Inconclusive. That’s Chad Ford describing the pick in his draft review, and I can’t agree with it more:
I’m not sure how I feel about the Raptors selecting Jonas Valanciunas. On one hand, he’s a legit 7-foot center who isn’t afraid to mix it up in the paint. On the other hand, it’s still unclear when he’s going to come into the NBA.
The Raptors took a big, long-term risk. It could pay off handsomely, but it won’t pay off right away. Given the Raptors’ fortunes the past few years, how long can they wait? If Valanciunas comes soon and develops, it was worth the risk. If it takes him a while to get here, they may have been better off with Biyombo.
As much as Colangelo is hyping his pick up by saying how his phone is bursting with congratulatory text messages, and how he thinks he has “found the best talent and the best fit for this team”, there is nothing to suggest that this pick doesn’t have significant bust potential, if based on nothing but the high rate of Euro big men not living up to hype. The high-risk-high-reward game must be fun to play, but I prefer the safer picks like Ed Davis and DeMar DeRozan, who can help you sooner than later, and keep the fans interested. Don’t get too down though, you’ll get to see Valanciunas next year, with sources close to the organization believing that he has an excellent chance of coming over next season.
Here are two Colangelo quotes, first one from when Bargnani was drafted:
“Everyone has strengths, weaknesses, etc.,” general manager Bryan Colangelo said. “But at the end of the day, it came down that we felt that Andrea Bargnani was really the best pick for the future of this organization going forward. It’s not about today. It’s about today and tomorrow and we think that Andrea is a player that’s not only going to help us in the short run, but we think he’s going to grow into a terrific star in this league.”
Second one is from yesterday:
“I can tell you without question, we have found the best talent and the best fit for this team,” Colangelo said. “This young man is thought of as the best young [centre] prospect out there…his numbers from an analytics view point were off the charts,” Colangelo said. “He’s got a lot of life in his body. He’s got a long ways to go, but he’s going to be a great long-term pick…this is a solid pick, trust me.”
Analytics? Did he actually bring up analytics? If he’s going by analytics, Bargnani should be banished to the D-League without any further thought. Give me a break.
Anyway, comparing the two quotes, I hope the supporters of this pick understand why there is a tremendous amount of skepticism in certain fan circles about this pick. We’re being fed the same punch that we were five years ago, what’s to say this is going to be any different? At the same time, you can’t really criticize this pick because we’ve picked an unknown and criticizing an unknown is idiotic. It’s the same rationale that was applied to Andrea Bargnani, whether you like it or not you can’t even comment on whether this has been a good draft until five years, which is the time Colangelo thinks big men should be judged after. So yeah, let’s review this selection in the summer of 2016, hopefully I’ll be alive.
Now here’s the part about the draft that got me scratching my unkempt beard: Spurs selecting Cory Joseph. The Canadian went 28th to the Spurs and mind you the Spurs know what they’re doing when they draft. Unlike the Raptors, they actually target players, research them, and surgically extract them from the vast amount of crap that is out there. Here are some of their recent draft wins in late first round/second round picks: DeJuan BLair, George Hill, Goran Dragic, Beno Udrih, Leandro Barbosa, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola (buyout issue had him go to the Rockets).
The Raptors flipped the 27th pick for James Johnson, and would have had a clear shot at Joseph, which would have been a PR victory, and instantly increased the waning interest in this team. I’m not suggesting we draft players based on nationality and likabilty, far from it, but Joseph also happens to be a point guard who is known to be a good defender who has shown steady improvement. If we are rebuilding and aiming for the #1 pick next year (which we clearly are), I’ll take a Bayless/Joseph backcourt over Calderon/Bayless any day.
If you want to check out some Lithuanian ball, here you go.
You’ll see that the idea of him being the anti-Bargnani isn’t far from the truth, at least based on Euroleague play. It’s also clear that he needs to put on significant amount of muscle and improve his strength, before he even attempts to make an impact in the league. The obvious fear is that he doesn’t develop his basketball game, but equally important is whether he’ll be able to grow physically into the impact-center the Raptors need him to be. Is he going to stay rail thin or will he become a finely toned force in the middle? Who knows…