Toronto Raptors v Minnesota Timberwolves

Seeing Jonas Valanciunas in a neck brace and on a stretcher at the end of Tuesday night’s game in Chicago was certainly concerning, but thankfully, the injury doesn’t sound to be too serious and Valanciunas is a gametime decision for Friday’s game against the Bulls.

Nonetheless, even if an overly cautious approach saw the flexion extension injury end Valanciunas’ rookie season, we’ve seen more than enough from Jonas to continue to favourably project the big man’s development going forward.

If you recall, back in September I wrote about realistic statistical expectations for Valanciunas’ rookie season based on the rookie seasons of some other big name true centres. Almost to a tee, JV has met the expectations of roughly eight points, six rebounds, one block, a PER of 15 and 20 minutes per night that I set for him coming into the year.

I also mentioned way back then that those modest statistical measures “seem to be the rookie bench mark of a future All Star caliber NBA centre.” Given that Valanciunas has met and slightly surpassed those expectations as a 20-year-old rookie big man from overseas, Raptors fans should remain excited about the Lithuanian’s future in Toronto.

To further examine Valanciunas’ potential going forward, here’s a comparison of his rookie season and the rookie seasons of Tyson Chandler and Joakim Noah, two All-Star centres that Jonas was most often compared to before he stepped foot on an NBA floor.

Player Age MPG PPG RPG BPG PER TS% Fouls per 36
Jonas Valanciunas 20 23.7 8.7 6.0 1.2 15.5 .612 4.6
Tyson Chandler 19 19.6 6.1 4.8 1.3 13.0 .543 4.6
Joakim Noah 22 20.7 6.6 5.6 0.9 15.7 .539 4.1

The one knock you can use is that both Chandler and Noah played more than 70 games as rookies whereas Valanciunas has only played 60, but the injuries JV sustained this year are not the kinds of injuries that should worry anyone about his future durability.

Offensively, Valanciunas is miles ahead of where Chandler and Noah were as rookies and projects as a more effective offensive option than those two going forward, but Noah is an excellent passer out of the post and there are no guarantees that JV will achieve that kind of court vision. On the defensive end, Chandler and Noah are as good as they come in today’s NBA and Jonas had some defensive issues earlier this season, but no one will argue against the Raptors rookie’s defensive upside.

Another thing to note is that Chandler’s and Noah’s numbers didn’t exactly skyrocket in their sophomore seasons, but there is evidence in Valanciunas’ game over the last couple of months to suggest that he might be able to flirt with averaging a double-double next season given more minutes. For a 21-year-old sophomore big man in the NBA, that would be the mark of a pretty special player.

All in all, whether you look at his own numbers in a vacuum or compare them to the statistics posted by other star centres in the NBA, Jonas Valanciunas continues to project as a future All-Star at the position. And in this dark, lonely abyss Raptors fans currently wander, that potential in Valanciunas serves as a glimmer of light – a way out.

Not much is certain with this franchise right now, but Valanciunas’ status as a beacon of hope in an otherwise hopeless situation is. After a year of hype without him actually playing a game, his rookie season has assured us of that.

Comments (8)

  1. What happened to sonny weems lol ? If anderson walks or leaves can t.o still get weems back if he is even worth it , j.v is a beast in the post . Cant wait for him to have a full off season to train and put on wieght .

  2. Jonas is 3rd amongst NBA centers for Free Throws with a .789% which is pretty impressive. He’s also the only rookie to hit 16 FT in a game besides David Robinson in the last 42 seasons.

    Would not surprise if JV struggles in his sophomore season as teams will have the offseason to have him properly scouted.

    He’s come a long way from the season and consistently improved. Quincy has also improved, especially his offence, from the start of the season as well. TRoss has shown flashes of being a key player but i can’t say he’s improved as the season has gone on.

  3. Weems plays for CSKA Moscow (Euroleague team). Valanciunas is doing great cant wait for next year!

  4. the only thing that can derail JV at this point is dwayne casey

  5. Stats aside, even how he simply approaches the game with his effort etc. is great to see.

    For a 20 year old rookie, to play how he does is a good reason to look forward to the teams future (well, for me it is).

    I think the double-double mentioned in the article is very much achievable for him given more consistent minutes which he should be getting next season.

    Great post.

  6. I sincerely hope that Raptors management assigns someone to go over footage of Chandler and Noah, and break down what they are doing right, that JV can work on this summer. JV will get stronger this off season, which will help his D a bit. But he still needs to work on positioning. Even his rebounding needs work. He doesn’t anticipate the shot fast enough and work to block out his man. Most of the time he is the one getting blocked out. More experience will help him there. Imagine when he is stronger, plays D like Chandler and passes out like Noah. In a year or two he will be in the all star game.

    This kid has a real bright future. Love his constant effort on court. He should definitely get more touches next season (Dwayne Casey’s replacement).

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