“Building season” or not, that may have been one of the worst back-to-backs I’ve ever seen from the Raptors, as they were first thoroughly outplayed and outworked by the lowly Nets and then absolutely dismantled by the good, but far from great 76ers.
Chances are, Raptors fans might not be in the best mood today. Their team was just spanked around like a government mule and the weekend’s already almost over. So I thought I’d try to cheer you up with some Jonas Valanciunas and Solomon Alabi news. Don’t laugh.
First things first, Jonas Valanciunas was voted Lithuanian Basketball Player of the Year after a meteoric rise in 2011. The Lithuanian phenom was probably already popular enough in his native land, but after putting up some impressive numbers in Euro Ball, being selected fifth overall in the NBA Draft and looking like a man amongst boys at the FIBA Under 19 Championships, Valanciunas really burst onto the world basketball scene.
The catch though, is that Valanciunas was voted this award by the general public, which takes some of the prestige out of it. Still, the fact that a 19-year-old got this award in a basketball-mad country speaks very highly of Valanciunas.
Now on to the less expected, but much more intriguing note of the day. Remember Solomon Alabi? The 7-1, 250-pound, 23-year-old centre who could never get any burn with the big club? Well I’ll be honest, I thought we had got to the point where we could already kiss his NBA chances goodbye. But over the last week, the Raptors big man has been putting up some dominating numbers with the Bakersfield Jam in the NBA Development League.
In three games with Bakersfield, Alabi has averaged 14 points, 12.3 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, capping the week off with a 22-point, nine-rebound, four-block performance on Saturday night against the Idaho Stampede.
While three games is obviously a small sample, consider that Alabi averaged just seven points and five rebounds in 22 D-League games with Erie last year. Has Solomon’s game been quietly developing, or are his inflated numbers a result of an increase in minutes (from 18.5 to 27.3) from last season?
I’m not naive enough to believe that Alabi can translate numbers even remotely close to those into the NBA, but I will admit that I am suddenly interested in monitoring his numbers from here on out, and also interested to see if he can get back on the court for the Raptors some time in the near future.
For a physically imposing centre, I don’t like the fact that he’s shooting below 50 per cent (48.6) in the D-League, and that makes me think that he still won’t be able to contribute anything at all on the offensive end. But if you’re over seven feet tall and have a knack for rebounding and blocking shots, you should be able to carry some of that defensive presence with you to the NBA.
With Aaron Gray still sidelined and Jamaal Magloire looking like he’s on his last legs, averaging 1.1 points (on 44 per cent shooting), 3.8 rebounds and 0.2 blocks in about 11 minutes per game, I ask you, can Solomon Alabi really be that much of a downgrade?
Friday night and Saturday night provided a stiff reality check of what this season is about, in case we had forgotten after six games, and the way I see it, if you’re going to call this a building season and want to see what you have in some of these young players, then you might as well see what you have in a 7-1 big man who’s actually producing results somewhere.