All throughout his career playing in the Lithuanian National Basketball League and the Lithuanian Basketball League, Jonas Valanciunas found success and had numerous awards in his native Lithuania. He was also a fixture in the under-16, under-18 and under-19 FIBA National Teams and was named the MVP of the tournament all three times. His record still stands as the only player to win a Gold Medal and an MVP in all of his FIBA U-tournaments. With all of his success overseas, the question now stands whether he can carry that on to the NBA hardwood in the upcoming 2012-13 season.
Valanciunas was drafted by the Toronto Raptors with their fifth pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Lietuvos Rytas of the Lithuanian Basketball League didn’t allow him to join the NBA until this season. He also played in this year’s Olympics, but he was a disappointment to say the least. Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura didn’t know how to use him, which unfortunately meant that he was only used sparingly as a result. His game in the Olympics is not an indicator of his play, though, as Valanciunas was too excited and pressured to produce in the big games. Now entering the NBA, Valanciunas should be brought in slowly to acclimate himself with the bigger, stronger and faster opponents.
But what does that mean for his productivity in his first year with the club and the NBA? He is talented no doubt, but he is still relatively raw and he may feel the growing pains most rookies experience when adjusting to life in the NBA. He will probably start the year off the bench as a back-up to Aaron Gray. But as soon as he is ready, he should slowly show the league why he is one of the best up-and-coming big men in the league.