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The Knicks are ‘confident’ they'll steal GM Masai Ujiri from the Raptors

Meanwhile, Toronto is just as ‘confident’ they’ll keep their general manager. Only one side can be right.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Toronto Raptors - Game Three Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors are reportedly confident that they will retain general manager and president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri. The New York Knicks, fresh off firing team president Phil Jackson on Wednesday, are reportedly confident that Ujiri will become their franchise’s new decision maker.

One side has to be wrong, you know.

In an excellently reported piece from The Toronto Star’s Bruce Arthur, this is described as the first real moment where Ujiri’s future with Toronto has actually been in jeopardy. The 46-year-old former college guard was hired on a five-year deal as the Raptors’ general manager in 2013, but Arthur reports that he is able to get out of that if he chooses to depart to the Knicks. We knew Wednesday that Ujiri was New York’s top target, but at the time it didn’t seem likely. Now we know it might be much more possible than thought.

Why would Ujiri would go to New York?

It’s same reason anyone would go to New York: It’s a larger opportunity on a grander scale.

Ujiri is a “big name” executive, someone an average NBA fan has probably heard of and someone that could make a small splash in New York. The Knicks aren’t in a great place, but Ujiri could hope that his arrival would calm Kristaps Porzingis, presumably giving him a franchise player he can still build around. The Knicks can spend freely, and they can also pay Ujiri much more than he’s making right now. After all, Phil Jackson made $12 million annually as president of the Knicks. Ujiri is ... not making that in Toronto.

The allure of the Knicks, still one of the NBA’s “glamour” franchises, is strong. Another reason is Ujiri’s great relationship with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who would love to see New York revitalized. Toronto is a really good place to be, of course, even if the Raptors might be facing a complicated retooling period. They’ve given him no real reasons to leave. But it sounds like Ujiri actually might be considering it anyway.

Why would Ujiri not go to New York?

James Dolan.

No, seriously, that’s pretty much it. He could make more money in a huge market with more exposure, while having even more luxuries to spend, but he would have to do it all under an owner that is unanimously seen as probably the worst in the entire league.

There’s also the mess — Joakim Noah’s contract, for example — that Ujiri would take over from the disastrous Jackson era. But that’s a footnote compared to the ownership problems.

Chances that Ujiri goes to New York.

Let’s say there’s a 2.5 out of 10 chance. There are so many nice things to like about New York, but “James Dolan tho” will always be nagging in the back of anyone’s head when making decisions like these. I bet that ultimately keeps Ujiri in Toronto (maybe while bargaining for a raise).

The one wrinkle is if the Knicks would be willing to part with a draft pick or two to obtain Ujiri. I don’t know if that’s being considered or how it would change things. But both sides are ‘confident’ and one of them has to give.