Jonas Valanciunas’ well documented Summer League dominance and the tournament’s MVP award that followed has Raptors fans understandably optimistic about his role as a legitimate building block for the future.

As I’ve mentioned countless times over the last couple of weeks, for me, it wasn’t about the numbers Valanciunas posted in Las Vegas (where numbers often lie), but rather about the progress being made in his rapidly developing game.

Jonas is a 21-year-old seven-footer with an actual post game, which is more than you can say about a lot of veteran NBA big men today, let alone rookie and sophomore big men. He’s already at a point where he’s finishing with both hands around the rim, effectively uses a hook shot, he runs the floor about as well as you can ask a seven-footer to, he alters shots and protects the rim on defence and he rebounds.

He’s far from a finished product and he still has plenty of room for improvement on both ends of the floor, but at 21, you can make the argument that Valanciunas is already the most valuable piece of the Raptors’ potential success, both in the short term and the long term.

But just what exactly is the 21-year-old’s value?

Before his rookie season got underway, I wrote a post about how untouchable I considered Valanciunas to be. In hindsight, that extremely short list was probably too selective, but at the time, I couldn’t bring myself to fake-trade the youngster before even getting glimpse of him in the NBA.

A year later, with an NBA season under his belt, Valanciunas looking like a star big man in the making and some other young players rising up in the Association, I thought I’d revisit the list.

Here’s the deal. I ask myself, in some alternate reality universe where contracts and salary matching under the CBA are not taken into account during trades and if in some alternate universe every single player in the NBA was available in a one-for-one trade involving Valanciuans, would I pull the trigger on that trade at this stage in each player’s career?

The “this stage of his career” component is a big part of this. There are plenty of guys playing right now who are still stars and whose careers Valanciunas will likely never match, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would trade Valanciunas for a 34-year-old Kobe Bryant. I’d trade him for a 25-year-old Chris Bosh, for example, but not for 29-year-old Chris Bosh.  Keep that it mind when you’re wondering where guys like Kobe, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Dwyane Wade are on this list.

Now without further ado, here’s the still very selective list of NBA players I would trade Jonas Valanciunas for in 2013…

(age in parentheses)

- LeBron James (28)

- Kevin Durant (24)

- Chris Paul (28)

- Derrick Rose (24)

- Dwight Howard (27)

- Russell Westbrook (24)

- James Harden (23)

- Kyrie Irving (21)

- Stephen Curry (25)

- Paul George (23)

- Anthony Davis (20)

- Bonus: No. 1 overall pick in 2014

Then there are a couple of young superstar big men that you would think should be no-brainers, but whether it’s injuries or a glaring hole in their games, I’d take longer to accept the offer than the average NBA fan would, if I even accepted the offer at all…

- Kevin Love (24 – Has missed 106 games over the last four seasons)

- Blake Griffin (24- History of left knee issues and a defensive albatross)

While there will surely be some that ridicule this list for who isn’t on it, there are probably others who might not be sold on Davis yet, who might be troubled by Dwight Howard’s back or Stephen Curry’s ankles or about the two names listed above and who actually believe the list should be shorter.

In addition to the names above, there are potential young stars and some established stars around the league whose fans would probably not be willing to trade for Valanciunas, but that I wouldn’t trade Valanciunas for either.

For example, I wouldn’t trade Jonas for Kenneth Faried, but Nuggets fans probably wouldn’t trade Faried for Valanciunas. They’re just both so early in their careers, and both look so promising that it would be hard for either team and fan base to give up on one for the other. That list of debatable young stars is as follows:

- Damian Lillard (23)

- John Wall (22)

- Kawhi Leonard (22)

- Kenneth Faried (23)

- DeMarcus Cousins (22)

- Ricky Rubio (22)

- Andre Drummond (19)

As for the already established stars, it would make sense for a contending team built to win now and in need of a centre to trade Valanciunas for Marc Gasol, for example, but I don’t see it making sense for the young, rebuilding Raptors, and remember that I’m doing this from the vantage point of if I was running the Raps in 2013.

On that note, these next names are guys I could understand a contending team or a non-Raptors fan considering trading Valanciunas for, but names that I personally wouldn’t flip JV for in 2013.

- Rajon Rondo (27 – I’ve gone back and forth on having Rondo in my list of 12 that I would trade JV for)

- Marc Gasol (28)

- Al Horford (27)

- Joakim Noah (28)

- LaMarcus Aldridge (28)

So there you have it. Eleven players and a pick I would trade Valanciunas for straight up, a couple of players I would add if not for injuries and defensive deficiencies, and 12 more names that I think would make for an interesting debate and discussion despite the fact that I wouldn’t trade Valanciunas for them today.

My mind changes on a day-to-day basis, but for the most part I fluctuate between 10-15 players that I would actually trade Valanciunas for, a testament to just how high I think his ceiling can be and how bright his future looks.

If you’re skeptical, as some coworkers of mine have been in these discussions, I’ll give you the same challenge I gave them – try to come up with a list of 20 players you would absolutely trade Valanciunas for right now, in Toronto’s position, without question. Unless you underrate age in the discussion, I don’t think you can do it.

Comments (37)

  1. To add to that, it’s not only about JV’s potential, it’s about the skills he brings to his position and how rare that combination is – a mobile seven footer with a well-rounded game at both ends of the floor. How many teams have one of those as a key piece? Maybe 5? The rest are making compromises in their systems to compensate for the fact that they haven’t got one of these guys, and/or they’re giving minutes to low-skilled oafs who are just big.

    It’s much easier to add scoring, perimeter shooting, hustle, a defensive specialist, etc. than it is to come up with a player with Jonas’ (projected) skill set.

    • In addition to being 7 foot and mobile and skilled there are two other big traits that may even separate him from others who also share his physical stats and skils: Jonas has a good attitude/ temperament (compared to say Bynum or Dwight) and he doesn’t seem to be so injury prone (Bynum, Bogut) and I think these traits are just as important. I wouldn’t trade him for any other centre right now.

      • Well maybe Anthony Davis, if indeed he counts as a centre.

      • One thing that’s been talked about recently, even by Ujiri, is how a lot of big guys and seven-footers play basketball because they were almost forced into it rather than having a natural passion for the game, whereas Valanciunas loves the game and would have likely fallen for it even without his size.

        • Forbes recently had an article stating that at any given time there are only 70 American men who are 7+ feet tall and between the ages of 20 and 40. 17% of them are NBA players (!!!!!). Holy crap, that’s almost 1 in 5. Comparatively, if you’re in the same age bracket and 6’6″ to 6’8″, you only have a 0.07% chance of making the NBA. (It’s a Dan Diamond article if you want to Google it.)

          The moral of the story is – marry a really, really tall person.

  2. Nice piece. I agree with most of that list. What if someone offered Nicola Vucevic and a a first round pick in the 10-20 range for JV though? Do you bite on that trade? Personally I feel the ceiling on both those players is similar.

    • Honestly, Vucevic is a good call. I wouldn’t bite on that offer, but I think you can make the argument he belongs in the young stars tier I created above.

    • if you’re making a deal like that with orlando, wouldn’t the pick be considerably higher (i assume it would only be considered if it was for 2014), and with no protection (or very limited protection)?

  3. I personally would make my evaluation on Jonas from a three tier system in judging his trade value:
    1) His potential/ceiling and whether he has the ability to achieve the projected expectation.
    2) The position which the player in discussion (JV) plays – in accordance to the most need for that position in the NBA…example: Availability of skilled Center position players vs skilled SF/PF/SG/PG availability in the NBA today.
    3) The skills, achievements, growth and potential that he has already shown.

    Taking JC’s top 11 list, IMO I would choose the following that I would trade JV taking into count my 3 tier systems of rating his value and where the Raptors are as a team today – They are as followed:
    Lebron James
    Kevin Durrant
    James Harden
    Paul George – maybe

    The rest are duplicits at their own position – have already hit their ceiling – injury risks
    For example:
    Derrick Rose – injury risk
    Westbrook/Paul/Irving/Curry – JV’s worth at his position is more valuable then those players at theirs. I rather have a lesser point guard or SG like Rondo or Rubio and keep JV as my Center over those PG’s and Griffith or Cousins as My Big. JV is more valuable at the center position for this team (Raptors) today moving forward then those PG’s mentioned above. Also in Westbrook’s case, James Harden is better then him and has proven he can be a leader in his one year with Houston – Westbrook needs Durrant but does Durrant need Westbrook? Could Durrant be just as good with Curry or Paul or Irving over Westbrook – Ima’ say, yes!
    Davis – unproven and hasn’t shown at all yet he will be better or just as good as JV plus he has prior knee issues.
    Howard – IMO is what he is – a helper, not a leader. He needs a James Harden plus some to be “that winning guy” – limit offense – drama queen – hit his ceiling, you know what your getting with him night in and night out, no more tricks left in the bag. His career at this time is START WINNING now, you whiner! Not even interested, thanks!

    • “Davis – unproven and hasn’t shown at all yet he will be better or just as good as JV plus he has prior knee issues.”

      Davis averaged more points, blocks, assists, steals and rebounds than Val last year. Also, his PER was 22 to Val’s 16. And he’s a year younger.

      “Howard – IMO is what he is – a helper, not a leader. He needs a James Harden plus some to be “that winning guy” – limit offense – drama queen – hit his ceiling, you know what your getting with him night in and night out, no more tricks left in the bag. His career at this time is START WINNING now, you whiner! Not even interested, thanks!”

      Howard led his team past LeBron James’ Cavaliers to the NBA Finals. Do you consider Hedo Turkuglu to be ‘James Harden plus some’?

      • Davis also played for a worse team then JV and was a focus on their offence. He’s also a lot more fragile then JV.

        JV > Davis

        • Davis is probably going to be the better player, but honestly, dude is seriously overrated and production (not to mention eye test) did not live up to the hype.

      • davis also got more playing time, from the beginning of the season, than JV. JV didn’t really start to average more than 20 minutes a game until the end of the season. Additionally they play different positions. The way I look at it you don’t trade JV at all because having a really good skilled center is the hardest thing to find in this league. (we traded Hibbert which was a bad mistake). Not only that but JV has already shown that he has a very high basketball IQ and he has the ability to learn alot in a very short period of time. Most big men take 4 years to really blossom. This kid might just blossom with out hitting his prime in 2, which is ridiculous.

        He is adding the things he needs to add, weight, offensive jumper, post moves, hookshot.

        Going back to my original point looking at position wise the easiest things to draft/sign are guards. Not saying that guards are a dime a dozen but at the same time look at all the top point guards (Westbrook, Rose, Lillard, Irving, CP3, Rubio sorta, Curry, Rondo, DWill but this is debatable, Parker, and Klow, John wall, and others) there are a ton. Shooting guards are in abundant supply as well Power forwards and centers are the hardest things to get.

      • @ Matt McCready
        You would make a good point IF we were talking about a video game team!
        As we can all see, you have clearly just focused on offensive numbers only (in 3 categories only) and the PER – which is a BS stat. I wrote last week about the judgment of that stat and how they rate guys like Barkley over Magic and Kareem…so if that is a stat you wanna make your little attempt at showing me how Davis is better then JV – nice try, but I don’t think so!
        3 reasons why:

        1) Davis played 5 more minutes per game then Big Val – over the 64 games Davis played (two more the JV in total) that equates to roughly 6.5 ( full 48 minute games) more then JV to reach those “just barely better” numbers for Davis in the allotted time. In the last two month of the season where JV played roughly the same amount of minutes (29.3 and started) like Davis here are JV’s numbers: 13.1 PTS/6.6 REBs/1.7 BLKs – same amount of points, same blocks and 2.6 less reebs. In the month of April where JV’s minutes increased just 2 more minutes per game so did his confidence averaging 14.9 PTS/ 6 REBs/ 2.4 BLKs an astonishing .852 FT% and a . 558 FG%. When given the same amount of minutes JV’s numbers are equal or better!!!!!!!

        2) Other numbers you ignored ( full season stats): JV FG% .557 – FT% .789
        AD FG% – .516% FT% .751…JV once again is better!!!!!!!!

        3) The whole body of work – JV played full rotational minutes on the Senior U19 World Championship in 2010 as a 17 year old. He played for the Lithuanian National OLYMPIC team in 2012 (an Olympian before he turned 20). He was the MVP in the U-18 European Tournament AND was the MVP the follow season once again leading Lithu to a gold medal finish – Lead both years in that tourny with PTS/REBs/BLKs per game. This is just a few of his highlights so far his is very young career…and now you can add a MVP for summer league, it all counts, where’s Davis’ MVP awards? In the full body of work, including JV’s BETTER back to the basket, hook/jump shot and footwork game – is just another reason why JV is better.

        So next time you come to play with the big boys – bring your A-GAME, kid. Now if you will excuse me I have roughly 45 minutes left on my lunch hour and that is just enough time to fit in the Raptorsblog broadcast that posted yesterday!

        • Sigh

          Davis was mvp of the NCAA tournament. Summer league is a joke. Valanciunas calls it a joke.

          Blocks, Steals and Rebounds are all defensive stats. PER takes into account those defensive stats

          Also, I didn’t realize that the message board of RaptorBlog was ‘the big boys’. My mistake.

  4. JC-

    I agree with the list. Except for Lillard – i would not even consider it. High volume shooter who, while effective at his skill set, does not appear to have the makings of a play-making PG which is preferrable in terms of building a championship contending team.

    You mention the 1st overall in the 2014 draft….I am going to assume this means Mr. Wiggins. But what about the projected 2nd or 3rd picks in guys like Mr. Parker and Mr. Randle?

    • I wouldn’t trade Valanciunas for any pick other than the No. 1 in 2014, because of Wiggins.

      I like Randle, Exum, Smart and some others (I think Parker is overrated), but I don’t like them enough to trade JV.

      Now Andrew “Maple Jordan” Wiggins, on the other hand…

  5. This team hasn’t had a TRUE center since I started following this team years ago. I wouldn’t trade JV period.

  6. Wow.

    Maybe it’s time to sell high. If the hype is that big right now then some contender would give up multiple somethings (draft picks).

    The ‘Tors are 5-7 years away from legitimacy in a best-case scenario. The fixed nature of the ABC/ESPN NBA is too depressing.

    • I’m not saying they’re knocking on the door or anything, but 5-7 years? Really?! That’s ridiculous. The way to stay 5-7 years behind is by trading a 21-year-old prospect with star potential for draft picks, as you suggested.

  7. This team hasn’t had a true Center since Zan Tabak!!!! Best player to ever dawn a Raptors jersey.

  8. Trade him now before he turns into Andrew Bogut in his prime and the team is still winning 36 games a year!

  9. I can’t believe you would trade JV for Howard straight up. It’s not his back I would worry about, it’s his attitude. And besides, JV will have a better career than Howard once it’s all said and done. I would never trade JV for Westbrook either. Seriously though, if Bosh was 25, you would trade JV for him? That’s hilarious. I think this guy will be the best center in the NBA soon enough.

  10. If you type Jonas in the google search bar, his name comes up second behind the Jonas Brothers. He will be first in no time.

  11. I would not trade JV for D.Rose….Dude’s knees could give out on him again….this is a risk I wouldnt take…..even a healthy Rose….is he really that good? Will he ever be that good again?

    I would trade JV for a V.Carter in his prime….

    • Is a healthy Rose “really that good”? I would say league MVP is fairly good. The Bulls are top-tier title contenders with him, and a 1st/2nd round exit without him. Yeah, he’s pretty good.

      Re: a few above comments – it’s okay to be psyched about JV without being complete homers about the talent level of other NBA superstars. Am I right?

  12. How do you guys compare Andre Drummond to Valanciunias? Im not saying I would swap them – but I am curious. Most of my American friends are really high on Drummond, while ignoring JV. Obviously they probably don’t follow JV much, but how close would you rank those two?

    Also – this is pure retrospect, but could Drummond and JV have played together had raps drafted the former?

    • get used to it. drummond is a ‘high-light’ reel type of player (put-back dunks, oops/lobs, blocks, etc). you’ll see him on 25 sportcenter (ESPN) clips to every 1 you’ll see of JV, simply by virtue of their style of games.

      IMO, it’s a ‘drive for show, putt for dough’ kind of comparison.

  13. I think Valanciunias is, who we thought bargnani could be, minus the 3 pointing ability. Which if we being completley honest, bargnani doesn’t possess much of anyway.

    • …except most people knew (or should have known) before he was drafted that he (bargs) ‘couldn’t’ (or wouldn’t) be what JV appears to already be (i.e. at worst, an average to above-average defender & rebounder & legit low-post presence on O).

  14. You wouldn’t trade Jonas for Faried and say Connelly wouldn’t trade Faried for Jonas. Fair enough. However the real question is would Ujiri trade Amir for Faried which might make more sense and would Connelly trade Faried for Amir?

    I guesss we will have to wait and see just like we are going to have to wait to see just how good Jonas will become.

    • the answer to that is.. NO! not a hard decision between faried and amir … one is a hard worker who gets little to no recognition in the leqgue (amir) and the other currently has the whole league buzzing about him… so just saying that question wasnt worth the time you spent posting it… its just common sense

  15. why has no one even mentioned carmelo anthony’s name on here??… im pretty sure if the knicks have one more bad season he is going to be looking for a new home… and a trade involving carmelo and tyson chandler for rudy gay and jonas might not be such a bad thing right???

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