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Sources: Raptors targeting Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri to run organization

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment is pursuing Denver Nuggets general manager Masai Ujiri to take over as the top basketball executive of the Toronto Raptors, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

Masai, the 2013 NBA Executive of the Year, has emerged as the top choice of the search firm – Korn/Ferry International – that's been charged with finding a successor to Raptors president Bryan Colangelo, league sources said.

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Masai Ujiri (Getty Images)

MLSE has until Monday to make a decision on Colangelo's contract option for next year. It is possible that he could stay with the franchise under a new top basketball official.

Ujiri's contract as Denver's general manager expires this summer and he has been in talks with ownership on an extension. Ujiri, 42, has a strong bond with Nuggets CEO Josh Kroenke, but new MLSE top executive, Tim Leiweke, has expressed a desire to make a serious financial and organizational commitment to an elite executive to turn around the franchise.

Ujiri has developed into the most well-respected and sought-after executive in sports. Ujiri is the first African-born GM in North American sports, and his ascension to stardom from modest beginnings has become something of league folklore.

After three years under Colangelo in the Raptors organization – including the final two as assistant GM – Denver hired Ujiri in 2010 as GM. His handling of the Carmelo Anthony trade with the New York Knicks became the textbook example of how to get maximum value for a star player. Through the Anthony trade, deals for Andre Iguodala and JaVale McGee and his draft acumen, Ujiri replenished the Nuggets' core into a Western Conference championship contender.

The Philadelphia 76ers pursued Ujiri for their GM job a year ago, but he declined their interest. Nevertheless, Ujiri's history in Toronto and the commitment of the MLSE company to resurrecting the Raptors could make this a harder decision for Ujiri, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Ujiri is one of the NBA's lower paid GMs.

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