As posted on our RaptorBlog facebook page, Jonas Valanciunas was named FIBA Europe’s Young Player of the Year on Monday. Despite not knowing FIBA’s calendar for handing out awards, announcements like this shouldn’t really surprise us.

After all, Valanciunas did dominate the FIBA Under 19 World Championships (averaging about 23 points and 14 rebounds) before playing with Lithuania’s senior national team later in the year. In 37 games played with Lietuva Rytas this season across the various competitions in Europe, the 19-year-old is averaging 11.6 points on 60 per cent shooting to go along with 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 21.8 minutes per game. As a 19-year-old big man playing against fully grown men.

What I did find interesting about Valanciunas claiming the yearly award is that he beat out fellow 2011 European draftee, Enes Kanter, who is already playing in the NBA with the Utah Jazz (Kanter finished third in the award voting).

You’ll remember that leading up to the draft, many mocks and scouting reports almost always had Kanter slotted in the No. 3 position (behind only Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams) and usually ahead of Valanciunas. In fact, while Jonas received enough praise as a legit prospect, I’m not sure if I can remember even one big board that had him ahead of Kanter.

Cavaliers fans will probably compare Valanciunas to Canadian big man Tristan Thompson over the next 10 years or so, for obvious reasons, but for the sake of FIBA Europe’s announcement and the fact that they’re both 2011 draftees from Europe, Kanter will likely be the big man that is most often compared to Valanciunas.

As mentioned above, Valanciunas is averaging about 12 and 7 with a couple of blocks in almost 22 minutes per game in Europe. He is also continuing to produce at an incredibly efficient rate. Kanter, also 19-years-old, is averaging five points, five rebounds and less than a block per game in 15 minutes of action in the NBA, while shooting 46.9 per cent.

The numbers obviously heavily favour Valanciunas, but given the fact that Kanter is playing against the best in the world and is getting less floor time than Jonas, it’s hard to discount him based on numbers alone. Throw in the fact that Kanter’s Turkish team wasn’t in the U-19 championships this past summer, and we almost have nothing concrete to use to really compare the two.

But I will say this. If you watch them both play for their respective teams this season, Valanciunas looks much more impressive and polished, which says something about Kanter when you consider that Jonas is far from a polished product.

Kanter has been disappointing if you ask me. His defence isn’t as sharp as I expected it would be and at times, it looks like he has no offensive game what so ever. Valanciunas, on the other hand, seems to be improving his offensive game every time I watch him, and his defensive instincts and natural ability on that end of the floor should thrive under Dwane Casey’s tutelage.

From the looks of it, Kanter’s development and overall game took a massive blow from not playing competitive basketball for a year, while Valanciunas has made the most of an extra year to fine tune his skills in Lithuania.

Right now, Kanter’s game often leaves me confused. Raptors bias aside (though it certainly doesn’t hurt), Valanciunas’ game often leaves me childishly giddy.

While it’s far, far too early to draw any conclusions between the two European big men at this stage in their careers, watching each of them play makes me think FIBA Europe’s Young Player of the Year award is just the first of what will be many triumphs for Jonas Valanciunas over Enes Kanter.

Comments (30)

  1. I think that you’re a little hard on Kanter considering the fact that he has not played any REAL organized basketball before heading to the NBA.

  2. One of the main reasons a lot of boards had Kanter over Valanciunas, I’m pretty sure, was due to Valanciunas’ buyout issues. I also think it’s WAY too early to judge him, especially since he’s been playing in a crowded Utah frontcourt. Considering how little he played before entering the NBA, I think he’s done well.

    That said, I was a big fan of the Raptors drafting Valanciunas then and I still am. I think if the draft were held again right now, I think he’d go #2 behind Irving and ahead of Williams and Kanter. But what matters more than anything is how good each player is in five years. For that we’ll have to wait.

  3. Well I think he is still young, he would reveal the NBA :)

  4. The thing that bothers me about drafting Valanciunas is that the Raptors won’t have a legit pg to build around like they would have if they had taken Knight or Walker instead. It’s not that I don’t believe in or think Valanciunas will be good, you just can’t win in the NBA without a quality pg.

    Bayless to me isn’t a starting pg that you build around. He’s more of a combo guard 6th man to come in and score points like a Jason Terry, which there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It’s hard to find players to take a 6th man role and play it so well.

    Having known what the draft will look like this year when they took him, they knew there was going to be lots of PF/C type players this year. It just makes more sense to have waited it out and take Davis or Drummond this year. To me, they have way more NBA potential, and both are capable of playing center.

    • Actually, more teams have won without an All-Star PG than without an All-Star center, so the center position is far, far more important. And who’s to say that either Knight or Walker will become anything more than an average PG? Besides, it’s much easier to find a quality PG than it is to find a quality center.

      In the end, when you are in a position like the Raptors, you have to draft the best player available and that was Valanciunas.

      • Well, I disagree with you. Elite point guards take control of the entire game. Dictate the tempo, disrupt other teams offense, set up team mates, etc. Give me a point guard like CP3 and he turns his 4 other team mates into above average players (see last years Hornets team) vs a center like Dwight who doesn’t really make anyone around him better.

        Anyways, what I’m saying is they missed filling two roster spots in desperate need of an upgrade. Just take a look at this years draft, it’s loaded with a ton of big men they could have had. PG’s Knight/Walker in last years draft, which could have led to PF/C Davis/Drummond in this years draft. I gaurantee you both Davis and Drummond will be better than Valancuinas.

        They likely won’t get high enough to draft Barnes or Gilchrist top 5, and I’m not sure if they should use a top 10 pick on any of the pg’s available. Now, they could potentially be stuck with a log jam of a front court if they’re forced to take another PF.

      • Also..

        Recent champ’s over the last 10 years point guards:
        Dallas- Jason Kidd
        Boston- Rajon Rondo
        San Antonio- Tony Parker x3
        Detroit- Chauncey Billups

        But when you take a look at the centers of those teams:

        Tyson Chandler not an allstar, Andrew Bynum not an allstar (until this year), Kendrick Perkins not an allstar, Oberto/Elson not an all star, Nesterovic not an allstar…

        Shaq, Ben Wallace, David Robinson being the only all star centers on those squads vs the 6 all star point guards that were there.

        • Derek Fisher x 2, Jason Williams, Derek Fisher x 3, Avery Johnson, Ron Harper x 3, BJ Armstrong and John Paxson x 2.

          Not an All Star among them.

          And the reasons the Finals haven’t been dominated by centers lately is because there have been so few decent centers.

          Name 3 centers this year who deserve to be All-Stars. Very difficult. Outside of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, I can’t think of one center who is really All-Star worthy.

          Now name 3 PGs. Easy. Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook. Now name 3 more. Derek Rose, Steve Nash and Tony Parker. And I didn’t even mention Deron Williams, who is having a bad year, but has been one of the best PGs for the last few. And then there’s loads more waiting in the wings, like Kyrie Irving, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, John Wall…

          Just playing the numbers game, a good PG PG has a much better chance of ending up in the Finals than a good center because there are 5 times as many of them.

          And remember that neither Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Derek Rose or Deron Willliams, four PGs who have been the best at their position, at one point, in the last 5 or 6 years, have never even made it to the Finals.

          Getting a good PG is not going to separate the Raptors from the pack. What’s going to do that is to have something that few teams have. A good center. It’s no coincidence that Dallas suddenly became a defensive force when Tyson Chandler came, and then became mediocre when he left. And, as you said, he’s not even an All Star. Imagine what an All Star center would have done.

  5. I’m not saying that good point guards are harder to come by than good centers. Obviously Dwight is the only true center you can build a team around, vs the vast amount of pgs.

    But what you said was that the center position is far more important. No, hands down, the most important position on the floor is the point guard. Always has been, always will be.

    And about Dallas, how have they become mediocre when he left? They’re actually a better defensive team this year than they were last year.

    • The PG has always been the most important position?? I’m sorry, but there is simply zero evidence to support this argument. There’s a reason that guys like Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic and Michael Olowakandi all went in the top two despite being incredibly raw and unworthy of being drafted that high. And there’s a reason that Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol and Nene all got massive paydays despite not one of them ever making an All Star team, while an actual All Star PG, Rajon Rondo, is currently making less than all of them. Andrew Bynum got a near max contract based simply on potential. You’ll never see that with a PG.

      Make a list of the top 10 centers of all time, and the vast majority of them will have Championship rings. Make a list of the top 10 PGs of all time and I wouldn’t be surprised if less than half have rings. That speaks volumes.

      And here’s an article to back me up on this…

      • Ya, all of those guys get paid more than Rondo because Boston had 60 million of their cap committed to Pierce, Allen, Garnett. So it’s not a really good example.

        With exception to Noah, look at how all those teams you mentioned (New York, Memphis, Denver) all perform without a good pg. Neither team is considered a championship contendor, and until the emergence of Lin (a PG), the Knicks had been playing terrible and had been out of the playoff picture along with Memphis.

        Not to mention how New Orleans went from a playoff team to dead last in the conference without Chris Paul, and has turned the lottery bound Clippers into a contendor. Almost every TOP team in the league has an all star point guard (Chicago, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, LA Clippers, Dallas (and Miami if you count Wade as a pg). But not one of them has a all star center except for the mediocre teams like Orlando, LA Lakers, Memphis, Indiana, etc.

        I’m not going to tell you that centers aren’t important, I’d be a fool to say that because I know they are important. But the single most important position in basketball is still the point guard.

        We can agree to disagree.

  6. Also from that article you sent..

    “The point guard, in many ways, is akin to the wide-receiver in football.”

    … no they’re more like the QB.

    “Tyson Chandler will make Amare and Carmelo far better players than Paul could. It really doesn’t matter who the Knicks play in the back-court: all their guards need to do is dribble up the court, pass the ball to one of their All-Stars and then stand in a corner and knock down open 3-pointers. Toney Douglas, Bill Walker, Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert can manage that.”

    …well we all know how that turned out.

    • Okay, well obviously Chris Paul is going to make an enormous impact on any team he goes to or leaves because he’s one of the best players in the entire league That would be true no matter what position he played, so his impact leaving the Hornets and coming to the Clippers doesn’t weigh in on this argument.

      As for the Knicks, they had several major problems before they signed anyone. If they had any hope in hell of contending, they needed a great defensive center to make up for Amare and Carmelo’s lack of defensive acumen. Neither Chris Paul not Derek Rose would have been able to plug that hole.

      The other major problem they had was that they didn’t have a player who made his teammates better. Carmelo and Amare are talented, but neither one are great passers. And to make matters worse, D’Antoni’s offense is very PG dependent and they had the worst selection of PGs in the league.

      The major difference between a PG and a center is that a center can make a major impact on both ends of the court. A guy like Tim Duncan (who’s really a center) is always going to make a bigger impact than a guy like Chris Paul. Always. That’s why just about every Hall of Fame center has a Championship ring, and guys like John Stockton, Gary Payton, Steve Nash, among others, have never won a Championship. About the only Hall of Fame PG that didn’t win a Championship without a Hall of Fame center was Isiah THomas. Hakeem, David Robinson, Shaq and Tim DUncan all won Championships without great PGs.

      I’m willing to bet that if you ask every GM in the NBA, every single one would say that the center position is the most important position.

  7. Payton won a championship in 2006 with Miami. Tim Duncan had Tony Parker for 3 of his championships. Parker’s going to be HOF worthy when he retires. Shaq always had Kobe on his team, who is basically a PG playing SG. Wade is also a PG playing SG.

    But it goes both ways. I could name a ton of HOF centers that never won an NBA champtionship too..(Walt Ballemy, Bob Lanier, Dan Issel, Nate Thurmond, Artis Gilmore, Connie Hawkins, Chris Webber, Patrick Ewing, Dikembe Mutombo, etc etc. It still doesn’t prove anything because there’s going to be a ton of players at each position that have never won.

    Just out of curiousity though, maybe it’s the addition of the three point line has changed the game. When there was no 3 point shot, there would have been way more importance of the center position back then to get it inside the paint, or at least as close to the basket as possible. Now, not so much since players can hit long distance at high percentages. Now, any one obviously knows getting it inside is still the best percentage shot, but it’s certainly not as important.

    Honestly, you would tell me, that right now, you would rather have the best center in the NBA Dwight Howard on your team rather than one of the two best point guards in the NBA in Chris Paul or Derrick Rose?

    PG’s are the foundation of any good NBA team. A team now isn’t going to win without a solid PG. A center is the missing PIECE to a championship calibre team, but it’s not a position you can win with if that’s all you have.

    BTW, I would take that bet. It may be harder to find a “good” center by NBA standards, but it still doesn’t make it more important a position by any means.

    But why would I want a GM’s opinion? I’d rather have a coaches opinion, a reputable NCAA or NBA coach. Coaches are far more knowledgable of the game, and every single one has either played in the NBA or in the NCAA. They’re opinion is much more credible than what a GM could say.

  8. Listen, I’m not saying the PG position isn’t an important one. As a 5’10 guy who has played mostly the PG position my entire life, I would love to think the position was the most important, but it’s not. You can make up for a mediocre PG with either an offense that doesn’t require one (triangle or Princeton offense) or a player who can initiate the offense and make those around him better, preferably the franchise player (Jordan, LeBron, Kobe, Wade, Duncan, Bird etc).

    It’s a lot harder to make up for a mediocre center. You need SOMEONE who is going to protect the rim and score in the post if you want any chance of winning a Championship. Yes, that can be your PF, but you can’t hide a frontline player like you can a guard. If you have a weak link (especially defensively) on your front line other teams are going to find a way to exploit it and hurt you, especially in the playoffs.

    If you count Duncan as a center (which he is), then in the last 50 years, only 10 Championship teams did NOT have a perennial All-Star center, and 6 of those were the Chicago Bulls. The others? The Lakers, who had a 7 foot perennial All-Star in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, who is now an All-Star. The Celtics, who had a former MVP 7 footer, in Kevin Garnett, and one of the best defensive centers in the league, Kendrick Perkins (whose trade to the Thunder pretty much killed any chance the Celtics had of winning again). An finally Dallas, who also had an MVP 7 footer and one of the best defensive centers in the league, in Tyson Chandler.

    Meanwhile, as a starting PG, Derek Fisher has five rings, a 37 year old Jason Kidd won his first, Jason Williams has one, as does Avery Johnson. Ron Harper won 3, BJ Armstrong won 1 and John Paxson won 2. Kenny Smith won 2. Tom Henderson won 1. Lionel Hollins won 1….I think you get my point.

    Oh, and Gary Payton didn’t start when he won his Championship with Miami. Jason Williams did.

    And if all that didn’t sway you, maybe this will…

  9. But you have to remember, in the last 60 years there have been so many changes to the game that it’s almost impossible to compare basketball in the 50′s and 60′s to the late 90′s and 2000′s. So it’s unfair to go by total number of championships between now and when the NBA/ABA leagues started because the same can be said now. Just look at all the favoured teams right now to win this year. Chicago, Miami, and Oklahoma City- easily the three favoured right now- they all have all star guards while neither of those three have an all star center, not to mention both all star teams are loaded with PGs, just as the league was loaded with all star centers years ago. It’s even safe to assume that with those three teams, they’ll be the favourites to win for the next several years.

    One change, like I said being the implentation of the three point line. It’s impossible to think that teams haven’t swayed away from the traditional big man game in order to open up the floor offensively. When two points was two points anywhere you shoot, what are ya gonna do? Post up, or shoot from 20 feet out? Obviously your going to purposely get the big men to dominate the post game, where as you don’t see that as often now. It’s evident just by looking at the PPG leaders.

    Secondly, way more teams are in the league now than what there used to be, which means that there’s also more playoff teams now. Comparing total championships between now and then is useless because there was an all star center on basically every team which meant that one was going to win it every year. Not to mention, this is why some of the early greats won so many times, because there was less competition of teams in the league. So obviously the numbers will favour the big men who dominated early on. Which also means guys had a greater chance of being on that championship or all star team, because there was way less players.

    Lastly, it’s a much more fast paced game now, which is why PG’s have shown to be of much more importance recently. It’s not a half court game anymore, it’s a full court game where fast break points and full court presses are the norm. The big’s just cant keep up with the athleticism and speed of smaller and quicker guards and teams who can’t keep up with the likes of top pg’s get exploited almost every night by the top teams I mentioned. Where as mediocre (non all star), but great athletic/defensive centers can really excel as those complimentary pieces on those contending teams. Those are your guys like Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, Joakim Noah, Joel Anthony, Nene, etc…

    And let’s not get carried away with confusing the PF and C positions, because then I could easily say that West, Kobe, Wade, Jordan are all PG’s because they all play like PG’s and carry the ball 90% of the time. Duncan yes, I give him a C tag, but not guys like Garnett.

    And wasn’t this supposed to be AS pg vs AS center? Defensive centers are one thing, but Perkins and Chandler aren’t all stars. However, they both have one thing in common, all star pg’s on their team… Jason Kidd, Rajon Rondo, and Russell Westbrook.

    Also, great debating with ya Tim. It’s always nice discussing the NBA with other fans. I feel bad for Joseph’s blog though.

  10. Yes, the NBA has changed. There’s no denying that. But the basics of basketball remain the same. And the reason the league seems to be so guard dominated is only partly because the changed rules. The main reason is there is simply a dearth of Hall of Fame centers. There’s Dwight Howard and….

    Shaq is gone. Yao is gone (although was never healthy enough to reach his potential, unfortunately). Tim Duncan is nearing the end of his career.

    Andrew Bynum is a good player, no doubt, but the fact that he’s the second best center in the NBA (and probably by a fair bit) speaks volumes. And I like players like Gasol and Noah, but no team is going to build around them. I don’t recall a time before where there was such a lack of franchise centers.

    And the reason Miami, Oklahoma and Chicago can be the three best teams without an All-Star center is because there are so few All-Star centers. Noah might be a top 5 center and he can’t shoot from beyond 3 feet.

    Right now, you’ve got probably about 8 or 9 impact PGs in the NBA. PGs who have the talent to make an immediate impact on your team and have the talent to be, at the very least, All Stars.

    Dwight Howard is pretty much it, for the center position. If a Tim Duncan or Shaq came into the league now, he’d make his team a contender almost immediately. You can’t say the same for any of the PGs.

    And let me tell you it’s nice to be able to debate basketball without to denigrating into insults, as it often seems to.

    And I’m not sure what you’re talking about re: Joseph’s blog…

  11. Joseph’s blog on this website I mean. We’ve been debating on his blog of Valancuinas and Kanter, I hope he doesn’t mind.

    Anyways, going back to the original post, I think Anthony Davis is going to be that guy your speaking of. I think he’s going to be a lot better than a guy like Valancuinas, and will likely win ROY on which ever team drafts him (it’s looking like Charlotte). Charlotte by the way, I think could be a much better team than Toronto in a few years, because they’ll have a future star in Walker, and a future star if they land Davis.

    Same goes with Detroit, who have young star now in Knight, as well as a star in Greg Monroe, who is having a fantastic year. A possible Knight-Barnes/Gilchrist-Monroe for Detroit next year could put them into that Oklahoma City category of elite in a couple of years. Knight almost single handedly won the NCAA tournament like Walker did, but lost in the final four by that one point to UConn. Which is why I would have liked to see the Raptors take this similar path, even if it meant having as bad a season as Charlotte right now. Get the PG and Big that you need, and fill in the rest as needed.

    I know draft busts are quite common, but to me it just seems the low risk, high reward move going after the two most vital positions when the opportunity arises. Rather than waiting a year and risk having to draft another position you don’t need because it’s the best player available, like this year being loaded with PF’s. Top players around the league don’t sign in small NBA markets like Toronto anymore, which means the draft was the only way to land a PG that could go on to be the star they need.

    I watch a lot of NCAA, as well as NBA, regularily, and he seem’s to be the real deal as far as a big you could build a team around. I mean, if they are able to get top five and get Gilchrist or Barnes for their SF, they may be in good shape. Unfortunately, I just don’t see much future success other than mediocrity for the Raptors, because clearly Calderon and Bayless aren’t going to be the future PG’s needed to compete in the league.

    Oklahoma City, Detroit, and Charlotte are great examples of how you start a team from the gound up with the draft. I’m telling you, both Charlotte and Detroit will be on the elite level within a couple of years with their drafting.

  12. As a blogger, myself, I don’t think Joseph minds. As long as lean up after we’re done.

    I agree about Anthony Davis. To me, he’s the real deal. If the Raptors can get the top pick, he’s a no brainer. I know a lot of fans say they already have too many PFs, but, in my opinion, passing on him because he’s not a position of need would be a monumental, Portland-sized mistake. No one one the Raptors should be untouchable because, simply, no one is good enough to be even CLOSE to untouchable.

    I also think a front line of Valanciunas and Davis would become the NBA’s best front line 3-5 years from now and make the Raptors tough to beat.

    As for rather having drafted Knight or Walker, I really don’t feel either of those players will have the type of career that make you regret not drafting them. I think they’ll end up having decent careers, but I would have picked Valanciunas over them no matter what the Raptors situation. I simply think Valanciunas will end up being the better player.

    And the PG position is one of the easier positions to fill. You don’t need a high draft pick to find a really good PG, which is not true of finding a really good center. Good centers are MUCH harder to come by, so hat makes the drafting of Valanciunas even more valuable. Not only is he possibly the second best player from the draft, he’s also a center.

    As for building a contender, more than anything you need a franchise player. Everything after that is interchangeable. I’m not high on either Detroit or Charlotte because I’ve never been a big fan of Joe Dumars or Michael Jordan/Rod Higgins as team builders. I think Dumars lucked out with Detroit’s Championship (both Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace besically fell in his lap) and outside of drafting Greg Munroe, I think he’s done a terrible job.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if neither team has made the playoffs in five years.

    And what Oklahoma did was draft their franchise player and then simply drafted the best players available. They didn’t draft Westbrook because he’s a PG. They drafted him because he was the best player available. And, unfortunately, it turns out he’s really not a PG, which is why I, and apparently a lot of others, don’t see them winning a Championship as long as he’s running the team.

    In fact, Oklahoma’s biggest weakness, outside of Westbrook not being a real PG, is the fact that they don’t have true inside threat. I liked the trade of Perkins, but neither he nor Ibaka can score enough to create double teams. Quite frankly, I think they should try and trade Westbrook+ for Dwight Howard. I think that would make them the best team in the league.

  13. I’ve heard that Westbrook for Howard scenario. It’s interesting to think about, actually. Of course, if you do that deal before the deadline, you have to include Perkins to even out the salaries. But the problem is, Dwight wants a better PG specifically to play with.

    Westbrook is such a key piece of the Thunder though. I see him as a Derrick Rose type player with a sidekick (Durant), or even a 6’2 version of Dwyane Wade. He would put up those similar scoring numbers to the two if he didn’t have Durant with him.

    To me personally, I think a Durant for Howard 1 for 1 could make the Thunder better than Westbrook + Perkins for Howard. Then you still have that elite point guard, you can have Perkins AND Howard starting 4/5 and have Serge Ibaka as your 6th. Harden at SG, Sefolosha at SF.

    Also, I agree about Dumars and Jordan have done a terrible job thus far. Detroit was a contendor until they traded Billups for Iverson, and Charlotte was a playoff team until they god rid of Wallace/Felton/Jackson/Chandler for nothing.

    But just as far as what they could be in a few years with their draft picks is very promising. I think with the picks they have made, and will make this year will put them at an elite level very soon.

    • You’d rather keep Westbrook than Durant? You obviously value Westbrook ALOT more than I do. To me, Westbrook is a shot happy combo guard who doesn’t make his teammates better. I think if Oklahoma wants towin a Championship, they need to trade him.

      And I think, more than anything, Howard wants to play with better teammates. Jameer Nelson isn’t a bad PG, and was good enough to guide the Magic to the Finals a few years ago. The problem is Otis Smith has screwed up and failed to surround Howard with players that compliment him.

      And while trading Wallace etc dropped the Bobcats to the bottom of the standings, I think that was a good move. They were on the mediocrity treadmill with no hope of ever being a contender, but not bad enoug to get a high draft pick. They were in probably the worst position a team can be.

      As for Detroit, anyone who thinks Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva deserved the contracts they got and were the types of players Detroit needed I have zero faith in.

  14. It’s not necessarily that I’d rather have one over the other between Durant and Westbrook. Westbrook is easily a top 5 PG in the NBA right now, but obviously Durant is the better player, period, and I’d still pick Durant to build a team over Westbrook. But stricly from what you have to give up to pair Durant and Howard, I would think they just seem better off as a team since they’d be able to keep Westbrook, Harden, Perkins and those other pieces if you just do Durant for Howard in a 1 for 1.

    Nelson had sat out the entire playoff run until the finals vs L.A. I believe it was Rafer Alston starting all through the playoffs and then Nelson came in off the bench in the finals.

    Agreed. Those were terrible contracts Dumars gave to Gordon and Villaneuva. Gordon is a great 6th man, but is getting paid twice as much as he’s worth. But the Villanueva signing, I can’t even understand what he was thinking with that one. I also would have let Prince and Stuckey go in order to rebuild. Prince is at the point in his career where he’s going to be a help to a contending team, and I think Stuckey just looks like a good player because it’s a really bad team.

    I don’t like the contracts they’ve given out recently at all, because they may not be able to afford to keep those high picks when the rookie contracts expire. But just based on their recent draft selections alone, I like what they could be in the near future if they keep them all in tact.

    Detroit- Knight/Monroe/Daye + one or two more top 5 picks
    Charlotte- Walker/Biyombo/Henderson + one or two more top 5 picks

  15. The NBA has always been how good your top players are. That’s why Miami was a contender the moment they were able to add LeBron and Bosh to play beside Wade. A Thunder team with Durant and Howard will be much better than a team with Westbrook and Howard, no matter who they have around them. Supporting players can be easily added, as we’ve seen with Miami. I’d rather field a team of Howard, Collison, Durant, Harden and Maynor than a team of Howard, Ibaka, Sefolosha, Harden and Westbrook. And it’s not even close.

    As for Nelson sitting during Orlando’s playoff run, you’re right. But that proves even more that you don’t need a great PG. Alston was a backup PG and was able to start on a Finals team.

    As for Detroit and Charlotte, I think they’ve got some decent building blocks, in the players you mentioned (although I’m not a fan of Daye), but that’s it. Without a franchise player, the most they can hope for is a mediocre team that annually contends for a playoff spot, but without any hope of actually doing anything once they get to the playoffs. This is what the Raptors have been, at the best of times, during their 16+ years. It’s what Milwaukee is now, and Indiana, and Atlanta. Teams that compete but never actually contend.

    What Charlotte, Detroit, New Orleans, and Toronto need more than anything is a franchise player. Every other position can be sorted out later.

  16. I’m with the understanding that if you trade anyone but Durant for Howard, you have to include Harden along with Perkins and Westbrook. If you can get Howard for only Westbrook and Perkins, thats a different story, but I just don’t think that sort of deal would happen even with Howard’s current trade situation.

    Even on ESPN trade machine, though its obviously not totally accurate, puts the team -7 wins with Howard for Westbrook + Perkins + Harden.

    Durant for Howard in a 1 for 1 keeps them at the same area, even +1 win. Same with Westbrook + Perkins + Ivey for Howard, +2 wins.

    Still, that being said, I’d still rather have Durant over Howard, and I wouldn’t break up this Thunder team right now even if it was for Howard.

    Agree about Milwaukee and Atlanta, but if Indiana can get a backup center like Kaman for a pick, since they have the cap room, I really like their chances of making a run this year. Outside of Miami and Chicago, I think they’re the 3rd best team in the east as is.

    I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either Knight/Monroe/Walker being franchsie players. In his 2nd year, Monroe should have been an all star, but probably wasn’t because Hibbert’s team is better. And both Knight and Walker share the point with Stuckey and Augustin limiting what they can do on the floor. I think both teams also have that possibility in this years draft, assuming they both get a top 5 pick, which its looking like it.

  17. But when you look at your teams like Miami, yes, they’re contendors, yes, they’re easily the best starting lineup in the league. But when it comes to the playoffs, Dallas proved that it’s not about who has better overall players. It’s about who has a better overall team. Dallas only had one real star in Nowitzki, that’s it. You can have the two best players in the league (Wade, LeBron) but if outside of that, you have nothing, the chances of failure are quite high.

    What a team like Miami can’t match up with is interior defense, and depth. Probably the two most important things you need when making a playoff run. Both Oklahoma City and Chicago have that, interior defense and depth, with only 2 all stars. But teams like Miami and L.A. don’t even though both have three all stars in their lineup.

    That’s why I’ve said since the season started in December, it’ll be Chicago vs Oklahoma City in the finals, and it’ll be Chicago winning. I think Miami will lose again, and prove that just putting talent on the same team doesn’t make a great team.

  18. Did u ever watch Kanter this season before writing this bullshit ? Kanter is the best defensive big in the utah this season, and his rebounding rate is amazing, also the coach just wants Kanter to defend and rebound thats why he wont use his offensive skills this season, hes still too young and didnt play for a long time, in the other hand Valanciunas couldnt even carry his team to euro league, and those rewards means nothing

  19. I’d still rather have Durant over Westbrook even if they have to give up Harden, although I think both teams would do this trade:

    I don’t see Orlando getting a better offer than that, quite frankly. Not when Howard can leave at the end of the season.

    As for Indiana, I don’t see them going past the second round in the near future. Not with that roster. It’s a roster built to compete, not contend. Unless Paul George turns into a franchise player, they are going to become the Atlanta Hawks. A team with talent, but not one player good enough to make them a contender.

    And I would be absolutely stunned if Walker or Knight became franchise players. I think they their ceiling is borderline All-Star. Both have WAY too may question marks that have yet to be answered and that’s only one of the reasons I didn’t want the Raptors to draft either of them.

    Regarding Miami, yes they lost against Dallas because of a lack of depth. But that’s probably not going to be the case this year, and that’s what I mean. Depth is a lot easier to acquire than top players. Shane Battier signed with Miami to player with LeBron and Wade. And it cost them nothing but money.

    Now, Miami has other issues, besides depth, that might prevent them from winning, but that was a question before they signed. Wade and LeBron simply don’t compliment one another, and Bosh doesn’t compliment either one, very well.

    Oklahoma wouldn’t have that problem playing Durant and Howard together. In fact, Howard desperately needs a player like Durant and visa versa.

    And Oklahoma could gut their team to get Howard (keeping Durant) and it would be fairly simple to get back their depth and I think they’d be a much better team. Even with the team in Oklahoma City, there are players that would want to sign with them to play with Howard and Durant.

  20. Tim, you may be right about OKC. There’s no arguing that Durant and Howard would be better than Wade/Lebron. I just don’t see any one or two players players winning with a less than stellar supporting cast. I would keep the entire OKC team in tact as is.

    My opinion, the Lakers will eventually give up both Gasol and Bynum to Orlando for Howard at the deadline to prevent other teams like Oklahoma City or Dallas potentially getting him. Then they’ll find a way to clear cap room for Deron Wiliams.

  21. I think Oklahoma is going to reach the conclusion they can’t win with Westbrook running the offense and eventually trade him. I think doing it now would bring in the best return and help the team most in the long run.

    And I think Howard, Collison, Durant, Harden (who I don’t think they have to trade) and whatever PG they can get for now and upgrade this summer is going to be a better team than Oklahoma is right now. Howard and Durant would form probably the best inside outside combination the NBA has seen in a very long time. They would be impossible to defend. Collison is actually a pretty decent PF and can hit the jumper, which makes him able to play beside Howard. Harden is the perfect third scorer. And I think Maynor is decent enough to run the point for now. He can pass the ball and hit the outside shot. When you’ve got Durant and Howard on your team, you don’t need an All-Star PG. Just someone who can get them the ball.

  22. I think you undervalue the importance of having a PG like Westbrook. OKC is just a mediocre team with a great player Durant without him.

    And like I had said earlier, I think without Durant, he has a similar impact on games like Derrick Rose. He’s just that good.

    Gutting a team for one player may or may not make it better. I think any Thunder deal for Howard would have to include all 3 of Westbrook, Perkins, and Harden. And if you’re OKC, you’d also have to take back Hedo Turkolgu in the deal, that’s just a requirment for any Howard suitor. Which means you sacrifice even more of your team to match the salary.

    That being said, they’re better right now as is, than they would be with any deal involving Howard. This team WILL win with Westbrook, I’d bet on that.

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