Raptors’ Ujiri gives Valanciunas vote of confidence amid rumours

Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri talks about the value of Jonas Valanciunas.

While it may have been the day C.J. Miles officially became a member of the Toronto Raptors, there was far more interest surrounding the team possibly shopping Jonas Valanciunas, Tuesday.

Responding to a report from Sean Deveney of The Sporting News from Monday that says the Raptors were having difficulties finding a trade partner for the centre, team president Masai Ujiri fired back, pointing out that Valanciunas was hardly the only Raptor to be brought up in trade talks.

“Every single player was in discussion so I think it’s a little bit unfair,” Ujiri told Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Prime Time Sports. “There were times where we felt, ‘OK maybe we move JV’s money and what’s the direction there?’ There was a plan there but, well, we decided not to go that way or maybe things didn’t click that way. JV’s agent was aware, JV was aware, all our players are aware. I think that’s the way to do business.”

Masai Ujiri on the newest Raptor, CJ Miles, and what to expect from the team this year
July 18 2017

The Valanciunas trade speculation comes as a result of the fact it would free up significant cap space and also because the big man’s plodding, back-to-the-basket style of play seems to run directly counter to the way the rest of the NBA, and the way Ujiri himself has stated multiple times he’d like to see the Raptors play next season.

Despite all this, Ujiri defended his centre on Bob McCown’s show and remains confident the 25-year-old can adapt his game.

“A year ago we’re going into the playoffs in Cleveland and JV is hurt and everybody says if JV is playing in that series we at least have a better chance against Cleveland,” Ujiri said. “That, to me, was saying that JV had an incredible year and an incredible playoffs against Miami, against Indiana.

“One year later, everybody’s singing a different song and I just don’t see that. He didn’t have the greatest of years and not the greatest of playoffs but I don’t think you just necessarily write a guy off because we say the NBA is going a certain way.”


Valanciunas averaged 12.8 points and 9.1 rebounds per game on 56.5 per cent shooting in 60 games in 2015-16 and boasted playoff numbers of 13.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game on 56.7 per cent shooting. Those numbers compared to the 12.0 points, 9.5 rebounds, 55.7 per cent regular season and 11.2 points, 6.7 rebounds and 54.3 per cent playoff figures from last season are certainly better.

This is just a one-season dip to Ujiri, however, who believes Valanciunas can definitely bounce back this coming season with a style that lends itself better to improved ball movement from the deep.

“I just feel that he can be effective. I feel he was effective a year ago in the playoffs and I don’t see that much has changed,” Ujiri said. “I think we need to move the ball better, I think we need to find JV more as a dunker. The ball just has to move better on our team and I think JV, on his part, he’s going to do the things that is necessary for him to play more on our basketball team.”

The jury’s still out on whether Ujiri’s endorsement of Valanciunas is warranted, but it certainly seems, for now at least, the big Lithuanian isn’t leaving Toronto anytime soon.

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