Raptors GM Ujiri plans to meet with DeRozan in next few weeks

DeMar DeRozan has been named fans' favourite Raptor of all-time.

The Toronto Raptors have a critical summer coming up after the club’s most successful season in franchise history.

The Raptors’ star shooting guard, DeMar DeRozan, reportedly opted out of his contract this week and is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, when the league’s negotating window opens.

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri updated the status of DeRozan in a guest appearance on Dean Blundell & Co., Thursday morning.

“We’re nowhere because right now we cant (talk),” Ujiri told hosts Joey Vendetta and George Rusic on Sportsnet 590 The Fan. “Everything stops until July 1. So we’re still in the same place we were at the end of the season. We talked and had a good exit meeting. I will fly down to see DeMar at some point in the next couple of weeks to have a good chat with him and we’ll go from there.”

DeRozan has repeatedly expressed his desire to stay with the Raptors, the team that selected him ninth overall in the first round of the 2009 NBA Draft.

The 26-year-old averaged a career-best 23.5 points on 44.6 per cent shooting along with 4.5 rebounds, four assists, and one steal per game during this past regular season before adding 20.9 points per game on 39.4 per cent shoothig in 20 playoff games.

While DeRozan’s future remains uncertain at this point, one player that will undoubtedly play a significant role for the Raptors next season is 24-year-old centre Jonas Valanciunas.

The Lithuanian was the Raptors’ most impressive player in the first two rounds of the post-season before he suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him for the majority of the Eastern Conference Finals.

“He was sensational,” Ujiri said of Valanciunas’ playoff performance. “Jonas went from 270-something to 248 (pounds) so he was light in his feet. He figured out that’s the way to play now. He can move his feet and run the floor. If you notice now, after going to the running coach and the weight loss, he’s figured out a way to be more mobile. That was very encouraging.

“I keep preaching this,” he added. “Big guys take time. No matter what downs they go through, you can’t give up on them. Especially with big guys who love to play. Jonas loves the game of basketball. He loves to be in the gym and work out. With those guys, it takes a little bit longer. If Jonas is like this at 23 or 24, what’s he going to be like when he’s 26 or 27 years old?”

Otherwise, Ujiri said he isn’t spending much time watching the NBA Finals and is focusing on his preparations for next Thursday’s NBA Draft.

The Raptors GM said he was doing some background work on some prospects last night and had a conversation with Kentucky head coach John Caliapri, who had an enlightening point about the way the NBA game is shifting.

“He said something very interesting: The NBA has become positionless,” Ujiri said of his conversation with the prominent college coach. “That’s the first time I heard it been put like that. We are a trendy league. Golden State has found the perfect way to play small. They use the three-point shot so effectively because they have two of the best guys in the league. We played small in Denver to spread the floor. In the NBA, if you are successful at something, you have to win. That’s the biggest factor. I feel like three-point shot and playing small is great but I don’t think it’s the end all. OKC used their big games really well and almost won that series. We’re fine with how we are and we’ll continue to use the 3-point shot with weapons we have. At the end of the day, talent will win.”

The Raptors are scheduled to pick No. 9 and No. 27 overall in Thursday’s draft.

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