After seeing him bulked up at Summer League and looking like a man among boys, after seeing him play well for his native Lithuania over the summer, a lot of people picked Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas to have a breakout season.
Not so much. He’s scoring a little more per game but that’s just because he’s shooting more, his shooting percentage dropped from 55.7 percent last season to 49.5 percent this season. He’s grabbing a slightly higher percentage of rebounds, but overall he’s not taken the expected step forward.
Sunday Pau Gasol was having his way with Valanciunas and Raptors coach Dwane Casey went with his other options, as he told the Toronto Sun.
“He needed to do a better job on Pau Gasol and I thought Chuck (Hayes) and Amir (Johnson) did a better job on him and we went for the defensive matchup,” Casey explained…
Valanciunas struggled Wednesday in Boston as well, but on that night all the bigs were having a tough time. With Hayes playing Gasol tough, Casey chose to go with him over his sophomore centre.
Amir Johnson is having his second solid season in a row up in Toronto, and Chuck Hayes is the definition of a solid veteran who can be relied upon.
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Valanciunas gets 31.9 percent of his shot attempts out of post-ups and shoots 48.5 percent on those, which is fairly pedestrian (via Synergy Sports). He’s far more effective when moving off the ball, and he can be a force on the offensive glass at times, but he’s not as big a force as the roll man as the Raptors would hope with Kyle Lowry.
Valanciunas still is a good second-year player, and maybe the third season is the year he makes the leap. You could see him as part of what is being built by Masai Ujiri in Toronto, but how big a part will depend on if he can consistently find his game.