Love this pick.. love, love, love it.
Here's a snippet of instant analysis of the Valanciunas pick, courtesy of Chad Ford:
The Raptors know international players and they may feel that they finally have found a real center. He's a true low-post player with a good motor, and he's tough -- basically the opposite of Andrea Bargnani. But this could be a pick that gets traded -- the Cavs have been all over Valanciunas for weeks. We'll see. Also, it will take a while to truly grade this pick for the Raptors as it's unlikely Valanciunas comes over this year.
Birth date: May 6, 1992
Birthplace: Utena, Lithuania
Weight: 245 lbs
•Talented big man with a big wingspan
•Makes a living around the basket
•Soft touch around the basket
•Solid rebounder and shot-blocker
•Runs the floor well for a big man
•High basketball IQ and motor
Areas that need improvement:
•Needs to improve perimeter game
•Plays for Lietuvos Rytas in the Lithuanian league. Averaged 7.6 ppg and 5.4 rpg in 14.9 mpg in Euroleague play during the 2010-11 season.
Here is ESPN`s Fran Frachilla`s take on Valanciunas:
This is an NBA draft that is devoid of big men, so Lithuania's 7-foot, 245-pound 19-year-old, Jonas Valanciunas, has a lot of interest from teams in the lottery. At his age, there is no doubting his intriguing potential, but expecting him to help a team right away is unrealistic.
More critically for teams in position to select him is projecting where Valanciunas' game will be five years from now. It is not inconceivable to some NBA personnel that he could be the best player in this draft by then -- of course the risk is that the NBA executive that drafts him could be fired by then.
Valanciunas has played in virtually every major European junior tournament since he was 16 and he has been one of the continent's most prolific talents. In fact, he has been Europe's under-16 MVP and its under-18 MVP in different summers. He plans to play for Lithuania's European champions in July's Under-19 World Championships in Latvia. It will be his fifth straight summer representing his country.
This past season, at 18 and in his first full season in the Euroleague, Valanciunas averaged almost eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes on 71 percent shooting from the field. That doesn't sound like much, but only a handful of the top-25 high school seniors in the United States could realistically accomplish that.
Valanciunas may be the best or, more precisely, the only pure low post center at the top of this draft. While his longtime European rival, Enes Kanter, measured out at 6-foot-11 and 260 pounds, Kanter has the skill level play both inside and out and will likely be utilized that way. The young Lithuanian is going to spend most of his eventual NBA career within 10 feet of the rim.
I am a big fan of Valanciunas' athleticism for a young player his size. He runs the court well and jumps well. In addition, he has a reasonably quick second jump around the basket, making him a potentially effective offensive rebounder and shot blocker.
His major drawback at the moment is his lack of NBA-level strength, balance and defensive acumen in the paint. In fact, many times this past season, Valanciunas was manhandled around the basket by older and more mature Euroleague post players. It is the main reason it will be hard for him to log major minutes right away in the NBA.
While Valanciunas has tremendous offensive potential, it is based more on his athleticism than his skill level. Right now, he scores most of his points off energy plays like offensive rebounds, fast breaks and in the screen-and-roll game, where he gets a running start to the rim.
His lack of strength doesn't allow him to get close enough to the basket yet to utilize any low post moves. And his passing out of the post is average at this point. But based on the fact that he is a near 90 percent free throw shooter this season, there is an expectation that an offensive game can be developed as he physically matures. That is critical because he shows, at this point, no propensity for playing on the perimeter.
Attitude and disposition
Despite his lack of strength, Valanciunas is a competitor who did not back down this season as a teenager in a man's league. Even when he was getting beaten up, he played hard and with emotion and showed a mature disposition as he took his pounding. His motor runs at full throttle and he looks like he loves to play.
Best case scenario: Pau Gasol
There are athletic similarities between Gasol and Valanciunas but I emphasize here that this is a best case scenario. Both were highly successful at the European junior level as both won Under-18 European titles. And both contributed at the highest level of European basketball as teenagers.
Don't expect for Valanciunas to have the same impact as Gasol did in his rookie season. As the No. 3 pick in the 2001 draft by the Atlanta Hawks, Gasol was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Then, as a 20-year-old in his first NBA season, he went on to average 17 points and nine rebounds.
If Valanciunas plays in the NBA this coming season, he will be one of the youngest players in the league at 19. However, with a potential lockout looming, it would not surprise me if the young Lithuanian spends another year honing his skills in Europe. While it won't make fans of the team that drafts him happy, it may be the best way for him to mirror what Gasol did in his rookie season.
Welcome to Toronto, Jonas!