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Posted on June 28, 2011 | 7 Comments
Just a quick post. I just finished watching a stream of the Lithuanian U19 team beating the US, 108 to 75. No, that’s not a misprint. It was a complete rout, although to be fair, the Lithuanians have probably played together far, far more than the Americans, and the Americans did not appear to have their best players. Projected top 10 picks, Quincy Miller, James McAdoo and Anthony Davis did not play, but Patrick Young, a physically imposing center who is projected at 8 in next year’s draft, by Draft Express, did play.
Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors “controversial” 5th pick, also played and completely dominated the game. In just 25 minutes, he had 23 points, on 6 for 11 shooting from the field and 11 of 15 from the line (more on that in a moment), 11 rebounds and a block. And while they didn’t have it in the stats, I’m guessing the most positive +/- rating of anyone on the floor. The only time the Americans looked good was when he wasn’t on the floor, and when he came back out the US team looked lost again. There was no one that could handle Valanciunas and he was absolutely relentless. On offense, he showed a soft touch and decent footwork for a guy who’s supposed to be as raw as he is. The Lithuanians actually went to him on offense more than I was expecting, and although he’s no Olajuwon, he made a decent showing when posting up. He’s still got a lot of work to do, but the potential is definitely there.
He did have three turnovers and at least two of them came on post ups where defenders swarmed him and he simply coughed up the ball. It’s not all that surprising, though, considering his lack of experience scoring in the post.
On missed shots, whether his or a teammate’s, he constantly crashed the boards and wasn’t afraid of physical play. If he didn’t actually grab the rebound, he tried. He may get pushed around, at first, in the NBA, but he’s going to compete on the boards and work his ass off.
The fact that he took 15 free throws is an indication of just how active he was and how much he dominated the American front line. No one seemed to be able to keep him off the boards and the it seemed to frustrate the American team, which lead to a lot of the fouls.
On defense, while he didn’t block a lot of shots, he was extremely active and looked better than he has in some highlights. His length seemed to bother the Americans, although he also got scored on more than he should have, considering his size. One thing I noticed is that he tends to wait for the offensive player to come to him rather than go out and challenge him. It’s a habit he’s going to have to break. Thankfully, he’s young and it’s not something that should be too difficult to change, especially with his mentality.
Before the Raptors drafted Valanciunas, I had two concerns about him, mostly from watching just one full game of him. The first is his hands. In the first game I saw, he didn’t seem to have great hands and dropped a few too many balls for my liking. In this game, there was none of that. In fact, quite the opposite. There were a few difficult passes he caught without any trouble, and seemed to be able to grab most rebounds that he touched.
The other issue I had was his fouling. On his Euroleague team, he was fouling at a rate of one for every five minutes. At that rate, he’d be lucky to average 20 mpg, in the NBA, and in fact doesn’t even average that on his Euroleague team. Against the Americans, though, there didn’t seem to be much evidence of a guy who has trouble not hacking, and finished with 3 fouls in 25 minutes. Not great, but not bad, either. It’s obviously something he’ll need to work on, but he’s not going to be Rafael Araujo, it seems.
So it was a reassuring game that hopefully dispelled any of this nonsensical talk that Valanciunas is another soft European and Andrea Bargnani 2.0.
Edit: Yes, I’m aware I originally spelled “rout” incorrectly as “route”. In my defense, I caught it before anyone mentioned it.
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