Over the last couple of weeks, we had kind of figured out that Jonas Valanciunas would be the Raptors starting centre when the season tipped off on Halloween, so while a good story, today’s official proclamation from Dwane Casey is hardly earth shattering.
What it did get me thinking about, though, especially with the developments in Oklahoma City over the weekend (Zach Lowe says in this Grantland piece that the Raptors were one of a few teams that “had at least semi-serious internal or external discussions on Harden”), was just how untouchable Valanciunas is as a Raptor right now.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s not fully untouchable, as that distinction should be reserved for either just LeBron James or at most, a handful of NBA players. But on this Raptors roster, Valanciunas would unquestionably carry the biggest trade value (again, Lowe’s Grantland piece insinuates that Valanciunas is one of a select few “sure-thing players in the beginning stages of his rookie deal” that the Thunder would have considered in exchange for Harden), and is the closest thing to untouchable.
I’ve compiled a list of active NBA players I would trade Valanciunas for one for one right now, and you’ll obviously notice that it’s a pretty short list. Before I reveal it, I’ll reaffirm that this list isn’t players I would trade JV for in a one season world. If it was just for 2012-13, I’d obviously trade JV for a guy like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, etc. But with the future on the line and a still (re)building franchise, you don’t trade a potential franchise centre at 20-years-old for a Hall of Famer over 30.
I also don’t think you can trade JV for All Stars in their prime who aren’t elite game changers. Think LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol, two guys I’d love to have on my team, but not at the expense of the untapped potential in Valanciunas.
Furthermore, there are other young players in the NBA who are clearly better than Valanciunas right now, but for me to be willing to trade Valanciunas for said player, I’d have to be absolutely convinced that the player in question is a better option than JV for the future. Going back to Harden – He’s an incredibly efficient young shooting guard who I think is a top-five player at his position, and he’s going to be more valuable than Jonas in 2012-13 and 2013-14. But am I absolutely convinced that he’ll be the more impactful player long term than a potential franchise centre? No, so even a guy of Harden’s ability doesn’t make the “absolutely” list.
There are also young studs out there who anyone want long term at peak performance, but injury concerns would ultimately scare me away (think Andrew Bynum, Stephen Curry, Ricky Rubio, Eric Gordon, etc.).
Lastly, you have to understand where I see Valanciunas’ ceiling. He’ll never be as physically dominant or impactful as Dwight Howard, and as long as Dwight’s in the league at or near his prime, Jonas can never be the best centre in the NBA, but I do believe he can evolve into one of the game’s top two or three centres during his prime years.
Think of that ceiling, and the fact that a dominant post presence is becoming a rare commodity in today’s NBA, as the reasoning behind this short list.
Alright, enough chit chat, here’s the very selective list of NBA players I would trade Jonas Valanciunas for one for one right now (I obviously don’t expect that any of these players would be made available):
- LeBron James
- Kevin Durant
- Dwight Howard (Only if I was guaranteed to re-sign Howard to a long term extension as part of the trade)
- Chris Paul (Same stipulation as above)
- Anthony Davis
- Derrick Rose
- Russell Westbrook
- Kevin Love
- Kyrie Irving, Blake Griffin, Rajon Rondo and James Harden are all guys I’d seriously consider trading Valanciunas for, but unlike the eight names above, I wouldn’t be able to make those deals without blinking.
So if you’re proposing a one-for-one trade for Valanciunas and you’re not bringing one of the aforementioned superstars to the table, maybe don’t come a knockin’, because chances are, I’m not talkin’.
Alright, now I prepare for your ridicule, scorn and offers for mental health help.