I had the opportunity to watch Jonas Valanciunas play last Friday against Tristan Thompson of the Cavaliers. It was entertaining to see two strong, young, big men battle each other at both ends of the floor. I left the ACC completely impressed with JV’s post-up game and his ability to score off the high screen and roll. But then I started looking more closely at his numbers.
Let’s just focus on the previous three games, ahead of last night’s encounter in Cleveland. In last Wednesday’s match-up with the Bulls, Valanciunas managed only 2 points and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action. In the game against Thompson and the Cavaliers, he ended the night with 18 points and 8 boards in 28 strong minutes. However, on Sunday, against the Magic, JV had just 7 points and 9 boards, while committing 6 turnovers, in 29 minutes. Inconsistent.
Unfortunately, this inconsistency is what seems to be holding the big man back, and possibly the entire Raptors’ team, from reaching the next level. So what’s the problem?
It sure seems like a young, sophomore player just trying to find his way at a difficult position. Fitness? Upper body strength? Maybe – he is only 21 years old after all.
Experience? He has had a wealth of experience in his home country of Lithuania and during international competition. Whatever it is, it is hard not to like the kid, though. Valanciunas never looks like he isn’t working on the court and he has definitely become a fan favourite!
Imagine the Raptors’ offence with a consistent offensive contribution from the centre position! The defence would be stretched out, creating more room for the slashing attacks of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry. Add to that, perhaps, a consistent three-point shooter (try not to think about the Jason Kapono disaster), plus the muscle of Amir Johnson and you have a pretty nice first unit.
In the meantime, Valanciunas needs to find a way to reach that next level of play. And when he does, things in Toronto are going to be consistently fun to watch!!
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- By jon.empringham
- February 26, 2014