The NBA lockout may be delaying fans from seeing the newest additions to their favorite team but that doesn’t mean they get a look at what the rookie of the team may bring.
With that being said, let’s take a look at the Toronto Raptors 2011 draft pick, Jonas Valanciunas.
Jonas was the fifth overall pick, and will be coming to the Raptors with a solid basketball resume despite his young age. He has been named the FIBA Europe Under-16 Championship MVP in 2008, European Under-18 All-Star Game MVP in 2009, FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship MVP in 2010, and the FIBA World Under-19 Championship MVP in 2011.
This summer, Jonas was on the Lithuanian national team roster for EuroBasket 2011. In his first game versus the Czech Republic, he scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Thanks to his strong play, he helped Lithuania claim a spot at the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
But what does he do on the court that made him such a high draft pick? Granted the following footage was his play at the Under-19 World Championship where he was a man among boys but it does give us a glimpse on what he can bring to Toronto. Let’s take a look.
Right off the bat he has excellent shooting range for a 6’11” player. He displays a soft hook shot in the paint which will be advantageous for him in the NBA. His length and athleticism allows for him to finish at the rim and proves he has a solid free-throw shooting stroke.
He can stand to develop better footwork in the paint and add size to his frame especially seeing how he will likely face big men such Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard, Milwaukee Bucks’ Andrew Bogut, and New Jersey Nets’ Brook Lopez quite often next season. Also, he will need a good point guard at his side in Toronto.
In the footage he mainly scored off set-ups from the guard. Currently, Toronto has Leandro Barbosa and Jerryd Bayless running point. Both will have to find the big Lithuanian early and often to get him going.
Sure Raptors fans may feel they have another soft Euro on their hands (see Andrea Bargnani) but Jonas displays intensity on the court and a willingness to play hard-nosed defense and isn’t afraid to bang in the middle.
And with Bargnani and Valanciunas in the fold for Toronto, along with new coach Dwayne Casey, it would seem the Raptors have a great future.