in what is now another very one-sided trade.
Because: The said first round pick was O.G. Anunoby, who has established himself as a top performer with the Raptors in his first two seasons. In the current playoffs, he was only not used because of an emergency appendix operation shortly before the start of the postseason. In fact, like Powell, he is one of the team's young, versatile wing defenders.
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