The Top 5 Executives in the NBA
1. Masai Ujiri, Raptors
Few things are harder to balance in an NBA front office than boldness and caution. And nobody has done that better than Ujiri. He has ascended up the executive ladder with precision—every decision he’s made feels like it has a clear purpose behind it, including the one not to leave Toronto after last season’s success.
Masai not only traded for Kawhi Leonard in the summer of 2018, he also furnished the rest of the team with ideal complementary pieces, created the perfect environment for Kawhi to feel comfortable, and put the franchise in the position to capitalize on its situation and win its first title. Kawhi bolted after one season, but Ujiri stayed, and the Raptors are somehow legitimate East contenders this season, too. With Giannis’s free agency on the horizon and Pascal Siakam only getting better, Masai and the Raptors don’t appear to be going away anytime soon.
The Top 5 Coaches in the NBA
1. Nick Nurse, Raptors
There’s no NBA coach hotter right now than Nurse, which is a pretty funny thing to say about a guy who spent a decade coaching in the British Basketball League. But Nurse managed to grind his way to the top of his profession, eventually leaving England for an assistant coaching gig in the United States Basketball League. He was able to parlay that opportunity into becoming the head coach of the then–D-League’s Iowa Energy in 2007. Six years later, he got the call from Dwane Casey to become an assistant on an NBA bench.
Nurse didn’t waste the long-awaited opportunity. He helped the Raptors reach the playoffs in each of his five years as an assistant. In 2017-18, he became the team’s unofficial offensive coordinator and helped fuel a franchise-best 59 wins behind more pace and space.
When Casey was fired in the offseason for not advancing further in the playoffs, Nurse inherited a strong playoff team—but his tweaks (and the trade for that Kawhi guy) led to newfound success in Toronto. Known as an offensive wizard willing to push even the furthest of boundaries, Nurse helped the Raptors realize their potential, ranking in the top five in both offense and defense in 2018-19, and eventually going on a postseason run for the history books, culminating in the first championship in franchise history.
When Leonard left in the summer, everyone (yes, everyone) assumed the team would take a massive step back. Instead, the Raptors have gone 46-18 this season, earning a .719 winning percentage that’s actually higher than the Raptors’ mark with Kawhi last season. Whether it was unlocking Pascal Siakam, giving Fred VanVleet even more freedom, or discovering gold on the bench like Terence Davis, Nurse has given the rest of the league a new blueprint to work off. His .712 winning percentage is the highest all time of any NBA head coach. That’s a long, long way from the BBL.