Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas
27-Year-Old CenterC
Memphis Grizzlies
Injury Ankle
Est. Return 7/1/2019
2018 Fantasy Outlook
Valanciunas once again put up strong per-minute numbers in his sixth season despite his workload being the smallest of his career. He finished the year averaging just 22.4 minutes, which was likely an attempt by the Raptors to go with some smaller, more athletic lineups to matchup better with opponents across the league. Despite more than a three-minute drop in his playing time from the year prior, Valanciunas upped his scoring to 12.7 points, and also kept similar averages elsewhere with 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 blocks. His value could see a resurgence heading into the upcoming campaign as well. Recently promoted head coach Nick Nurse appears to be a big fan of the seven-footer and thinks he can be effective playing alongside Kyle Lowry and newly acquired Kawhi Leonard, who was brought over in a trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio. Valanciunas already previewed a solid three-point stroke last year, knocking down 30-of-74 attempts (40.5 percent) and has apparently continued to work on it this offseason. That improvement could help expand his game and keep him on the floor for longer durations. The Raptors haven't confirmed who will start in the frontcourt, but Valanciunas should reclaim his top spot at center, with the likes of Serge Ibaka and OG Anunoby alternating as the starting power forward. With promising youngster Jakob Poeltl also being sent to the Spurs, Valanciunas has the potential to see a slight uptick in his workload, which opens the door for him to out-perform his likely draft positioning in the mid-to-late rounds of drafts. Read Past Outlooks
$Signed a four-year, $64 million contract extension with the Raptors in August of 2015. Traded to the Grizzlies in February of 2019. Contract includes $17.62 million player option for 2019-20.
Shut down for season
CMemphis Grizzlies
April 1, 2019
Valanciunas (ankle) has been diagnosed with a Grade 2 ankle sprain and has been ruled out for the last five games of the season, Michael Wallace of the Grizzlies' official site reports.
This diagnosis isn't unexpected, as Valanciunas needed help just to get off the court after suffering the injury Sunday night. It is good news that he won't require surgery, however. There's no need for the Grizzlies to push their starting center back into action at this point, especially with Memphis firmly out of the playoff picture.
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Past Fantasy Outlooks
It was a relatively disappointing 2016-17 campaign for Valanciunas, as he didn't quite have the statistical jump that was envisioned following the departure of Bismack Biyombo to the Magic. Valanciunas ended up averaging nearly identical minutes per game with 25.8, while adding 12.0 points and 9.5 rebounds over 80 starts, both of which were similar to the previous year's totals. The addition of Serge Ibaka at the trade deadline certainly didn't help either, as that allowed the Raptors to use a more athletic center that could stretch the floor occasionally, which appears to be the trend in today's NBA landscape. With Ibaka receiving a three-year, $65 million extension this offseason, that will likely again hamper Valanciunas' ability to show improvement with his overall production. He's still penciled in as the team's starting center, but Ibaka's versatility could continue to be an issue. Playing time similar to the 25.8 minutes he saw in 2016-17 is expected for the 25-year-old, although if the Raptors continue to experiment with a more athletic lineup and are successful in doing so, that could come at the expense of Valanciunas, which would hurt his potential as a Fantasy option.
While he didn’t quite develop into a fantasy star at the center spot in his fourth NBA campaign, Valanciunas nonetheless showed some incremental growth, which he’s been able to do during every season of his career. The 24-year-old didn’t benefit from a minute increase in 2015-16, but still averaged a career-high 12.8 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game and shot 56.5 percent from the floor and 76.1 percent from the charity stripe. A fractured left hand ended up costing Valanciunas 22 games, disrupting what could have been a far more explosive breakout season. In Valanciunas’ stead, the energetic Bismack Biyombo proved to be a quality replacement in the starting lineup and was especially magnificent in the playoffs, when Valanciunas missed a few games with a sprained ankle. Biyombo’s capable presence either as a starter or off the bench certainly helped the Raptors from a team standpoint, but it hurt Valanciunas’ statistical output, as coach Dwane Casey often chose to split the minutes evenly between the two rather than riding one option more heavily. However, with Biyombo since bolting for the Magic this summer on a four-year, $72 million contract, Valanciunas no longer faces many threats to his playing time, as neither of his projected backups, Lucas Nogueira and first-round pick Jakob Poeltl, have served as regular rotation options in the NBA. With the promise of expanded minutes this season, only a bad beat on the health front stands in the way of Valanciunas surging past last year’s statistics. It’s probably best to view the fractured hand that temporarily derailed Valanciunas in 2015-16 as a fluke, considering he missed only three combined games in the preceding two seasons.
While expectations for Valanciunas were sky-high when he was drafted back in 2011, his slow progress has caused some Raptors fans to question whether he was really a long-term piece of the puzzle, but GM Masai Ujiri squashed any thought of getting rid of the young Lithuanian when he inked him to a four-year, $64 million extension this offseason. While he's not an elite center, Valanciunas is a positive contributor, averaging 26 minutes, 12.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 0.4 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 80 games while shooting 57 percent from the floor and 79 percent from the free-throw line, excellent shooting numbers for a big man. At this point in his career, he should be able to handle a bigger workload, but Raptors coach Dwane Casey all but refuses to leave Valanciunas in the game when the other team uses a smaller lineup, a decision that makes some sense in the moment given Valanciunas' defensive struggles against quicker opponents but which has also unquestionably hindered his development. Casey may now face an additional $64 million in pressure to leave Valanciunas in the lineup come what may, so this season may be his best chance to prove he has true star potential.
Young centers can often take some time to blossom, and Valanciunas was no exception in his second NBA campaign. The 22-year-old Lithuanian still turned in solid numbers as he played in and started 81 games, averaging 11.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 28 minutes per game while shooting 53 percent from the floor and an impressive-for-a-big 76 percent from the free-throw line (albeit on just 3.2 attempts per game). He was out of position too often on the defensive end to take full advantage of his shot-blocking potential, and despite the slew of talented, athletic guards and wings around him on the Raptors' roster, Valanciunas still tries to do a little too much offensively. He's got good size and athleticism and is developing a solid mid-range shot, and as his skills and maturity catch up with his physical tools, Valanciunas should become a consistent double-double threat. With DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry in place as the backcourt engine of the Raptors, the club is prepared to take their time and let Valanciunas develop at his own pace. He may not break out in 2014-2015, but he should take another step forward.
The 21-year-old center had an up-and-down rookie campaign with the Raptors. He routinely displayed some of the skills that made him the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 draft, but he wasn't able to find his groove until late in the season. Once the Raptors opted to loosen the leash and hand over a full compliment of minutes to Valanciunas late in the season, he flashed future All-Star potential. Over the final 17 games of the regular season, Valanciunas averaged 14.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 63 percent from the floor and 84 percent from the line in 32 minutes per game. His productive ways carried over to the Las Vegas Summer League, where Valanciunas averaged 18.8 points and 10.0 rebounds en route to winning MVP honors. He bulked up significantly in the offseason, which should help deal with the physical rigors of the NBA game. And his skill set is considered elite for a young big man, as he has better-than-advertised athleticism and a deft touch around the rim, which will lead to a high shooting percentage. The Raptors parted ways with Andrea Bargnani this offseason and plan to hand over the keys to Valanciunas going forward. He'll have a much bigger role in his sophomore campaign and figures to be one of the more popular breakout options at the center position.
After falling to the Raptors with the fifth pick in 2011, Valanciunas will finally make his North American debut. He put up respectable numbers in Euroleague competition but struggled badly in the Olympics. He heads into the NBA looking like a solid defensive presence in the paint with great length (he's 6-11 with a big wingspan), a penchant for foul trouble and an unpolished offensive game. Don't expect a huge impact in any category outside of perhaps blocks, but in a few years there's a good chance he'll be the best true center in franchise history. If you need a comp to a current player's development curve, Tyson Chandler might be the best fit.
More Fantasy News
Will not return Sunday
CMemphis Grizzlies
March 31, 2019
Valanciunas (ankle) will not return to Sunday's game against the Clippers.
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Needs help off court
CMemphis Grizzlies
March 31, 2019
Valanciunas needed assistance off the court after suffering an ankle injury during Sunday's game against the Clippers, David Cobb of The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports.
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Massive output in win
CMemphis Grizzlies
March 31, 2019
Valanciunas (abdomen) managed 34 points (16-28 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT), 20 rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks across 34 minutes in the Grizzlies' 120-115 win over the Suns on Saturday.
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Cleared to play
CMemphis Grizzlies
March 30, 2019
Valanciunas (abdomen) will play and start Saturday against the Suns.
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Probable for Saturday
CMemphis Grizzlies
March 29, 2019
Valanciunas is probable for Saturday's game against the Suns with abdominal soreness.
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