DENVER - One day after George Karl was named the Head Coach of the Year by the NBA, the team's Executive VP of Basketball Operations received the honor of being named the 2012-2013 Executive of the Year, the league announced Thursday.
Masai Ujiri, a native of Nigeria, became the first African-born general manager of a major American sports team when the Nuggets hired him on Aug. 27, 2010.
He’s helped construct an athletic roster that won a franchise-record 57 games and captured the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. All this was done despite having the third-youngest team at the start of the season.
Ujiri, who completed his third season in Denver’s front office, is the third Nuggets executive to receive the award. Mark Warkentien was honored in 2008-2009 and Vince Boryla won it in 1984-1985.
Ujiri was instrumental in assembling a balanced roster that featured nine players averaging between 8.0 and 16.7 points and a bench that ranked second overall in scoring with 41.3 points per game. Of the seven teams that won at least 50 games, Denver was the only one without an All-Star selection.
One of Ujiri’s biggest moves heading into 2012-2013 took place on Aug. 10, 2012, when he acquired All-Star and Olympian Andre Iguodala from the Philadelphia 76ers as part of a four-team trade that also involved the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic.
The Nuggets sent guard Arron Afflalo, Al Harrington and a future second–round pick to Orlando in exchange for Iguodala, an elite defender who averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds in 80 games.
Denver also re-signed center JaVale McGee and point guard Andre Miller to multiyear contracts in July and secured point guard Ty Lawson with a contract extension on Oct. 30.
The biggest move during his tenure was trading superstar forward Carmelo Anthony in a 12-player trade that brought current Nuggets Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov to Denver on Feb. 22, 2011. Lawson is the only player remaining with the Nuggets since that deal.
Considered one of the most proactive executives in the NBA, Ujiri has kept the Nuggets among the Western Conference elite through numerous trades and shrewd draft picks.
For example, his past two first-round draft picks in forward Kenneth Faried with the 22nd overall pick in 2011 and guard Even Fournier with the 20th overall pick in 2012 has helped the team immensely. Fournier played valuable minutes late in the season and started three playoff games and Faried played so well that he took the starting power forward spot away from Nene who was traded to the Washington Wizards.
For his work in 2012-13, Ujiri totaled 59 points and received eight first-place votes from a panel of his fellow team basketball executives throughout the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Gary Sacks finished second with 28 points (three first-place votes) votes and the Houston Rockets’ Daryl Morey and the New York Knicks’ Glen Grunwald finished tied for third with 25 points (four first-place votes).
Executives were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for each second-place vote and one point for each third-place vote.
Ujiri received the award during a press conference at the Pepsi Center Thursday.