It took five postseasons without a title before Masai Ujiri had seen enough.
The Toronto Raptors had seemingly tapped out, with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry anchoring the backcourt. In five seasons from 2013-14 into 2017-18, the Raptors won more regular-season matches than any other Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors watched more first-round exits compared to trips to the Eastern Conference finals, never reaching the NBA Finals.
And last July, Ujiri made his move. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the leading scorer in franchise history at the peak of his profession — along with Jakob Poeltl along with a top-20 shielded 2019 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and cash considerations. The Lowry-DeRozan backcourt was divided, the Coach of the Year Dwane Casey was let go after seven seasons, and a brand new age in Toronto had started.
The results have, so far, been optimistic. Despite Leonard missing about a quarter of the season, the Raptors currently have greater championship odds than they did at this time this past year. As the home run of Ujiri swing effectively put the remainder of the league on notice. If DeRozan isn’t secure, who’s? Just like Miami’s Big Three triggered the age of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal to other perennial underachievers to follow suit.

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