Masai Ujiri, the general manager of the Toronto Raptors, doesn't care what anyone else thinks.
That much was clear when he drafted Bruno Caboclo at No. 20 in the 2014 NBA draft, spurning convention and the glut of mock drafts in the process. After all, the man known as the Brazilian Kevin Durant wasn't on many teams' radar, and his presence in the pre-draft analysis was limited to a few scattered big boards.
As ESPN's Fran Fraschila said during the telecast, while the rest of the world was trying to figure out who Caboclo was, the 18-year-old is two years away from being two years away. And Ujiri still doesn't care:
Masai on negative reactions to the pick: "Honestly I dont do it for reactions of anybody. I dont know, I shouldnt say this, but I dont care"— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) June 28, 2014
Good for him.
The man in charge of drafting for the Raptors should have confidence in his pick. Even if it largely earned negative grades—including a "C-" from me, which was given for the reach and failure to trade down (or up from No. 37 if Caboclo wasn't going to be there at that point), not for the Brazilian's talent—Ujiri has earned the benefit of the doubt at this point.
He's continuously proven himself one of the most savvy GMs in the business.
Doubting oneself is a mistake when put in a leadership position. Have questions and consider other options before you make a choice, not after it. To bring in a pop culture reference, it's not that different from the message Ser Alliser Thorne gave Jon Snow during the penultimate episode of the most recent Game of Thrones season (NSFW language in that link).
In this case, failing to seal the tunnel is the equivalent of drafting Caboclo.
"Bruno was one of our next guys and we decided we lost one [Tyler Ennis], we're not going to lose the second one," Ujiri said to The Associated Press after the draft, via CBC.ca. "We jumped on it."
And, as Erik Koreen wrote for the National Post, it's still a somewhat justifiable decision:
As shocked as the rest of the NBA community seemed by the Raptors’ selection of the unknown Bruno Caboclo with the 20th pick, Ujiri gave off a been-there-before vibe. During the entire draft process, Ujiri spoke of the difficulty of moving up or acquiring an extra first-round pick on the day of the draft. By the time the day comes around, teams are so in love with their pick that trying to obtain it becomes nearly impossible, or at least unwise. When the Phoenix Suns took Toronto-area point guard Tyler Ennis, the Raptors’ target, with the 18th pick, they asked for far more than that selection would be worth on the other 364 days of the year. So, the Raptors moved on to their next target, whom they genuinely thought might not be there when they picked again, at 37.
So kudos to Ujiri.
Not just for taking the player he felt he should with the No. 20 pick, even if it doesn't address one of the primary needs for the Toronto roster, but for continuing to defend himself and refusing to cave to the criticism.
As for how Caboclo pans out, only time will tell, though the Raptors plan on speeding his development along this summer, according to TheStar.com's Doug Smith.
But wouldn't you rather have a GM who's willing to take risks and stand by his convictions than one who's going to play everything safe and backtrack when he does anything controversial?
And hey, at least he, unlike Ser Alliser, didn't drop any F-bombs this time.