These dramatic Rookie Photo Shoot shots of Valanciunas will never get old.

With training camp approaching, we are inevitably closing in on Jonas Valanciunas’ arrival in our most beautiful city of Toronto/country of Canada.

Much of the Valanciunas chatter will centre around what he may one day become in Toronto and what his limits will be as a 20-year-old rookie big man in the NBA, but what I haven’t heard much discussion about among fans is what the reasonable statistical expectations of Valanciunas are in 2012-13.

Obviously, statistics alone can’t and won’t ever be able to tell us the whole story when trying to asses talent, especially when that talent is know more for his defensive prowess, but nonetheless, the numbers are the most basic measurement of how a player is progressing or regressing.

For the hell of it, I’ve gathered the rookie numbers of 10 of the more well known true centres in the NBA. Before anybody tries to start a debate that doesn’t actually pertain to this blog post, these are not necessarily my top-10 centres or any sort of personal ranking. Again, these are just 10 well known NBA centres and their rookie numbers.

Player Age as a rookie Pts Reb Blk Min Fouls per 36 PER
Dwight Howard  19 12.0 10.0  1.7 32.6 3.1 17.2
Andrew Bynum  18 1.6  1.7  0.5  7.3 6.0  7.4
Tyson Chandler  19 6.1  4.8  1.3 19.6 4.6 13.0
Marc Gasol  24 11.9  7.4  1.1 30.7 3.8 16.7
Roy Hibbert  22  7.1  3.5  1.1 14.4 7.7 16.1
Andrew Bogut  21  9.4  7.0  0.8 28.6 4.0 15.2
Joakim Noah  22  6.6  5.6  0.9 20.7 4.1 15.5
Al Horford  21 10.1  9.7  0.9 31.4 3.8 14.7
Nene  20 10.5  6.1  0.8 28.2 4.7 15.4
Javale McGee  21  6.5  3.9  1.0 15.2 4.9 17.0

If you weren’t already aware that big men, especially centres, take the longest to develop, perhaps this table was a simple reminder. Even taking into account future All Stars and dominant players, none of these guys could average more than 12 points as a rookie, more than 10 rebounds or even crack two blocks per game. Howard’s impressive yet not spectacular player efficiency rating of 17.2 ranks the highest on this list.

Even if you’re among the most optimistic of Valanciunas supporters, you have to realize that unless the big Lithuanian enjoys a rookie season that compares with Dwight Howard’s (or Al Horford’s after three seasons at Florida), he’s probably not going to flirt with a double-double average. In addition, if you look at the two players on this list that endured some foul trouble as rookies, as we expect Valanciunas to endure early on, you’ll notice than Andrew Bynum and Roy Hibbert averaged just 7.3 and 14.4 minutes per game, respectively.

While I believe in the end Valanciunas will finish with an average around 20 minutes per game, I think we should be prepared for games early in the season where foul trouble may limit him to 10-15 minutes, if even that.

Couple that with the fact that only four players on this list were younger than Jonas will be as a rookie and that only two came to the NBA from overseas (Bogut and Horford played NCAA ball), and you could be swayed into thinking that Valanciunas won’t even be able to match some of the modest numbers you see above.

Of course, despite age and passport, Valanciunas is probably more polished than Bynum, Hibbert and McGee were as rooks, and that’s why in general, when you take all arguments into account, I think this list of 10 is a pretty fair standard to set for the Raptors’ big man.

Before I gathered this data or began writing this post, I had numbers like eight points, six rebounds and around one block per game in roughly 20 minutes for Valanciunas this season in my mind. And what do you know, if you average out all 10 players in the table’s rookie numbers, you get 8.18 points, 5.97 rebounds and 1.01 blocks in just under 23 minutes (22.87) per game, with an average PER of 14.82, which is generally considered about an average rotation player’s efficiency rating.

Based on my original thoughts and now looking at this table, I definitely believe that approximately eight points, six rebounds, one block, a PER of around 15 and roughly 20 minutes a night is a reasonable statistical expectation of Valanciunas in his rookie season.

If you’re expecting more than that, you’re probably underestimating how much early foul trouble Valanciunas will find himself in, and if you’re expecting less than that, you’re probably underestimating how fundamentally sound Jonas already is.

As unimpressive as eight, six and one sounds considering the hype of Jonas Mania, those numbers seem to be the rookie bench mark of a future All Star caliber NBA centre, and that’s exactly where most, including myself, see Valanciunas heading.

Comments (29)

  1. That’s about where I had him this season. A bit less than 20 MPG, and around 7 PPG, 6 RPG, 1 BPG.

    But I also expect him to be coming off the bench the entire year, barring any injuries to Johnson/Gray.

  2. Even 8/6/1 doesn’t seem very likely considering the log jam at the 4 and 5 and Casey’s reluctance to heavily depend on young players. Like SP, I also expect him to come off the bench for the entire season barring a catastrophic string of injuries to Bargnani, Davis, Johnson, Gray, etc.

    Out of the compareables you provided, I think Chandler’s rookie year will fit Jonas’ the most, at least statistically, he’s obviously a lot more seasoned than a raw 18-year old Chandler was.

    • Unaware of any reluctance of Casey to play young guys. Any examples?

      Projections seem fair.

      • Yeah, I probably didn’t that phrase that correctly.

        It wasn’t reluctance as much as he simply just jerked around a lot players from time to time when it came to consistent playing time last season whether it was the two Johnsons, Bayless or Davis.

        It didn’t seem like he was really comfortable with playing any of them for extended stretches or held them overly accountable for their mistakes instead of letting them play through them. I expect to see it play out similarly with Val especially when there is no reason for him to log heavy minutes with our depth in the front court at least for the first year or two of his career.

        • I think of the players mentionned, last year they all lacked consistancy which would justify the quick pulls.
          JJ and Bayless are gone, and it reasonable to say we have upgraded with their replacements. I expect Ed to take that jump this season with his first full preseason. And I don’t expect Amir to repeat last season, arguably his poorest as a Raptor.
          The minutes will be tough to get for our bigs, will be interesting to watch.

  3. Hibbert coming out of college was definitely more polished than present day Valanciunas

    8/6/1 in 20 minutes sounds high to me, because adjusted to 36mpg that’s 14.4/10.8/1.8. That seems extremely productive for a raw player jumping over from Europe.

    For example 2011-2012 Amir Johnson put up 10.5, 9.5, 1.6 per 36 minutes. Scaled down to 20 a season like that (which would be very very good considering how much younger he is than Amir) would be 5.8 pts, 5.2 rebs, and 0.9 blks in 20 minutes a game.

    The best comparisons however are not to these centers, they’re to Enes Kanter and Tristan Thompson.

    Enes Kanter: 4.6 pts, 4.2 rebs, 0.3 blks in 13.2mpg = 12.5 pts, 11.5 rebs, 0.9 blks per 36

    Thompson: 8.2 pts, 6.5 rebs, 1.0 blks in 23.7mpg = 12.5 pts, 9.8 rebs, 1.6 blks per 36

    Looking at these numbers and Amir’s, it would make sense to me if Jonas was at 10-12 pts per 36 and 10 rebs. I think 20 minutes a game is too high (he’ll END the season at over 20, not average it), so I’ll predict 17mpg and 4.8 pts, 4.8 rebs and 0.5 blks (per 36: 10.1 pts, 10.1 rebs, 1 blk)

    Us Raptor fans believing Jonas deserves to be put on another level than rookie Kanter or Thompson is hubris. They were the same caliber of prospect before the draft and nothing has changed

    • Kanter and Valanciunas were evenly touted heading into the 2011 Draft, but Tristan Thompson was NOT on their level in most scouts’ eyes. I’m not saying he can’t or won’t be better than them, but let’s not let Canadian bias alter reality. When the Cavs passed on Valanciunas for Thompson, most were shocked and thought it was a blunder for Cleveland. If not for the buyout situation, I don’t think the Cavs pass on JV.

  4. Well, I for one am at least feeling this season could be exciting if nothing else. I’m gonna be watching a lot more of the Raptors now that the Leafs look to be not playing. Ugh.

    • I agree – and my expectations are higher. We’ve upgraded at two positions, deepened our bench and have two promising rookies giving it a go.
      Whether we choose to use it or not, we have an asset in Calderon’s contract which could be packaged with a servicable big into something interesting.

  5. With all due respect, those weren’t just 10 names randomly selected. They were 10 names seemingly randomly selected who fit your argument.

    Tim Duncan 21.1/11.9/2.6, 39 minutes a game
    Blake Griffin 22.9/12.1/0.5 37 minutes
    Brook Lopez 13/8.1/1.8 30 minutes
    Pau Gasol 17.6/8.9/2.1 36 minutes
    Amare Stoudamire 13.5/8.8/1.1 31 minutes
    Yao Ming 13.5/8.2/1.8 30 minutes

    I don’t know that you’re far off with your prediction, it will factor quite a bit on the minutes he gets, but I thought it only fair to provide some other comparisons.

    • Four of the players you listed aren’t even centers, so your argument doesn’t really make sense.

    • Timmy had 4years of college ball

    • Ike, the only reason the names I selected fit my argument more than the players you listed is because as I stated, I was looking at well known true centres currently in the NBA. Of the six players you listed, only two are true centres and played the position in their rookie seasons, and only one of those two is active. So the only name on your list that would have even been considered for this blog post was Brook Lopez.

      • The “true center” debate is non-sense. Tim Duncan is a center, he’s 7 feet tall, posts up, gets 10 boards and 2 blocks a game … that’s a center. Same with Pau Gasol. The fact that they’ve played on teams with other skilled big men so they were sometimes called a power forward doesn’t change what they are. If either of them played on the Raptors the last 10 years they would have played center.

        Amare played a lot of center in Phoenix. The Clippers played line ups with Blake Griffin and Reggie Evans, I’d call him the center between those 2. And they’re both as much a “true center” as Horford or Noah are.

        • Regardless of official listed position, Duncan played power forward in his rookie season, as did many of the guys on your list, and I was trying to look at rookie seasons of active centres who played centre as rookies. Also, Pau and Amare can both play centre, but they’re more naturally power forwards, where as Noah IS a true centre.

          • Noah is 6’11″ , 230 lbs, Gasol is 7’0″ 250 lbs. He’s bigger, stronger, blocks more shots, has an actual back to the basket game. How can Noah be the TRUE CENTER?

            If David Stern didn’t interfere in the Chris Paul trade, Gasol plays center all year last year. If Gasol plays on almost any other team in the league he’s the starting center.

            And don’t even get me started on Duncan. If you put up 22/12/2 you’re a center. If your team happens to have 2 centers who can do that then of course they play both and call one of them the PF in the box score … and probably win the NBA Championship because you’re lucky enough to do so.

          • Have to mostly agree with Krizzule here. Nate Thurmond and Akeem Olajuwan both played 2nd center, not forward. And Duncan has always played center, often 1st center even when listed as a forward. How playing 1st or 2nd center as opposed to only center affects stats is a different issue, but they’re not forwards. Neither is Gasol. Either Gasol.

        • “And don’t even get me started on Duncan. If you put up 22/12/2 you’re a center.” Ummmm, no. Positions aren’t assigned based on a stat-line. If they were, then by your comment, Barkley was a centre, too, right?

          Also, as I stated in my last comment, regardless of Duncan’s listed position or his position recently, he played the four as a ROOKIE, which is the season I was concerned with for this post.

          • Charles Barkley at his peak blocked 1.6 shots a game, averaged well under 1 for his career. He was also 6.4″ and not capable of defending a big dominant center. Tim Duncan has always been over 2 per game, until recently and that’s just due to his drop in minutes, and could post defend anyone in the league.

            They aren’t even close to being the same player. They are the absolute definition of the difference between a guy who can play center and one who isn’t.

            Duncan played 4 as a rookie because they had David Robinson. If we had David Robinson, and Jonas was our second best big guy, then he’d be a four as a ROOKIE too. That doesn’t make him a 4, that makes him a participant of circumstance.

          • …or Kevin McHale. Having another center on the court doesn’t make you a forward. It’s your game that makes you a forward.

    • I was thinking that other than Yao and Lopez these are all PFs (despite everyone calling TD a C for the past decade just in time for all star voting).

  6. Joseph did say centers so that takes out Griffin Amare and Duncan (Admiral played C, Duncan was a forward). Duncan, Griffin, Amare and Ming were all considered phenoms before their respective drafts. I mean why not just use Howard, Duncan, Hakeem, Shaq, KG, Ewing etc etc etc stats so when comparing we will know how badly he sucks. No one is expecting Jonas to exceed Howard Duncan Gasol Mings 1st year impact, especially coming off of the bench. I expect some good, some bad and lots and lots of fouls.

  7. I know this has nothing do with Valanciunas….but has anyone else realized that Kyle Lowry has failed to stay healthy throughout his college and NBA career, this worries me as a raptors fan!

  8. having watched many of his Rytas games,I think were not giving him enough credit. Played against men. not college players, played more games then a College player and was no where near the focal point of his team that he should have abd could have been. The kid has talent and size that needs to be exploited, alot bigger then people are giving him credit for.

  9. I think you have to added in on how well the team is going to do first. If they start off well he might not get the mins he needs to pick up the nba game, and if he spends more time sitting on the bench due to how well the team is going, this is going to have a big part on this playing time and stats.

  10. This is why I don’t like PER. Just glancing at the PER numbers, Javale McGee and Dwight Howard were the two best, but obviously, Howard with double the minutes was pulling off the feat against starters, while McGee was likely doing it in his limited minutes vs backups.

    There should be some minutes played component added to PER to make it more relevant.

    • Having said that, I should add that I think it is important to the team that JV averages 8 points, 6 rebounds and a PER of 15. Even if they are just doing it with limited minutes like McGee was given in his rookie season. It is a confidence builder and a marketing point for future seasons. Just have Jose feed JV an alley oop every time he enters the game.

      We know BC and DC both want to make the playoffs this season. BC to justify the Lowry trade, and DC just because he hates to lose, so I don’t expect very many minutes will be given to JV unless he really and truly deserves them.

  11. Jojo Kracko, Win Shares (WS) works a lot like PER, but uses minutes played as a big factor in the total shares a player gets

  12. Great article Eric,

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