Toronto’s Valanciunas looking like a draft-day steal

3 Comments

When the Toronto Raptors used another first round pick on another European player, half of Toronto said “who?” and the other half just rolled their eyes.

But we tried to tell you at the time — Jonas Valanciunas was the pick to make.

And his performance for Lithuania at the FIBA Under-19 World Championships is turning heads — he earned tournament honors averaging MVP honors while averaging 23.0 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game. He dropped 36 points on Serbia in the tournament finals to lead Lithuania to the win.

Yes, he did it against inferior talent — although Valanciunas completely outclassed Florida center Patric Young, who is considered a borderline lottery pick for next year.

They were watching in Toronto and Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun liked what he saw.

In addition to the gaudy numbers, Valanciunas displayed a genuine love for the game and an intensity and desire to get results at both ends. He showed good fluidity and bounce and kept his foul rate — one of his main weaknesses — mostly under control. He played every minute of the final and looked like he could have kept going, instead bolting around the gym and playing to the many Lithuanian fans in the building before accepting his MVP and championship trophies.

For an in depth breakdown of how Valanciunas plays, check out Sebastian Pruitti over at NBA Playbook, who looked closely at his game.

Now, this all needs to come with a lot of disclaimers because he is 19 and… well, do you remember yourself at 19? Picking the best pro at 19 is hard because people develop differently. But the early signs are good.

This is not Andrea Bargnani part two. The Raptors may have the steal of the draft.