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|
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.