You know what? I still blame whatever broadcast I was watching while logging Yahoo fantasy highlights for calling Jonas Valanciunas Latvian and not Lithuanian as the cause for me to make the same mistake. Sure I should’ve fact checked! But who does that anymore? Cough, cough, Kansas City Royals graphics truck, cough. Then again, maybe I heard wrong and I have no idea which game it was and who’s broadcast it was, so I need proof. Who needs proof anymore either? I pretty much don’t know or have anything…
Well now that I have undersold my intelligence, let me try to get you to buy on the Luminescent Lithuanian before anyone else in your draft can nab him:
2012-13 Line: 8.9 Pts/6.0 Reb/0.7 Ast/0.3 Stl/1.3 Blk/3.3 FGM/0.0 3PTM/2.4 FTM
2012-13 %s: 55.7 FG%/NA 3PT%/78.9 FT%
Obviously Valanciunas was a rookie, he didn’t play a full season, and had a broken finger that he has to be eased back from. So the season numbers are not what you want to look at, but to be uniform with the sleeper pieces this year, I included them.
In 15 games in March he went 11.4-7.3 a night with 1.1 blocks while shooting an unreal 62%. Talk about Birdman in the playoffs! Then in 7 April games, LL went 14.9-5.9 and up to 2.4 blocks. His free throw shooting those last 7 games were 6.6-7.7 for a fantastic 85.2% clip. As the fantasy baseball community would say, “small sample!” Well sure, but these were the only months he got big minutes, and with all efforts going into trading Andrea Bargnani, who was hurt most of those games anyway, it looks like Valanciunas will be the everyday 5 up North.
What I love about Valanciunas is his ability to absorb contact and still score. He’s able to score a ton of and-ones and get to the line in huge bunches. On April 3rd against the Wizards, he was an unreal 16-18 at the line and was unstoppable down low. Given it was the Wizards with no consistent big man, and also a game that boosted that big spike in FTM/FTA stats in April as I listed above, but I think he can have 10-15 double digit free throw games in there, while shooting mid-80% from the line. His shooting efficiency from the floor is also very desirable, getting more and more consistent with bigger minutes, and I think can easy repeat 55.7 FG% and even up to 57-58%.
While he’s entering only his second season at age 21, he’s been playing pro ball in Europe since he was 16, so he’s used to banging around the Balkins. His presence down low isn’t exactly violent, but it’s smooth and succinct. With Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan (another sleeper I love heading into 2013-2014) slashing to the rim, I expect a lot of solid cleanup opportunities from LL with the defense sucked in. I think the Raptors have the makings of a really solid bottom 3-4 Eastern playoff team.
I may have pushed him too high with a 50 overall ranking heading into next season, that’s the most optimistic you’ll see anywhere, but I think he’s a guy you want on all your teams. He’ll probably drop a few spots in the re-rankings closer to the season, but he’ll happily end up on all my teams with a 6th round pick. The shooting %s are going to be fantastic.
2013-14 Proj: 16.6 Pts/7.7 Rebs/2.1 Asts/0.6 Stls/1.7 Blks/6.0 FGM/NA 3PTM/4.6 FTM