Since Vince Carter’s departure in 2004, the Toronto Raptors have been virtually irrelevant. Drafting in the lottery in recent years, the Raptors have built up a solid nucleus of young players who could blossom into a perennial winning unit. One of those players is 21 year old Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas is a seven foot big man out of Lithuania who was taken fifth overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. Although he has one year of NBA experience under his belt, he is still developing as an NBA player and Toronto felt more experience was necessary for him. It seems to be working considering he is dominating the competition.
In his first three games Valanciunas has boasted averages of 20 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. After watching these three games it was evident that he was one of the best players on the floor. Driving to the hoop, hitting mid range jumpers, and finding open shooters show that he is capable of doing it all. He has also added more upper body strength this offseason which makes him a more intimidating presence against opposing centers.
Valanciunas won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for March this past season and is playing exceptionally in the Las Vegas Summer League. The Raptors organization can only hope that this production carries on into the upcoming season. I don’t see why he wouldn’t because the starting lineup has not changed so the familiarity is still there and he has put on weight this offseason which I mentioned before. Don’t expect Valanciunas to be an All Star this year but he should be considerably more than just a “serviceable player”.