Let’s try to make sense of this.

Things we need to acknowledge
Jonas Valanciunas was very highly rated across every draft board. I don’t claim to know much about the player, but it is undeniable that everybody and their mom was high on him. I don’t know why, maybe he’s the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki or just a poor man’s Andrea Bargnani, all anybody knows about him is that he has size, potential, and is only 18 years old. It’s not like the Raptors selected Remone Van De Hare with the 5th pick. As bad as this pick sounds when you first hear about it, it’s not going against the grain of informed NBA thought.

Gut reaction
Andrea Bargnani 2.0? Another European 7-footer nobody has ever seen play? WTF? Yes, we acknowledge that center is one of the needs of this team, but we also have painfully come to realize that the point guard and small forward positions needed to be addressed, especially the point guard. So when you have Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker to pick from, it’s hard for anyone to swallow the fact that we passed up on getting a potentially marquee point guard in a league which now almost requires you to have a dynamic floor general at the helm. Raptors fans want to see an exciting product just as much they want to see a winner, and the overwhelming feeling heading into this draft was that we would be able to inject some excitement into this team by drafting exciting NBA-ready players, not an 18-year old who comes packaged with years and years of excuses courtesy of his youth (remind you of anyone?). This is a town that is begging for a winner and I fully believe that if this team was even remotely decent, Raptors fans would eclipse Leafs nation quite quickly, but if winning can’t be delivered, at least give us something to be excited about.

Colangelo thinking long-term
So he didn’t try to “fast forward” the rebuild and picked another project. On the drive over, Eric Smith, Jack Armstrong and Paul Jones were all collectively suckling on Colangelo’s left teet for putting the “franchise first”. I’m sorry, I don’t buy it. You can’t tell me that picking Kemba Walker, Brandon Knight, or even Kawhi Leonard would be seen as Colangelo looking out for himself and not putting the franchise’s best interest first. The theory that Colangelo took one for the team doesn’t hold water, the only way he would’ve sabotaged the rebuild is if he had traded that pick fro Tony Parker or someone else. As it stands, he probably extended the rebuild. I’m not going to be thankful to him for not going the “instant gratification” (his words, not mine) route because you can be instantly gratified by picking a player who is ready to help now, and is a core piece going forward. I don’t know man, maybe I’m just a Kemba Walker fanboy licking his wounds.

Lockout and all that nonsense
My gut feeling is that even though players and owners are 189 gazillion dollars apart, there will be a season next year. If there is, then Valanciunas will come over to the NBA, pay the majority of the $2.5 million buyout (Raptors can cover it all but anything over $500K would count against the cap) and begin his NBA development. It makes no sense for him to stay over there when the Raptors have a gaping hole at center and happen to be developing players through rebuilding. If my gut feeling turns out to be an upset stomach and there is a lockout, then Valanciunas instantly gains an advantage as he becomes one of the few players who gets to hone his skill while the rest of his NBA colleagues sit on the beach drinking Black Russians.

The player
Comparisons are being made to Chris Kaman, Andrew Bogut, Andris Biedrins. I will not even pretend to be an expert on this guy. Go read his Draft Express profile, that’s what everybody including the newspaper guys are doing right now. I’m just admitting to it.

Team fit
Has Colangelo finally given in to Bargnani’s insistence that he play the power forward? Valanciunas is a center, there is no question about it, and if he starts next year then it naturally moves Bargnani to the four, which in turn moves Ed Davis and Amir Johnson to the bench. Which likely shrinks the minutes of Davis, which is not good. Right now, if Colangelo gives in to Bargnani playing the four, then we have three power forwards: Bargnani, Davis and Johnson. Sure, they can switch over and play the five here and there, but let’s not kid ourselves, one of the three will get hosed. Of course, the sensible thing here would be to move Bargnani to the bench but that’s not going to happen. I need more time for this acquisition to sink in before I start forming opinions, but on first glance I’m feeling a little sorry for Ed Davis. Dave Feschuk is also suggesting the Raptors will target Chandler which would compound the minutes issue.

Site notes and party
We apologize for the site being slow. Obviously, the copious amounts of money we pay to mediatemple.net isn’t worth it. We will fire them as soon as we can. On a more positive note, what a great party! Met many of you and it was a blast. St. Louis on Yonge/Wellesley is a tremendous joint where the owner is nuts for basketball. Let me put it this way, if a Leafs playoffs game was on and the Raptors were playing a regular season game, he’d put the Raptors on. With audio. That’s all you need to know. Thanks again to everyone who participated in the games, and congratulations to the winners.

On the Rapcast are myself, Steve and A-Dub and we’ve all had a bit to drink. We cover all the angles of this pick (at least the ones we could get our hands on) and promise to sleep over it:

Grab the iTunes feed or the plain old feed. You can also download the file (16:12, 7MB). Or just listen below:

Final word to Colangelo:

“I can tell you that without question we have found a combination of the best talent and the best fit for this team”.

I hope you’re *#!%$@ right.