If there's one thing that has stood out for me about Jonas Valanciunas, it's that he only has a "go" gear.
Look, I know we all really should temper our expectations about Jonas. Our last few rookie prospects never managed to reach those next levels, and you may be able to attribute that to the way the Raptors and their management have developed their rookies.
But with Jonas, if these are the skills that he's bringing in his rookie year and he continues to be a player who is driven and plays with passion, there's a hope that he'll excel no matter who is in charge of his development.
And you know, the last Raptor big man who had that kind of "go" attitude was Chris Bosh. That's not bad company to be with.
Terrence Ross, on the other hand, definitely needs the time and guidance to get to that next level.
Credit the fact that Jonas had a year overseas and played on the Lithuanian Olympics team where he had to endure being benched. I think Jonas has handled himself that much better thanks to his experience.
Ross, on the other hand, seemed to give up for a while when not getting his minutes. After the Rudy Gay trade, we saw his minutes almost halve in February and his productivity dropped off the face of the earth. He experienced his season lows in Field Goals Made%, 3 Pts Made%, Rebounding%, and the list goes on and on.
In March, as his minutes climbed, so did his percentages. All the way back to what they were in January.
So it goes to show you that Ross needs to be handled a little more delicately than Valanciunas.
Which is why I'm still concerned about our log jam in the SG/SF positions. You can say that competition means that Ross will understand that his position is not safe on the Raptors unless he puts in the work to become a better player. But at the same time, with both Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan guaranteed certain minutes, the question is if the plant will eventually out grow the pot he was placed in.
It's definitely too soon to be simply handing minutes and making future decisions about Ross without knowing how much more growth we'll see. But it should be a factor in how the Raptors decide to approach contract extensions and the like since Ross has shown flashes of brilliance.
And that's not even factoring in a return to form for Landry Fields.
In any case, both players will get their share of minutes as the Raptors take on the Wizards. This was not a game to circle in the calendar in my opinion, as I've never been the biggest fan of John Wall. But in any case, here are the three keys for tonight's game:
1) Watch the fouls - With the fifth highest free throws attempted in March, the Wizards are challenging teams and getting to the line. They're sixth overall in march for made free throws at well. It's here where the Wizards make up a lot of their points, and their king of free throws is John Wall with just over seven attempts (six made) per game. Following up just behind him is Nene, with 5.6 attempted and 4 made per game.
It could mean a long night for the Raptors bigs if others don't take care of their assignment, so I'm watching how many fouls our bigs rack up over the course of the night.
2) Don't be afraid to go inside - Strangely enough, the Wizards are first in March for Blocks attempted, but twenty fifth in actual Blocks. To the Raptors, I would suggest that it means that they shouldn't be afraid of attacking the Wizards. Unfortunately for all of us, this team has few slashers, and those few are often nailed to the bench. Unless the Raptors really change their focus, I'm not sure this will happen, but we can always hope.
3) Big man work out - With Emeka Okafor, Nene, Jonas Valanciunas, and Amir Johnson all mixing it up and smashing into each other, I expect the physical game is going to matter quite a bit. I would have my eye on the interior because the Wizards have a pretty strong defensive rebounding team. With Jonas getting pushed around earlier in the year, let's hope he's learned a few more tricks to fight against the two Wizard veterans.