Jonas Valanciunas puts up the numbers of a quality NBA center — 12 points and 9.5 rebounds a game last season, he’s an efficient scorer — but yet the Raptors were 5.1 points per 100 possessions better when he sitting on the bench last season. The Toronto offense was about the same when he played, but their defense struggled when he was on the court — bigger, slower centers who do not protect the rim well are getting exposed in a modern NBA.
Toronto wants to retool their roster to better challenge Cleveland and Boston and moving Valanciunas — and his three-years, nearly $40 million contract — has proven difficult, reports Sean Deveney of the Sporting News.
Toronto has sought to deal Valanciunas since the February trade deadline. They’d had conversations with Detroit and New Orleans then, sources said, and continued to have discussions around Valanciunas at the draft, but talks with the likes of Sacramento, Phoenix, Charlotte, Portland and Atlanta did not get very far.
Valanciunas could wind up being eclipsed in Toronto, even without a deal. One of the aims of the offseason for the Raptors was to both unload some salary and clear up playing time for some younger, hungrier players the Raptors have been developing. Among those are second-year men Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, and both had very good showings this summer.
Valanciunas has skills. He is an efficient scorer in the post (24.2 percent of his attempts last season), he sets a good pick, and when he gets the ball back as the roll man he scores at 1.3 points per 100 possessions, a very high rate (that accounted for 20 percent of his shot attempts). He gets the Raptors rebounds.
The challenge is the Raptors offense is moving away from what Valanciunas brings to the table, and the Raptors’ younger players may better fit the team’s direction. Last season, 69 percent of Valanciunas’ shots came within eight feet of the rim, he does not space the floor. That can allow his defender to hang near the basket and clog up the drives of Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan.
They will keep shopping him, but right now they may need to throw in a sweetener to get someone to take on his contract.