Over the next few days, you’ll likely hear from Raptors’ management team members, coaching staff, players and Jonas Valanciunas himself about the Raptors’ selection of the big Lithuanian with the fifth overall pick. So right now, I wanted to keep things fresh and discuss your opinion – the fans’ take on the Raptors’ somewhat controversial pick.

I attended the Raptors Season Seat Holder Draft Party at Real Sports Bar and Grill on Thursday night, where I watched the 2011 NBA Draft unfold. Season seat holders are considered the life-blood of pro sports franchises and are the fans depended on for financial support, so I always find it important and interesting to see how the season seat holders react to a draft, especially when their team is selecting near the top.

I’ve been to a handful of these events, and have witnessed some classic reactions in years past (deafening booing when Charlie Villanueva was selected in 2005, intense joy in just holding the number one pick in 2006), but I can honestly say that I haven’t felt the buzz in the crowd that I felt this year.

The devoted season seat holders in Real Sports were amped up and cheering for Kyrie Irving, but grew noticeably more excited when the Utah Jazz selected Enes Kanter third overall. Immediately, Raptors fans assumed that Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker was theirs for their taking with the number five pick, as surely the Cavs would select a big man (likely Jonas Valanciunas) with the fourth pick.

The crowd erupted when Tristan Thompson became the highest Canadian NBA Draft selection ever, and only became louder when they realized that the Raptors were on the clock. Most inside Real Sports seemed to be pulling for Knight or Walker, with some discussing Bismack Biyombo, failing to recognize that arguably the highest upside big man in the Draft had just fallen into Toronto’s lap.

And then it happened.

The look on Raptors’ fans faces, the amount of energy that was sucked out of the building when David Stern followed up “The Toronto Raptors select” with “Jonas Valanciunas” was truly disheartening. There was some loud booing, some sticking to the “wait and see” approach, and very little support for Valanciunas among the restless crowd.

Selecting Kemba Walker or Brandon Knight would have been the safe pick, but anyone who believes the Raptors failed miserably in this year’s draft is horribly misinformed, if informed at all.

If you hate the selection of Valanciunas because you know about his game, have studied him in depth and just don’t like what you see or are scared of his buyout clause, that’s fair. If you disapprove of the pick because you thought there were better prospects available, that’s fine.

But if you’re only argument against drafting Valanciunas is “not another European,” then I suggest, no, I urge you to educate yourself about the kid before pretending to be a knowledgeable basketball fan by simply joining the popular (wrong) opinion.

When Scott, Holly and I profiled Valanciunas in our Draft Profile series, I noted that Raptors fans were starting to “allow the play and tendencies of certain European players to taint their expectations of all European-born NBA prospects.” I also commented that the possible selection of Valanciunas could cause “some backlash from fans who are firmly anti-Euro right now, despite refusing to educate themselves about this year’s crop of Europeans.” And that’s exactly what has happened.

Instead of talking about the facts, which are that Jonas is a 19-year-old, 6-11 big man whose priorities on the court are protecting the rim and rebounding, fans are talking about the fact that the Raptors “already have enough Europeans.” Instead of talking about the fact that the Spurs, the team many consider to be bullet-proof and “always right,” wanted to move up in this year’s draft just to grab Valanciunas, fans are saying that if the Raptors did it, it must be wrong. Instead of talking about the fact that Valanciunas is considered by many to be one of the few young “true centres” around right now, fans are assuming the guy is a defensively incapable, “soft” jump-shooting big man.

Is it okay to be disappointed in this year’s draft choice? Of course it is. But it’s not okay to start ripping a kid you know nothing about simply because he hails from a continent that has produced a disappointing Raptor or two.

As a Raptors supporter, I want Jonas Valanciunas to succeed in the NBA for the benefit of the franchise. As a basketball fan and as someone who tries to educate myself on issues before commenting on them, I hope Valanciunas succeeds in the NBA just to shove it down the throats of ignorant “fans.”

A strong opinion based on something tangible is one thing, but what I saw and am still hearing tonight is a purely ignorant assumption.

And you know what they say about assumptions – someone usually ends up looking like an ass.

Comments (11)

  1. I don’t think he was a bad pick because he does fill a need and was possibly the BPA but I still don’t understand the pick. Unless they really have faith in Bayless or intend to move either Bargnani or Amir, I don’t understand the pick. In my opinion this draft was Kyrie Irving or bust because he is the only player with superstar potential. I believe there are more role players in this draft and I do believe that Jonas is going to be a serviceable one in the NBA down the line but would I have picked him ahead of Brandon Knight or Kemba Walker? Probably not because the Raptors don’t have a clear number 1 at point. The problem I think it is with the pick isn’t the buyout or the wait if he does stay a year in Europe but the logjam that he creates. You have a rotation of Bargnani, Amir, Davis and now Jonas (not forgetting Alabi or Dorsey but don’t think they should be considered core players) Is there really enough minutes to spread between them because they are all here for atleast the next 3 seasons, so does it work out to have that many considering you want to play your key guys 30-38 minutes a game to win ball games? I’m not sure.

    BTW great write up Joe, keep them coming

  2. I think you’re correct to a certain degree. The guy definitely has potential. I think the argument you raised about the Spurs wanting to draft him is not very valid though. Yes, the Spurs wanted him and could’ve transformed him to a great player. But they’re the Spurs and we’re the Raptors. If we can’t even transform Andrea Bargnani, who is more versatile and more talented, to what we wanted, how can we do it with Valanciunas?

    He’s a great pick, but not for our system. Our system isn’t proving to be great at developing players.

  3. I, like so many others am only disappointed in the fact that dude may not come over for a year (didn’t want to “hope” for a lock-out, but I am now).

    In another post somewhere else on another blog, someone made a likening of Bargs/Jonas to Dirk/Chandler. If, and that’s a very big if, something remotely similar to that can happen I’m ok with that.

    I fully agree, that the “not another Euro” sentiment is ignorant. There’s plenty of “soft” players from North America (personally, anyone who calls a foul in pick-up ball is).

    And just to share, I was pulling for Vesley or Kemba.

  4. this pick may not be bad but if we start this kid do we start ed davis or brags at the pf???

  5. I heartily support the loud boos from the season ticket holders and I completely agree this was a terrible pick for the Raptors.

    Posters above have eloquently pointed the solid basketball related reasons why this guy is not a good fit for the team but there’s is obviously more to it than that.

    I do not think it a wise move to alienate the fan base by taking us down this road again. Instead of taking north american players ready to contribute next season, guys that that people have likely watched play in the NCAA and can be excited about, they pick up an unkown european project with contractual complications and little to offer, in terms of excitement or on court production, in the near term. Of course people are going to have bias against this guy based on the relative bust that is Bargnani but that is human nature.

    For a team on the cusp of falling into the bottom third of the league in attendance, I think this is a critical error.

  6. the fact that it takes everyone pages and pages to rationalize and defend yet another ridiculous draft choice for the raptors is all you need to know about the worthiness and value of this latest personnel blunder.

    i still just can’t fathom why people are spending so much time trying to figure out why BC isn’t such a bad GM and why his draft picks have the potential to really pay off. sigh. it’s like abuses spouse syndrome or something with you folks.

    this is a league where teams can change into contenders within a year… but not our team. for some reason we hang on to expensive one-dimensional players for YEARS, hire inept, inexperience coaching staffs, draft players who have no clue about NBA basketball culture and then spend countless hours engaging in speculative rationalizations to defend these horrendous choices… and when all else fails, you just call those of us who see it for what it is “haters”.

    it’s almost enough to make me want to watch the NHL.

    basically this draft tells us that last year was a waste of time and this year will be an equal waste of time.

  7. 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?:

    DeRozan (I got a feeling he’s gone asap)

    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**!!

  8. @Hysterical Idiot (BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!!!)
    Why the F**k do you care so much about competing this season? Even with Kemba the Raptors would probably finish 9th or 10th, have a middling pick in the 2012 draft, and instead of drafting a potential all-star, receiving an average talent instead . Yes, Demar and Kemba would have been fun to watch, but holy f**k, try to keep things in context. Why the fuck would the Raptors trade Demar? If you think BC has some form of schizophrenia, and there are voices in his head prompting him to trade DD, then yes, your point is valid. If not, holy shit, really? The Raptors backcourt wont be that exciting so they need to trade Demar!?!? The Raptors do NOT need a big-man, because these next few seasons are going to be disasterfucks regardless of whatever veteran post player they can nab. Let Ed round out his game, let Demar learn how to chuck a three properly, and have some patience. I have no idea if Valanciunas will pan out, but at least Colangelo just proved that this two year contract wont effect his decision making. Have some fucking patience.

    Re: Raptors Line-Up 2013-2014

    5 Valanciunas
    4 Davis (Fucking Bargnani, really?)
    3 Barnes/McAdoo (Just going by who NBA draft net has there)
    2 Derozan
    1 Bayless (…Calderon, huh?)

  9. @ Moi (Half Stepping Corn Hole Chaser)

    I’m all about competing no matter the odds I don’t accept mediocrity and embrace it- recognize.

    The past 2 3/4 seasons has been brutal for fans under BC & Jay- now this bullchit draft pick that has no chance of being on the roster this season and it may take up to 3 years for him to ever get here as there are currently no buyout particulars then 3-5 years to develop him from his arrival ala Barg’s..

    Fyi- I didn’t insinuate that the Rap’s will trade DD I was saying that he will leave on his own accord once his rookie contract is up- ASAP.

    Btw- patience is for waiting rooms not the NBA- recognize!

  10. As well, calling fans prejudice is facetious propaganda- pass the fluoride.

    So, if you don’t agree with the Jonas pick and/or BC’s Euro vision for the Rap’s you are to be labeled as an xenophobic or a racist or a prejudice person?lmfao

    Is this some FBI Cointelpro misinformational operation here?smdh

    Even my (Societal) conditioning has been conditioned.

    The greatest weapon of BC is the minds of the fans- recognize

  11. I don’t see why people are bent out of shape, no one really thinks kemba’s gonna be a an allstar in this league. However a ton of draft analysts said this guy could’ve been the number one pick if his contract situation wasn’t up in the air. Anytime you can draft talent you do it.

    And just so you don’t think I’m drinking the raptor’s Koolaid, I wanted to draft leonard, or vesely.

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