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Jonas Valanciunas Update: How the Future Toronto Raptor is Faring Overseas

November 9th, 2011 | by Dan Levine
Jonas Valanciunas Update: How the Future Toronto Raptor is Faring Overseas
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Jonas Valanciunas Rytas 2011

By Dan Levine

Since pretty much nobody in the local or national media has paid any attention to Jonas Valanciunas since the end of Eurobasket, I thought I’d give Google Translate a try and interpret JV’s current stats/future schedule for the good of those who still care about basketball in Toronto. I figure it’s more fun than another day of lockout talk.

Remember that Valanciunas captured plenty of headlines by destroying his competition at the Under-19 World Championships this summer, before holding his own against the Gasol brothers and plenty of other NBA talent at the European Championships. Now, completely under the radar, he’s been playing in various league games with his Lithuanian squad, Lietuvos Rytas.

So, here is my best explanation of his current situation and his play to date. And feel free to correct any mistakes made in this interpretation of the data at hand.

First, like European soccer, Rytas is competing in multiple leagues across Europe. Three, to be exact.

One such league is Eurocup, which is Europe’s second-tier transnational league. So, while most North American fans are familiar with the first-tier Euroleague, Rytas failed to qualify for a third-straight campaign with the big boys. Instead, they will compete in the second division, where the quality of competition is still very good, but not elite. Clearly, this isn’t an ideal situation for Valanciunas’ development, but it sure beats playing in charity games like the majority of current NBA rookies.

The Eurocup schedule is released and Rytas plays its first game on Nov. 15. Their Group F schedule can be found here (in English!).

While Eurocup hasn’t started yet, Rytas has already begun play in each of their other leagues, VTB and LKL.

VTB is a league consisting of the most competitive club teams from Eastern Europe and Northern Europe. Those familiar with overseas basketball will recognize traditional Russian powers CSKA Moscow and BC Khimki among the squads competing this season. I took a while trying to figure out what VTB stands for, before realizing the league is simply sponsored by VTB Bank. It also appears the quality of play is strong here, especially between the top teams.

Lietuvos Rytas is off to a solid 4-1 start this season, despite their status as a relatively new team with many new players. Valanciunas has competed in all five contests, and has been solid, averaging 7.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 17 minutes/game. Sure, the numbers might seem underwhelming at first glance, but remember that JV is still just a boy playing with men, and that he has also been incredibly efficient on the court. Those numbers have come with Valanciunas shooting 68% from the floor and 77% from the line. He has also averaged a block and a steal per game, while getting stronger as the year has progressed (a recent 13-point, 7-rebound effort in 18 minutes is one example).

Rytas now has an extended break from VTB league games, playing next on December 3 against CSKA. It will be interesting to see how much burn JV gets against one of the team’s premier opponents.

Finally, the LKL is Lithuania’s domestic league, and the lowest competition Valanciunas will face, for the most part. Here, Lietovos Rytas is off to a 5-0 start, though JV has only competed in two most recent games.

For his part, Valanciunas is averaging 12 points and 4 rebounds in just under 20 minutes/game, and again, he’s largely been the most efficient player on his team (shooting 72%!). Both of his LKL games have come in the past couple weeks, with his biggest statline being an 18-point, 8-rebound, 2-block effort in just 22 minutes, shooting 6/8 from the floor and 6/6 from the line. Rytas plays another LKL game today against first-place Siaullai (6-0), before their next game on Saturday.

So, what do we know about Jonas Valanciunas after ten overseas games to begin his season? First, that not much has changed. He’s young, inexperienced and prone to ups and downs.

At the same time, he’s usually uber-efficient and brings skills to the table that should translate well to the NBA game (efficient, strong with the pick-and-roll, strong foul shooter, shot blocker). As the Rytas season moves on, expect Valanciunas to get more minutes and to continue to develop his game. It will be interesting to see how much burn he gets, since his squad is well aware that he’ll be bolting at the end of the season. At the same time, Rytas will likely need Valanciunas to win, while he should continue to serve as a marketing icon following his performances for Lithuania this summer.

Hopefully, I’ve managed to convey JV’s progress to those out there who still care. Full schedules for the LKL and VTB are linked to here, and if you can often find ways to stream Rytas games online (if it were legal, of course). Have any thoughts or questions on JV? I’ll do my best to help, and I look forwards to comments.

Oh, and based on both JV’s play and the current NBA lockout, it would appear to me that Bryan Colangelo made the correct pick, regardless of how things work out long term. Where would Jonas go if the draft was held today? I’m guessing higher than #5.

Update from Wednesday’s game: Valanciunas with his first start of the season, playing 33 minutes and leading his squad to a 103-74 win and sole possession of first place. His statline: 22 points, 5 rebounds, 3 blocks on 8/9 shooting from the floor and 6/6 shooting from the line. Thanks to commenter Nick for highlighting this as well.

-DL

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13 Comments

  1. Raptors Devotee says:

    Thanks Dan, great to have a progress report on Jonas. In a suspect draft I strongly believe by all reports that we drafted a stud, with a huge upside. Just on the basics that he already possesses i.e great free throw shooter, runs the pick and roll to perfection, plays in the paint, can actually pull some rebounds down, especially on the offensive side, he will develop and be a huge asset for us. With Casey coaching him next year he will learn properly how to improve his game, which is also reassuring, especially on the defensive end.

  2. Andrew says:

    Here’s my take. I think the Raptors may have been inclined to draft JV because they knew he would be playing and developing this year while all the college kids aren’t. Further to that, I wouldn’t be surprised if MLSE would be just as happy to have the season cancelled and take their chances in a draft lottery whenever the labour dispute is settled. Another crappy season isn’t going to do anything to sell the product but no season isn’t that bad a thing by comparison.

  3. Rapstars says:

    JV is a stud. Seen him play in a couple of games. Reminds me of Reggie Evans the way he hustles and competes. but in terms of skill i see him being a solid 10-12 ppg 6-7 rpg and possibly a block a game. solid center!

  4. Nick says:

    Nice work, and it’s also worth noting that Jonas put up 22 points, 5 rebounds and 3 blocks today — and he took only 9 shots. Looks like he’s a keeper.

    Now we just need to get rid of Andrea Bargnani!

  5. sonny says:

    great write up

  6. CoachVic says:

    Andrea is a natural ‘4’, JV a ‘5’.
    Both are keepers

  7. Dwayne says:

    Nice update. I started following him leading up to the draft. He’s made improvements every year. Myself and my buddy were the only people cheering in the bar during the draft. There’s no doubt, he was the best pick with Kanter off or on the board. Kanter’s knees are suspect, and Jonas keeps impressing. The big question is how will he handle the extra weight needed to compete in the NBA. I’m not sure bulking up is always the right move, but I’ve seen him pushed around from time to time. He doesn’t stand around when the ball hits the rim, he gets it.

    Oh, and many of the raps faithful are overlooking the James Johnson pickup. He really impressed me last year.

  8. Pingback: Andrea Bargnani, Now Or Never, For Real

  9. Assfal McKintous says:

    Another Stupid draft pick by the rapsucks.Just like Barni and slow Jose another lousy ass for the raps.

  10. ghost says:

    jv is gonna b a solid ceter u will all see and with andrea in the 4 spot the raps are gonna have a deep front court offensively and defenesevely. and if we can now just address the 1 spot and the 3 spot we will have a solid team. more the 3 spot cuz calderon is a great true point guard who passes but hes getting older so we are gonna need a pg who contend with the leagues pg’s we have today who are elite at their position. and our 2guard spot is filled for yrs to come cuz Derozan is the next star of our team for sure ..

  11. Dunkenstein says:

    So what has he done since November 9?

  12. Rayroy says:

    Recent stats can be found at: http://basketball.realgm.com/player/Jonas_Valanciunas/GameLogs/24239

    As of January 16, 2012, averaging 11 pts on 60% shooting, 7 rebs, 1.5 blks in 22.7 minutes. Still has his ups and downs from a boxscore/points point of view, but potential looks good.

  13. Dunk says:

    JV’s numbers have improved dramatically in the last 2 months.

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