Jonas Valanciunas Could Play For Toronto This Season

The Raptors may try to bring their latest draft pick to the NBA a year early

Posted By Dan Levine

ESPN is reporting that centre Jonas Valanciunas has a (small) chance to play for the Toronto Raptors this season, contradicting all other reports to date.

From Chad Ford:

“Valanciunas does not currently have an NBA buyout for this season in his overseas deal, but things have changed for Lietuvos Rytas over the past five months. They failed to qualify for the Euroleague this season and the team will likely lose critical sponsorship money. Given the current situation, they need money more than Valanciunas.

Does the Lithuanian center want to come to the NBA this season? Valanciunas told NBA teams prior to the draft that he felt he needed at least one more year in Europe to get stronger and play more minutes at the highest level before coming abroad.

But the Raptors believe Valanciunas may be better served by joining the NBA now. The 19-year-old big man spent the entire summer and fall playing in Lithuania, giving him valuable experience. He showed what he was capable of in U-19 play, averaging a tournament-high 23 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game to lead Lithuania to the gold medal. Against Team USA and Florida’s Patric Young, a projected first-rounder in 2012, Valanciunas had 30 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks.

If the Raptors are able to get Valanciunas now, it will be a major coup. Many NBA scouts believe he was the best long-term big man prospect in the 2011 draft and Toronto has a major need at the 5.”

Clearly just speculation for now, but it makes me wonder…

– When would Valanciunas be selected if the NBA Draft was held today?

– Which big man will ultimately be the odd man out (J Val, Bargnani, Amir Johnson, Ed Davis)?

– Are the Raptors better off receiving Valanciunas early and potentially winning more games in 2011/12, or leaving him in Europe for the season to allow for a better draft pick in next summer’s loaded draft?

– Forgetting the wins and losses this season, would it be better to have Valanciunas develop in Europe for a year and start his NBA contract later, or bring him here to work under NBA coaches as soon as possible?

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