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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December 3, 2011 8:41 pm

Bring Jonas over now! He needs to develop his skills against nba talent. The raptors will not start winning this year anyway.

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
December 4, 2011 1:11 am

Dan, one thing for sure Cleveland would have taken Jonas just ahead of us instead of reaching for Tristan Thompson, who was slated to go around the #9 spot. If Jonas does indeed come over to play with us this year somebody in Cleveland should lose their job for passing on him for that reason alone. Valanciunas given his production so far in Europe may have gone as high as #3, as Irving and Williams were the clear #’s 1 and #2 in a weak draft with Irving being the only sure-fire pick.

Jonas will be given limited minutes off the bench, so he will be the odd man out, but not really. No need to throw him in there against the starters, let him gain his confidence against the bench. I still have no idea what the Raptors were thinking when they played DeMar for five minutes only to start the game and then pull him, very strange indeed. I hope the Raptors don’t repeat that this time.

I don’t see how having Jonas here will increase our win total by much this year, so disagree with your premise. It is a win/win for us. He will get valuable experience not just playing against NBA competition but by learning our system under a new coach, and bonding with his teamates.

If he does have an immediate impact and delivers us a lot more wins, then I guess I can live with that, and hope we get lucky with less lottery balls. Going into this season we are supposed to be a bottom feeder, with only Detroit projected to finish below us in the Eastern conference. I just can’t see a green rookie at the centre position having immediate impact to really add many wins. He will be schooled by many centres, and that’s fine, all part of the learning process.

December 4, 2011 12:28 pm

Bring him over now. It will speed up the realization that the Raptors made a bad draft choice and the front office will realize faster that they need to move in a different direction.

Dan Levine
Dan Levine
December 5, 2011 12:48 pm

Raptors Devotee, perhaps I’m being too optimistic in terms of JV’s potential in his first couple NBA seasons. I know he’s raw, but Valanciunas is still more mobile than most bigs and could make an impact during a shortened season with more back-to-backs. Still, it’s true – he might not have much effect on the win total this/next season.

As for the odd man out, I am thinking more long term. Does the team end up trading Amir, Ed or Bargnani when all is said and done?

Raptors Devotee
Raptors Devotee
December 6, 2011 12:04 am

Dan, we now know that Jonas is not coming over, and from what I read about it there was never a chance, so I am not sure what source Chad Ford had on it, but it did not seem to be accurate.

As far as Jonas, playing the centre position is the most challenging position to play in today’s game that is guard oriented with the defense barely allowed to put a finger on you without being fouled. This is not a Vince Carter walking in who basically could take the ball and do whatever, whenever he wanted to at will. Believe me, it will not be pretty initially, and that is why I was so excited for the prospect of him coming over now, and its too bad we have to wait, but c’est la vie.

It is too early to speculate on who will be dealt. That is a long ways away, as we need to wait for Jonas to settle in and see how the team performs next year along with our superstud draft pick. If I was pressed, I would hope that we can draft a Blake Griffin type player who can dominate and allow us to trade Bargnani, who has worn out his welcome here, Canadian citizenship or not, as a leapard can’t change its stripes, and I don’t think he will ever get it. Colangelo should be able to swing a deal as some other sucker GM will believe they can turn him around. I hope that Casey can at least start the process to increase his market value. Even at $10M a year, Bargnani lights it up enough at 20 ppg to entice other GM’s.

Ed is not going anywhere, as he has yet to show his value, and he is in the development phase, while Amir signed a contract that will make him tough to move.

December 20, 2011 11:42 am

He stays there, develops and strengthens. Besides conjuring up fan excitement, there is no other benefit in the long run to him come. He’s only 19 years old, and we don’t need another premature ejecter like Nazem Kadri.

December 23, 2011 7:30 am

Im actually quite happy valanciunas isnt going to be playing this season. as a raptors fan i have to think long term for the team. if valanciunas doesnt play this season the raps have a great chance to get a top 3 draft pick in the 2012 draft. If that happens raps can pick up another guy like harrison barnes, lamb or austin rivers, and then the addition of a more experienced and (physically stronger?) valanciunas will give them a really good chance to compete for a playoff spot.

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