In Saturday’s Team USA squeaker against Lithuania, fringe NBA player (who hasn’t been in the league for a year) played nearly 18 minutes, particularly down the stretch.
Raptors lottery pick and presumed starting center next season, Jonas Valanciunas, played just eight. It’s yet another game where Valanciunas has struggled to see floor time and struggled to produce when granted any. It’s been the first real concern in the big man’s development, when he was expected to be the next big thing to hit the NBA with his defense and production in the pick and roll.
Afterwards, Lithuania’s coach told ESPN that he preferred Songaila’s “NBA know-how” vs. Valanciunas’ youth when Tyson Chandler was off the floor.
Songaila has some ability, and in all honesty, international competition changes the complexion of what many players can do and who they are. Jose Calderon is a legitimate star, Russell Westbrook is a role player. This is just part of it. But that’s got to be concerning. It’s thought that Valanciunas can make an immediate impact. If he’s unable to convince his coach to get minutes on talent alone over Songaila, that’s an issue.
But there’s no reason to panic. One, Valanciunas is young, and the coach is trying to win games right now. His job isn’t to develop Valanciunas, whereas the Raptors have that luxury when the playoffs are possible but not essential. He also won’t be facing, you know, Team USA every game, or the Gasol brothers. But if we’re not tapping the breaks on the JoVal car, we may want to at least get the foot ready.