Toronto Raptors GM insists retaining DeMar DeRozan is their top priority

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With free agency right around the corner, a lot of the big names that will be available on the open market are starting to generate tons of buzz.

Kevin Durant, Hassan Whiteside and Mike Colney Jr. are all names that are sure to command widespread interest, but another top-tier talent in DeMar DeRozan is right up there in that top bracket too.

The Toronto Raptors shooting guard has built a fine reputation for himself with two All-Star appearances in the last three years and the 26-year-old is one of the best backcourt assets in the league.

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Despite hailing from Los Angeles, California, DeRozan has said his preference is to remain in Canada and stick with the only franchise he has ever known rather than return home, or go anywhere else for that matter.

Speaking on Monday at his season-ending news conference, Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri has said re-signing DeRozan is at the absolute top of their priority list.

"Our No. 1 goal is to bring DeMar back here," Ujiri said. "We feel great that he wants to come back to our organization. I spoke to him [Sunday], and his eyes were still red. You could tell. He said he felt empty the next day, which was telling.

"Speaking to him and Kyle [Lowry], they almost felt like we had a game to play still, and that game is not there. There's that hunger, and you like that, and then now, it's my part to figure it out."

This is eerily similar to the noises Pat Riley made a few weeks ago regarding the Miami Heat's pending free agent Whiteside. It's part and parcel of a GM's job to reassure the fans they want to keep their best players and are motivated to do so, however, the proof will be in the proverbial pudding when the offers start to flood in.

Ujiri has also stated that Dwane Casey is the man they want to lead the franchise forward, stating: "Coach Casey's our coach for the future. That's very easy for us to figure out. That will be done in our sleep, I think."

If DeRozan likes where the organisation is heading, it's easy to believe he would stay. After all, he has a prominent role on offense and they just made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, a franchise best finish for Toronto.

Making it to the final four teams in the post season is definitely an achievement to be proud of, the only reason DeRozan might be inclined to leave would be to return home or, benefit from a bigger market.

Whatever the case, both parties are making all the right noises, so don't be surprised if DeRozan remains at the Air Canada Centre this summer. If he does, however, Bismack Biyombo may have to be a necessary sacrifice. The Raptors surely won't be able to afford both.

Toronto Raptors
Atlantic Division
Eastern Conference
NBA Playoffs
DeMar DeRozan
Kyle Lowry

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