Yes, that was literally my immediate reaction that my colleague, Derek Snider, reported on Twitter when I saw that the Raptors selected 19-year-old Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. I didn’t react that way because I’m convinced Valanciunas will be a bust. I reflexively responded like that because I knew that he won’t be able to play for the Raptors next season because of complications with his buyout clause.

Whoever Colangelo picked, I was looking forward to seeing him in a Raptors uniform next season. I reacted like a little kid whose parents told him that we were skipping Christmas this year but I should be OK with that because next year’s present is going to be AMAZING! Yeah, not so much, Dad. If I tell my three-year-old that in December, she’ll throw a fit. I guess I haven’t matured much beyond that stage.

Now that I’ve calmed down a little bit, I suppose this is the part where I’m supposed to give you my “expert opinion” on whether or not Valanciunas is going to one day lead the Raptors to that elusive championship. Well, if you’re a diehard Raptors fan like I am, then you have as much to go on as I do. I’ve seen the same YouTube highlight reels you have, and we all know you can make almost any player look good if you pick out the plays that make him look good and string them together.

There’s nothing new I can tell you about him that I didn’t already describe when Holly, Joseph and I profiled him yesterday. He’s got great potential as a defender and rebounder, but he’s currently too skinny and weak and nobody really knows if he’ll ever fill out and gain the strength necessary for him to succeed as an NBA center. By the time we know, Bryan Colangelo might not be around to answer for this pick.

And when you look at it that way, that’s what makes this selection so bold. I know I wouldn’t have had the balls to be in Colangelo’s position and draft a player who won’t provide immediate justification of my supposedly brilliant talent evaluation skills. Colangelo obviously believes in this kid, and we have no choice but to hope that he knows what he’s getting even though Valanciunas never actually worked out for the Raptors.

When I consider Colangelo’s history, I really shouldn’t have been so surprised that he was willing to take  a chance like this. He clearly takes great pride in past successes like the drafting of Amare Stoudemire in 2002 and the signing of 30-year-old Steve Nash to a long-term contract with the Suns in 2004. Those were decisions which were widely derided at the time but delivered huge payoffs. Colangelo wants to win a championship and it’s obvious that he feels the Raptors will never reach that goal if he plays it safe.

Drafting Kemba Walker would have been the “safe” pick. And I know that there are a great number of you who believe that would have been the right pick, regardless of its perceived safety. For whatever reason, Colangelo believed that Valanciunas was the best player available at the Raptors’ pick and he followed his instincts regardless of how that decision would go over with an increasingly impatient fanbase. There’s a certain admirable nobility in that. There’s also a certain reckless, arrogant impetuousness in that. At the moment, my emotions steer me towards the latter assessment, but that’s the reaction of my inner three-year-old.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll hear and read a variety of justifications about why this was actually the smart, reasonable decision to make for a franchise that is striving for ultimate success, no matter how long it takes. I look forward to those defensive justifications, but in the meantime my adrenaline is tapped out and I will slink off to bed, bewildered and defeated. Christmas is cancelled for this upcoming season, and I’ll lay my head on my pillow with visions of an impending lockout dancing in my head.

Right now, I feel like Santa Colangelo brought me a stocking full of poisonous spiders, but you can hardly expect me to be reasonable about this so soon after such a bitter disappointment. Just as I feel like I know what’s best for my children, I have little choice but to hope that Colangelo knows what’s best for the Raptors. Being a parent is hard, and so is being a General Manager for a team with a fanbase as starved for any kind of success as this one. No matter how this turns out, we’ll have to go hungry for a little while longer before we find out if Valanciunas can provide us with the feast of success we’ve all dreamed of.

Comments (40)

  1. Well, here is another youtube compilation of Valanciunas. I don’t know what I am more impressed by: Jonas’ play (which I like), the fandemonium in the stands or the stellar Lithuanian dance pack?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zLa5yFCF6Go

    S’all good. Leo Rautins is clapping. Jaudinantis

  2. the dance pack is especially stellar at the 5 minute mark of the above video.

  3. oh, and pretty sure there is a Ricky Rubio cameo in the video at 6:05

  4. Patron: That’s a phenomenal mix. I’m going to give that video its own post on Friday and give you credit for it. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Found a mix of him, got me excited lol http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzCUYde90TQ

  6. Maybe Christmas will be cancelled for everyone (lockout). Maybe Colangelo knows this.

  7. I don’t know enough about this guy to give a fair comment, but I do think I know enough about Knight/Walker to know they weren’t the right pick. I guess we’ll see in a year or two if he is.

    My read is if he becomes Biedrins 2.0 we can consider this a success.

  8. I love this pick, because this kid is going to be a Top 10 NBA Center sooner before later. And agile, athletic 2-way Centres are rare these days. Competent point guards with outside Stud potential are more easily found in every draft and rotting away their youth on NBA benches every year.

    On the 3-5 year horizon, this acquisition might create Toronto’s version of a proven winning frontline combo Dallas enjoyed this year – ours being Dirk Lite and Chandler+. Ed Davis achieves his ceiling as the premium version of his father, logging 24+ mins a night at 4/5 in reserve. Amir Johnson fulfils that Super Sub role at 3/4, because he can defend both positions and is one of our best midrange shooters (Thanks, Alex English.) James Johnson starts at 3 as Lebron Lite, in that he becomes the youthful but modest hybrid…

  9. …of what made Marion (defense, rebounding, low-maintenance offensive contribution) and Turkoglu (playmaking and court vision as Point Forward.)

    JJ’s emergence at 3 as strong defender/rebounder (with Amir as primary reserve, fulfilling the defensive need) bookends Bargnani’s limitations as a Stretch 4 whose charge is to score and to draw attention. JJ’s entrenchment at 3 as a primary enabler allows Bayless to perform to form as a scoring PG without the full burden of being pass-first focussed – “flow offense”, per The Coach. Bayless improves resistance at the point of attack, particularly with Casey at the helm. And with Jose or other pure PG in reserve, a Point Forward is not needed on the court.

    So, Bargnani, DeRozan and Bayless become your offensive punch, and your remaining starters and key rotation players fill out the stat sheet with balanced contributions weighted heavily on defensive focus and secondary efficient scoring based largely on transition opportunity, athleticism, mobility, and balk movement.

  10. Oh – and Valanciunas shoots over 90% from the free throw line. Already. So you really can’t get a better guy to be cleaning your offensive glass or cutting to the rim on a pick-and-roll.

  11. Just a couple of considerations:
    1) Kemba and Knight weren’t so much desired anywhere, judging on their hard slipping down the draft.
    2) Nobody can think of this pick by the Raps without a decisive nod by Casey.
    3) And who can say this is not a pick made on behalf of someone else? I mean, a pick to be given away to a certain team for other players in exchange (a guess: Tony Parker)?

  12. And what about Kawhi Leonard slipping to the 15th pick??

  13. They didn’t work him out at all. Does that mean they were surprised to find him at 5? Why wouldn’t they work him out?

  14. I’m shocked BC had the balls to make this pick with his short leash, but I give him credit. If he honestly believes this is the BPA and best fit long-term, then he made the right decision. It’s kind of surprising because nobody had Jonas associated with this team, even after he started slipping in the mocks because of the buyout issue. I’ll be curious to see what BC does with trades and free agency and see how that fits into the rebuilding process.

    It’s discouraging that so many fans have this anti-Euro reflex. The scouting report on this guy is like the antithesis of the scouting report on Bargs. Yeah, he needs to get stronger but that’s one of the easier things to do. If Chandler can play the 5 effectively, Jonas should be able to even if he never puts on a lot of weight.

    But yeah, the instant gratification side of me is also a bit disappointed, but if the Spurs wanted him, we should all take comfort.

  15. I am a little disappointed only because I wanted to see a fresh face in uniform who would make an impact right away but that’s just the impatient fan in me talking, I just watched this exact group limp through this year and I was hoping for a “quick fix” but this is why BC is the GM and I’m some guy on the internet.
    I can’t argue with our need for a dedicated 5 but this is such a guard dominated league it would have been nice to come away with either Kemba/Knight and then find our center through free agency or a trade (Calderon maybe?)

    I can’t hate on the guy, he works hard and enjoys doing the dirty work so Best of luck to Jonas over seas next year and I look forward to seeing him suit up for TO in 2012-13

  16. I completely threw a hissy fit after this pick. Only Araujo was worse. I feel bad for this kid. Seems like a good guy, but I don’t see the kind of elite speed, athleticism or hops to make him a good help defender or the bulk to be a traditional centre. I don’t see a post up game. What does this guy bring to the table?

  17. i firmly believe the Raptors are actually trying to suck.

  18. i agree with Stan M.

    i’m done with the raptors until they fire BC.

  19. Toronto fans, as a collective, suck. (There are many of you however, that understand the operation of pro-sports franchises). The collective are ill-informed, impatient, and entitled. Sports franchises have to take their lumps and grow. Stop wishing for a magic bullet. It took Cleveland several years to become a good team after they drafted LeBron.
    If anything is driving your franchises down it isn’t BC, it’s the ridiculous ownership group that is terrified of being in the red at the end of the season.

  20. btw NOT comparing Jonas to LeBron. Just emphasizing PATIENCE and TRUST

  21. Paraphrase of general comments on thestar.com:

    Colangolo ur an idjit. U always draft them white Uros who cant jump real good why u lov them uros so much are u a raycist cuz u nevr draft black guyz send them Uros home

  22. hey Scott, thanks for the nod. Always happy to share, I love your site and your comments for years.

    As for the Raps sucking and not having a player for next year, I am less chuffed. Miami and the Bulls can and will battle it out for supremacy of the East for the next TWO years, no interest in being their canon fodder. I like the Raps collecting assets and solidifying a core that will be here for 6 to 8 years (DD,AJ,ED and JB are still so young, AB may or may not get on board, but if not he brings back another piece). I will parrot Paul Jones here but I believe it, this is the rebuild that should have happened when they could not get Bosh to commit two summers ago.

    After this year of struggle and next year of growth, I would expect real progress and success.

  23. I like this move. BC is tanking next season so we get to choose from all the awesome picks that passed on this draft due to fear of lockout. Meanwhile, Jonas will get to develop overseas while everyone else is doing nothing

  24. Just when you think things couldn’t get any more frustrating with this franchise, they waste a Top 5 pick on someone who won’t help them for years.

    What a disaster these 6+ years with BC have been.

  25. Dwight’s going to have a field day with our JO-AN front line

  26. BC’s Euro vision for Raptors basketball is still in full e-f-f-e-c-t!

    BC’s bad karma is still very active in the Rap’s organization- recognize fans he’s f*cking the team up as we need a new President & GM ASAP not a new ‘Winning Plan’ from BC!!

    This is a bullchit pick- especially after we- the fans, suffered through last season’s bullchit ‘losing with a purpose’ from BC at least draft a player who will physically be in the TDot come Training Camp like Kemba Walker!!

    Kemba will make BC & the other GMs look stupid for bypassing him in the draft, trust.

    As well, Jonas won’t even be here until the season after this upcoming season- if then, as it could potentially take up to 3 years to get Jonas over in the TDot as his contract buyout has yet to even be negotiated (there is no buyout in writing currently) and Val’s Euro team doesn’t give a flying f*ck about the NBA, BC & the Rap’s- point blank.

    Btw- Valanciunas said his game is like CB’s.

    Casey sounds like he’s full of chit as he couldn’t even pronounce Jonas last name and didn’t really know sh*t about his game just generic descriptions thereof like all he seen was YouTube clips of Val.lmfao

    As well, how does this pick help Casey out this season with much needed roster talent upgrades?

    Casey & BC could both be gone by the time, if, Jonas ever does arrive in the TDot.

    Rap’s still need a big man- will they trade Ed and/or Amir in order to get one?

    I can see DD with one foot out of the door as a Kemba Walker/DeMar DeRozan backcourt would have been exciting as heck to watch mature together in the TDot plus add in PF Ed Davis and that trio- KWalker, DD & Ed, is a solid young rebuilding core moving forward to add veteran talent onto.

    I can’t wait for year 3 of BC’s current contract to run its course- hopefuly he will be fired before then.

    Your 2013-14 Raptors?:

    Valanciunas
    Bargnani
    Kleiza
    DeRozan (I got a feeling he’s gone asap)
    Calderon

    BC is still Pissing on us fans and calling it Rainwater- Sh*tting on us fans and calling it Kobe Steak- the Emperor has no clothes- new ‘Winning Plan’ my a**!!

  27. @ ughhh

    ‘Trust’ BC aka The Liar? lmfao

    As well, patience is for waiting rooms not the NBA- recognize game or remain mentally lame to BC bullchit games!

    Kemba Walker
    DeMar DeRozan

    That backcourt looks so nasty fresh!!

  28. That’s a good comment up there – most fans seem pissed because they want a quick fix. You know, so the team can get back on the mediocrity treadmill. You gonna take down Miami with Derozan and Brandon Knight? Gotta be more patient. Don’t spew “It’s been six years…”. The first 4 (5?) were spent on Chris Bosh. This, at present, is the course of a true rebuild. Here’s to hoping for another top 5 in next year’s killer draft!

  29. Fool me once….fool me twice…. How many big man experiments do I have to go through with this team?

  30. The biggest risk I see for JV is catching a bad dose of whatnot from all the hordes of chicks lining up to bang him.

  31. @ SR

    It’s not about a quick fix it’s about selecting talent that is actually going to be here in the TDot next season to contribute on the court not for some other Team in Europe for potentially the next 1-3 years as we fans wait upon his arrival (then which it will most likley take another 3-4 years of actual NBA play to fully develope him) as BC bullchits us fans with facetious Raptors rebuild propaganda via the media ie hypnotizing fans minds.

    A true rebuild would be trading away the two longest tenured Raptors under BC- Andrea & Jose, who exemplify what’s wrong with the Raps- lack of consistent defense over 82 games- point blank!

    Matter of fact a true rebuild would be getting rid of BC, Gheradini, Jay, Jim Kelly and the like under BC’s direction and bringing in new minds, direction, ideas, energy & leadership to lead the Rap’s into the future of the NBA!!

    Until then it’s just all pr spins aka lies in the wind to rationalize to fans how much BC has f*cked up the Rap’s post Sam.

    @ Raptorman

    Fool me once shame on you- fool me twice shame on me- well I’m not the fool anymore I’m more than hip to BC’s Ivy League condescending ways toward fans who question his moves & transactions.

    BC’s sh*t does stank!!

  32. Don’t watch the highlight footage of him because all it shows are dunks. Watch some game footage (there’s plenty available on YouTube) and you get a better picture. Best comparable for this guy’s game might be Joakim Noah, who is also undersized but makes it work with grit, and whom we would probably gladly pair with Bargnani.

  33. Was it just me or when they showed the shot of the Raptors War room after the pick. Alvin Williams was looking pretty upset at the bottom right of the screen. Dont think he liked the pick.

  34. This is the same braintrust that whiffed with a #1 pick on Bargnani, who just coincidentally also happens to be a white euro product and rationally or not, a large group of fans jump to the conclusion that Jonas will be no different.

    They have not earned the trust they are asking for from fans with this selection when they could have selected a much more familiar and ready to contribute athlete from this side of the pond who would have at least added a little sizzle to the upcoming season.

    The battle is going to be whether this team become unwatchably bad and be gone from TO before moves like this one pay dividends – if they ever do.

  35. I love how people get so upset about players who they really never have watched play.

    For the people that think Colangelo is purposly trying to make this team bad are complete idiots. Can we have some intelligent comments on here.

  36. I hope with all my heart that Colangelo proves everyone wrong. And it wasn’t just BC who liked him, there were GM’s that saw him as the best player in the draft

  37. Jonas will be a Raptor for the 2012-13 season as a buyout agreement has been reached as per Draftexpress.

    As well, those calling, labeling folks as being racist and/or xenophobic is an untenable defense for the backlash BC has received from many disappointed Rap’s fans for the drafting of Val and a sign of desperation in order to rationalize this selection to the fans by shaming those who disagree as something negative- image over reality.

  38. BC is not some abnormal Euro-lover. He drafted Ed Davis last year and DD the year before. He came within an inch of trading Jose for Chandler (and Diaw). When Hedo didn’t pan out he got rid of him immediately (Barbosa doesn’t count as a Euro does he?). He traded Marco for Julian Wright and picked up James Johnson last season who he considered drafting instead of DD. Oh, he signed and traded Delfino (not technically a Euro but most Euro-bashers don’t make the distinction) and got back Amir.

    His problem (one among many) has been that all the Euros he’s picked up haven’t panned out, and Andrea is an albatross hanging around his neck. So to ignorant Raps fans, BC’s lack of success finding solid Euros (Garbo may be an exception, especially given his contract) means he shouldn’t sign more Euros. It doesn’t matter if just about every team thought Jonas V. was the best big in this draft.

    This is not logical, in the least. If you’re a GM, you try and find the best players for your team, no matter where they’re from. If they don’t work out, whether they be TJ Ford or Hedo, you admit your mistakes and move on. Again, Bargs is the albatross but nobody thinks he’s untouchable anymore.

  39. dribbles has it right. Also, the NBA draft is a crapshoot. BC’s draft mistakes are obvious and frequently cited by Raptors fans. Less frequently cited is the fact that he also drafted Mike Finley (1995 – 21st), Steve Nash (1996 – 15th), Stephen Jackson (1997 – 43rd), Shawn Marion (1999 – 9th), Amar’e Stoudemire (2002 – 9th), Luol Deng (2004 – 7th), Nate Robinson (2005 – 21st), Martin Gortat (2005 – 57th), Derozan (2009 – 9th), and Ed Davis (2010 – 13th). There are some pretty good late picks in there. Of course I left out the handful of picks he’s blown, but most of them get mentioned on here all the time. I think all the hit/miss ratio goes to show is how much unpredictability there is in drafting 19 year old basketball players and trying to project their future growth in a league they’ve never played in before.

    Knight/Walker would provide more immediate help, but most agree that they also have lower ceilings than Jonas. Like I said, those kinds of moves lead your team into treadmill territory. Jonas probably won’t even be here next season (if next season happens). The Raptors will continue to develop their talent and harvest another high lottery pick in a strong 2012 draft. That’s EXACTLY what you want in a rebuild.

    I love that the same people that bitched for years about the Chris Bosh Treadmill Wonders are now bitching that the Raptors draft instant gratification players in lieu of a longer term plan with a higher ceiling. Mind you it’s the internet, and these are Raptors fans, so I’m not sure why I expect anything other than bitching……

    I’m not saying I dislike Knight or Walker, btw. Quite the opposite – I’m looking forward to seeing them play next year. All I’m arguing for is that I get what the franchise is trying to do right now. It makes sense.

  40. Thanks, dribbles, for invigorating the reality. Most of the meat-heads who arw anti-Euro are anti-Caucasian and/or still sore over Araujo’s selection. Brazil being a European country and all, and BYU being a European Club Team.. but the logic meanders somewhat.

    As for Bargnani, people need to realize he IS 80% Dirk Nowitzki at 50% the price. And his prime contract is the same cost as scrubs like Joel Przbilla and Erick Dampier. Pretty sure he is reasonable value which will increase in Casey’s system. And even if he is not a franchise player, his rarity as an unguardable stretch 4 is worth building around. There is much less inherently special about DeRozan, though he could prove in time to be the franchise player.

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