Jonas Valanciunas is a Lithuanian center who was picked fifth by the Toronto Raptors in 2011. Last season was his rookie season, and his stats were underwhelming for a top-five pick. He began the season averaging 19 minutes per game, shot 55 percent from the field, 75 percent on free throws, 5.5 rebounds, and one block for the first half of the season. He was also out for most of January because of a broken finger.
But in the second half of the season, his production improved. Part of the reason was he got more minutes once Andrea Bargnani was out for the rest of the season with an elbow injury. Valanciunas made good use of those extra minutes. All of his stats went up. The one remaining problem was he often got into foul trouble.
In the offseason, Bargnani was traded to the New York Knicks, which means Valanciunas and Rudy Gay will be the two main scorers for the Raptors. Valanciunas is slowly developing a low-post game. Last season, he was over reliant on his right-hook shot. Later, he developed a drop step left hook as a counter move. Nonetheless, defenses could easily tell when he was going to perform the hook shot once he got into the middle of the lane and therefore could strip him of the ball. He was able to use his outside shot to set up his inside game. Since he can shoot from 10-to-15 feet out, defenders have to step out and respect it, and Valanciunas blows by them for an easy deuce.
During the Las Vegas Summer League, Valanciunas became the MVP while averaging 18.8 points and 10 rebounds over four games. He got stronger, yet was still very mobile. Currently, Valanciunas is helping Lithuania advance in the Eurobasket tournament. If he had remained in the United States, he would have been able to work on his footwork, which will help cut some of his offensive fouls. All in all, the future looks bright for the young center.