Kyrie Irving was the clear-cut top pick in this year's draft, but there are those who believe when this thing is all said and done, Jonas Valanciunas will be considered the best player from this class. Almost nobody had him pegged to end up in Toronto, but Bryan Colangelo must've been on the same wavelength as those who think so highly of the Lithuanian big man, even though on the surface they really don't seem to need another center.
It's not entirely surprising to hear that some Toronto fans are afraid that their team just drafted Bargnani 2.0, but that simply isn't the case. Valanciunas is an entirely different player, setting up most often in the paint instead of floating around offensively like Bargnani tends to do. Valanciunas is also more of a banger, someone who compares himself to Pau Gasol (where Bargnani is more like a very poor man's Dirk Nowitzki), and that's something that should give heart to the Raptors faithful, not instill fear.
While it may be easy to question the pick, mostly because Toronto will not have a lottery pick this season to help them improve upon last year's dismal season, long-term this could prove to be a genius move. If there's a lockout-shortened season, Valanciunas will continue getting experience in Lithuania while every other rookie will be pumping iron at a Gold's Gym somewhere.
And if the Raptors are frustrating for another season, it's not the end of the world. We've already established how good the 2012 draft class is, and since the Raptors were pretty far from championship-caliber anyway, one more year of mediocrity towards the rebuilding process isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Valanciunas's buyout is complete, and it means he'll be a Raptor in 2012-2013, along with one other marquee rookie stud. Those are the foundations of legitimate rebuilding.
A question worth asking, though, is what will happen with Bargnani? Does Valanciunas and the rest of the team's corps of banger power forwards signal the eventual end of the former #1 pick? That's a tough call for another day, but in the meantime, fret not about the pick, Toronto fans. It was a good one, even if it means delayed gratification.