It required five postseasons with no title before Masai Ujiri had seen enough.
The Toronto Raptors had seemingly tapped out, Together with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry anchoring the backcourt. In five seasons out of 2013-14 into 2017-18, the Raptors won more regular-season games than another Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors watched more first-round exits than trips to the Eastern Conference finalsrather than reaching the NBA Finals.
And so, last July, Ujiri made his move. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the leading scorer in franchise history in the peak of his career — combined with Jakob Poeltl and a top-20 protected 2019 first-round pick into the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and money considerations. The Lowry-DeRozan backcourt was broken up, the Coach of the Year Dwane Casey was let go after seven seasons, and a new era in Toronto had begun.
The results have, so far, been positive. Despite Leonard lost about a quarter of the year, the Raptors currently have better championship chances than they did at this time this past year. As Ujiri’s home run swing put the remainder of the league on notice. If DeRozan isn’t secure, who is? The same as Miami’s Big Three sparked the era of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal to additional perennial underachievers to follow suit.

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