Big men in the NBA get paid.
Jonas Valanciunas is a big man — officially 7’1″, 255 pounds — who is a skilled scorer near the basket (he averaged 12 points a game on 57 percent shooting last season). He’s got some holes in his game (he’s not a great rim protector, his passing needs work) but still big men get paid.
And he’s going to get paid with a healthy contract extension to his rookie deal, reports Marc Stein of ESPN. Although he’s taking a little less than I expected.
The two sides had until Nov. 1 to get a deal done, but they got it done early.
Because he’s a big and next summer around 20 NBA teams may have max salary money (thanks to the coming spike in the salary cap from the new television deal), it was possible he would push for a max contract extension, which would have started at around $19 million per year. If he had waited until next summer, he would have gotten the max from somebody.
However, like a lot of players did this summer, Valanciunas appears willing to take a little less (although still a large sum) for the security of getting it done and staying in a situation he likes. It’s the bird in the hand theory, and when you saw the rash of injuries around the league last year it’s understandable. He’s about to make the kind of money that sets a family up for generations, you can’t fault him for wanting to lock that down now.
On the court, the Raptors tweaked their roster this summer to become more defensive minded, bringing in DeMarre Carroll for example. But for it all to work on both ends Valanciunas is going to have to take a step forward. He has to become a better defensive presence in the paint. He has to diversify his offensive game.
He’s got to play like a guy who deserves the extension he is about to land.