Jonas Valanciunas showed up to Las Vegas NBA Summer League and the first thing you noticed was his physique — the 21-year-old had hit the gym and filled out his upper body considerably.
He then used that new strength to be the most dominant player in Las Vegas — he averaged 18.8 points per game on 56 percent shooting, plus 10 rebounds a game. He was an intimidating defensive force and patient on offense when he got the ball in the block. He was a man among boys.
He deserved it and was named Summer League MVP on Monday.
Valanciunas, the No. 5 pick in 2011, still has a lot of European game in him — he has a midrange shot, he loves to face up then use pump fakes to get his defender off balance then move past them. It worked well in Las Vegas against the undisciplined defenders he often face.
But it was other parts of his game that showed improvement that will matter more. His footwork is improved and he developed a nice jump hook he can take with either hand. He also can pass well out of the post.
How Valanciunas’ development shakes out against the bigger, stronger, more disciplined players he will see in the NBA regular season is the looming question.
But he passed the first test, and the fact there was this much development bodes well for the future of the Raptors and Valanciunas.
Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.
Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.
Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.