Which NBA playoff teams face uncertain futures?
It required five postseasons without a name before Masai Ujiri had seen sufficient.
The Toronto Raptors had tapped out, 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 matches than another Eastern Conference team, but the Raptors watched more first-round exits compared to trips to the Eastern Conference finalsrather than reaching the NBA Finals.
And last July, Ujiri made his move. The Raptors traded DeRozan — the top scorer in franchise history at the summit of his profession — combined with Jakob Poeltl and 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 broken up, the athlete of the Year Dwane Casey was let go after seven seasons, and also a brand new era in Toronto had started.
The results have, so far, been positive. Despite Leonard lost about a quarter of the season, the Raptors now have greater championship chances than they did at this time this past year. Therefore, the home run of Ujiri effectively put the rest of the league on notice. If DeRozan is not secure, who is? Just like Miami’s Big Three triggered the age of participant agency, the Raptors might have broken the seal for other perennial underachievers to follow suit.
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