Jonas Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas
26-Year-Old CenterC
Toronto Raptors
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.
Not locked into starting five
CToronto Raptors
October 15, 2018
Valanciunas is expected to be in and out of the starting lineup this season based mostly on matchups, Michael Grange of SportsNet reports.
Valanciunas has started all but six games in his NBA career, but his usual spot in the starting five is written in pencil this season, rather than ink. Under new coach Nick Nurse, Toronto has tried out a few different alignments during the preseason -- some featuring Serge Ibaka and Valanciunas starting alongside each other, and others with Ibaka at the five. "Being flexible, adjusting and showing different lineups every game. Different weapons. Different defense. That is how we can be strong," Valanciunas said Sunday when asked about his changing role. The veteran appears content with however Nurse decides to handle the rotation heading into Wednesday's season opener and beyond. "We know how to play with different matchups," Valanciunas said. "Doesn't matter if I'm first unit, second unit. Same thing for Serge. I'm starting with Pascal or Serge or OG at the four. Different people, same mindset. Probably that is our advantage and that is our strength."
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Jonas Valanciunas NBA Stats
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Jonas Valanciunas 2017–18 NBA Game Log
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Depth Chart Status
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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
Out for preseason finale
CToronto Raptors
October 11, 2018
Valanciunas will be rested for Thursday's preseason matchup with the Pelicans, Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports.
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Coming off bench Wednesday
CToronto Raptors
October 10, 2018
Valanciunas is coming off the bench Wednesday against Brooklyn, Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports.
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Puts up 18 and 9 in loss
CToronto Raptors
October 3, 2018
Valanciunas had 18 points (6-11 FG, 6-6 FT) and nine rebounds in Tuesday's preseason loss to Utah.
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Starting Tuesday
CToronto Raptors
October 2, 2018
Valanciunas will start at center Tuesday against the Jazz.
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Scores team-high 17 off bench
CToronto Raptors
September 29, 2018
Valanciunas scored a team-high 17 points (4-8 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 9-9 FT) while adding seven rebounds, three steals, an assist and a block in 19 minutes off the bench during Saturday's preseason win over the Trail Blazers.
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