Toronto’s backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan gets the bulk o the attention, but the 8-6 Raptors are only going to go as far this season as big man Jonas Valanciunas can take them — they need his presence in the paint to balance out their offense, plus protect the rim at the other end.
Which is why losing him for a while is going to be such a blow.
Valanciunas suffered a fracture in his left hand going for a dunk during Toronto’s win Friday night over the Lakers. Specifically the team said X-Rays showed a fractured fourth metacarpal. The team wants to do more evaluation before giving a timeline for his return, but a broken hand can be a month or more.
It happened on this play.
Valanciunas has averaged 13.5 points and 9.8 rebounds a night, and he does it efficiently (a true shooting percentage of 60.6 percent). Think of it this way, the Raptors offense is 12.6 points per 100 possesions better when he is on the court. The challenge for the Raptors for the next month is they don’t have anyone on the roster who can score inside the way he does. Expect Bismack Biyombo, to get more time, and while he brings shot blocking he isn’t near the same offensive.
The Raptors have battled the injury bug all season, with DeMarre Carroll and Terrence Ross missing time. They are off to a solid 8-6 record, but in a much deeper East they need all the wins they can get. Missing Valanciunas is going to hurt that cause.