A day after being named the youngest general manager in the NBA, Bobby Webster of the Raptors had to deal with conflicting reports on Thursday about whether President of Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri would stay with the franchise.
Ujiri has been in his position since 2013 and hand-picked Webster to succeed former GM Jeff Weltman, who left just over a month ago to become Orlando’s President of Basketball Operations. On the same day that Ujiri introduced Webster as the new GM, things became complicated when the New York Knicks parted ways with Phil Jackson. Ujiri immediately became a person of interest and he has yet to comment on whether he’s staying or leaving.
According to Bruce Arthur of the Toronto Star, sources say the Knicks are confident they’ll land the 2012-13 executive of the year, which would be a big blow for Webster and the Raptors, who have four key free agents that could leave, including star point guard Kyle Lowry.
Days after being swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs, Lowry chose to opt-out of his current contract, which had him as the lowest-paid player in the starting five. He finished the 2016-17 season averaging 22.4 points per game, which was good enough for second on the team behind DeMar DeRozan’s 27.3. The 31-year-old star simply wants to cash in on his current situation — in which he made $12 million in 2016-17.
In contrast, Carmelo Anthony averaged 22.4 points per game as well but got paid more than double what Lowry did. Klay Thompson finished .1 under Lowry on the scoring chart, and he received a max deal from the Warriors.
The Raptors other notable free-agents to-be are Serge Ibaka, Patrick Patterson and P.J. Tucker, the latter two who proved to be viable options off the bench.
“Without their (front office) support & belief from day one I wouldn’t be in this situation.” – Bobby Webster
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) June 28, 2017
Toronto’s first-round draft selection, OG Anunoby, is already considered a cheap replacement for Patterson or Tucker, but offsetting the loss of Lowry or Ibaka would be much more difficult.
While Ujiri has said Lowry wants to remain a Raptor, that could change if Ujiri moves on.
When the Cavs eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs, Ujiri called for change, saying, “After that performance, we need a culture reset here. I’ve made it clear.”
Little did he or anyone else know that that change could eventually be him leaving for New York.