Bringing Valanciunas to Raptors this Season if Possible, Makes Ton of Sense

Could Toronto bring top pick Jonas Valanciunas over a year early?


Word on the street is that the Raptors are trying to perhaps bring draft pick Jonas Valanciunas over to the team this season, and the HQ would like nothing better than to see that go down.

A lot of the talk around the Toronto Raptors so far this "off-season" has been what to do with what appears to be a gaping hole at the team's center position.

Should the team look for a stop-gap solution like a Chuck Hayes or Jason Collins via free agency?

What about using a current player like Ed Davis or Amir Johnson there?

Perhaps a trade?

Or maybe none of the above.

As reported by ESPN.com's Chad Ford on Saturday afternoon, it sounds like the Raptors have made inquiries about bringing recent first round pick, Jonas Valanciunas, over to the NBA for the upcoming season. You may recall of course that Valanciunas was expected to play this season in Europe with Lietuvos Rytas, and then join the Raptors for the 2012-13 campaign.

But if perhaps a buy-out can be reached, maybe we see the Lithuanian sensation one year early.

Now it still sounds like there's a very slim chance that Toronto can get him over here in the next few weeks or so, but it's an interesting idea is it not?

In fact it's one that I'm hoping comes to fruition for a variety of reasons.

For starters, it saves a season developmentally. Sure, it will be tough slogging for Valanciunas as he goes up against some of the biggest and most dominant basketball players in the world on a nightly basis, but why not throw him in the fire here. Sure, another season at Rytas would do him a world of good, but I'm not sure it would prepare him a ton more for the NBA. The NBA is kind of like the deep end of the pool in swimming lessons and all the doggy paddling in the shallow end never really prepares you like being thrown into the deep and having to stay afloat.

Also in terms of development, maybe if Val comes over this season we can finally put an end to this Andrea Bargnani mess. In many ways, I believe that Valanciunas remains Bryan Colangelo's last chance at showing that Bargs can work as a starter for this team, and pairing the defensive-minded, rebound-grabbing, shot-blocking Lithuanian with Andrea is the way to do it.

Now, regardless of how you feel that may work out, there's no denying that it would be much better to give this theory a shot this year, than putting it off for yet another season. In fact considering the team has a new coach, a new system, especially on D, it would be a huge asset to have Valanciunas on board now, rather than get a start with the new theorems, and have to fit him in later.

The impact of bringing Val over extends to other players as well. The team needs to decide at some point if Ed Davis or Amir Johnson, or both, are indeed going to be parts of the club's future going forward, and Valanciunas' addition this year likely speeds up this decision-making process too.

And how about the center position itself?

That's how we kicked off this whole discussion and yes, adding Valanciunas now has a huge impact then on Bryan Colangelo's free-agency plans. Suddenly other needs like perimeter defence and three-point shooting can perhaps be moved to the fore-front with Valanciunas manning the 5, and BC can find some cheap, veteran help to back him up.

That all sounds good so presuming Colangelo can indeed figure out a way to bring him to Toronto this season, is there any potential downside to such a plan?

It's hard to see much.

Sure, Valanciunas' addition should help the club defensively, but it's hard to imagine him making a huge difference in the club's win total in his rookie season. Remember Ed Davis last year? I'm guessing we'd see something similar where at times Jonas produces some "wow" moments, and at others, he looks completely over-matched.

To me this is a key point as the Raptors absolutely need to ensure they nab a high pick in the upcoming draft, and even with the addition of Jonas, and a shortened season, that still looks to be the case.

Should the Raptors bring him along at a slower pace though? That's probably the major concern some fans will have and to them I'd point to recent college big men like DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, both of whom had similar translatable NBA skills such as Jonas, both of whom successfully made the jump. In fact Valanciunas should be a step ahead of most college stars because he's been playing against arguably the best competition in the world outside the NBA for some time now.

So downside?

It's hard to find much unless you're of the belief that Jonas comes in and gets this club into the playoffs.

I'm not ready to subscribe to that theory, even after witnessing his impact in U-19 play against some of the top US college pivots, so if BC can find a way to get Jonas over here, the sooner the better.

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