Amit Mann is joined by Ben Golliver of the Washington Post to analyze the benefits of Masai Ujiri, Bobby Webster and Nick Nurse seemingly always being aligned with the Raptors' vision. Listen to the full podcast on why Masai Ujiri and the Raptors are sleeping giants in the Eastern Conference on our 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed or watch on our YouTube channel.
AMIT MANN: Want to get your thoughts on this because this is an ongoing, hilarious thing that happens at every single NBA draft, it feels like, in that the Raptors somehow, every time a player-- like, you have Woj, and Shams, and everyone. And they're leaking the picks as they happen. But with the Raptors, there isn't a leak. It doesn't happen until, like, maybe seconds before the Raptors are--
Like, you're watching it live. And it happened just in this past draft with Christian Koloko. Like, we're watching it. And 3 seconds, 2 seconds, 1 seconds, and no one sent a tweet yet because there hasn't been a leak within the Raptors brass about who they're going to be drafting.
How does stuff like that happen? Because I've always found it funny. And we all kind of wait for it to-- and expect it to happen, and then it does. It's strange.
BEN GOLLIVER: Well, every organization approaches those kinds of decisions differently, right? I mean, sometimes it's a matter of they're waiting up until the last second, whether it's a trade or--
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
BEN GOLLIVER: --just-- maybe even deciding who's going to be available. But now, when you're drafting that high, you typically have a pretty good idea of who you're going to be getting, right? Usually, it comes down to the personality and the philosophy of the lead executive in the room, right?
There are some guys who are NBA executives who are incredibly paranoid and protective of all of their intel, right? And usually, those are the guys who don't want anything to leak. But at the same time, the draft is kind of a made for TV event, right?
And so I think there are more and more executives who are like, all right, we know the fans are excited. Let's go ahead and get this pick out to the media so everybody can kind of celebrate and have a good time with it. And sometimes, it leaks from the other side, the player side, where an agent's super excited to have his guy go a few spots early. So he wants to be the guy who makes sure everybody knows about it.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
BEN GOLLIVER: There's a lot of different ways those things can come out. But typically, it just goes by the front office's personality, right? If your main guy is saying, we're keeping this thing locked down, and you're his assistant GM, or you're the scouting director, you're not going to be in the bathroom texting somebody, hey, here's--
AMIT MANN: Sure.
BEN GOLLIVER: --who we're going to take. Because you don't want to make the boss mad. So a lot of it just comes down to personality.
AMIT MANN: Yeah. At his end of season this year, and Masai Ujiri, he's-- like, he's must-watch TV any time he speaks. He only does it maybe once or twice a season. But any time he does, you get some real value out of it.
And one of the things that I found interesting that he said is, he felt like every team-- you need a vision, whatever it is. It may not work. It might work. It might be the wrong path. But you need a vision, and you have to execute it.
And he mentioned the Golden State Warriors, where they started, and where they got to. And now, the Raptors investing in Vision 6' 8", 6' 9", or whatever you want to call it. That is kind of what they're doing. They're saying, we're going to try this.
And the buy-in has happened from a Bobby Webster, a person that Masai Ujiri brought on, Nick Nurse as well. How important is it to have, like, that synergy between those three specifically, your-- I mean, Masai is, like, a damn-near god within MLSE. But like, your president, your GM, and your coach, how important is that synergy, making sure that you are putting the best product on the floor, and also that there isn't necessarily unrest within an organization?
BEN GOLLIVER: Look, alignment is absolutely key to winning. So I would even expand it. It needs to be owner, president, GM, coach, and superstar player. If all those people are aligned, they share the same vision for the team, they share the same goal, that's how you're going to be able to win a title.
If one of those pieces is off, it's going to be much trickier. A good example, actually, is the Warriors that year where KD was a little bit upset and frustrated. The alignment started to get a little bit shaky there. He's pushing back on Steve Kerr in some press conferences. It's just a distraction. And the whole mood kind of goes the other direction, right?
On this point about vision though, with the Toronto Raptors, I remember having an interview with Bobby Webster the year after the title season. And I was so impressed because it was very early in that year, but he was already pitching it as the "we're going to run it back" season. These guys have earned the right to be able to just compete as much as they can.
And that was-- especially for Kyle, but Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby, and all the rest of those guys, right? And even without Kawhi, it was-- we still believe we have what it takes. You look at their record point differential and all that stuff for that season, that was a really, really impressive team coming out of that title run.
AMIT MANN: Oh, that was special team, special team.
BEN GOLLIVER: And it was just amazing the disconnect, I guess, between his vision, the internal vision, which I'm sure is coming from Masai as well, and the external perception, which is, oh, the Raptors are done because they don't have Kawhi. And you're never going to win a title without him, right? And that's kind of how it pays off, right? That's a really tough blow for any organization to take-- have your Finals MVP just bounce to LA. The champagne's not even dry, right, and he's already out of there.
AMIT MANN: Yeah.
BEN GOLLIVER: But they were not shaken at all. And it was very clear to me, early in that season, they still had their focus. They still had their vision. And that really let me know this organization is a little bit different. This is not who they were even three, four years ago before that. They've really matured and grown together.