The pressure is officially on Jonas Valanciunas
After being named Most Valuable Player of the Las Vegas Summer League, the seven-foot Lithuanian garnered a great deal of praise from just about every member of the media that saw him play in Nevada.
It is possible that perhaps he has received too much praise.
It seems strange to say that a meaningless accolade such as "Summer League MVP" has any real barring on how a player is viewed, but the fact is that it does - even if it shouldn't
Granted it's not necessarily so much that he was named MVP as much as the way he looked while he was earning that distinction. Thanks to a significant increase in bulk and a more refined post game, Valanciunas beat up on weaker opponents inside.
In short: JV did exactly what he should do given his skill level and the skill level of the clearly inferior competition.
And yet, despite the obvious issues with earning the MVP honor in a glorified pickup league, Valanciunas has been put in a position where a breakout season during the upcoming campaign is expected of him.
The point isn't so much that he isn't capable of performing up to those standards. It's just interesting to see how a solid rookie season and a brief, dominant period of summer league basketball can create expectations that stand in such stark contrast of everything that has been lobbied about the youngster since day one.
From the moment he was drafted right through last season, patience with respect to Valanciunas has been preached almost relentlessly. And, for the most part, members of the media exercised patience when discussing and reflecting upon his performance last season and potential going forward.
However, I fear that expectations have been turned up to an all-new level, despite not much tangibly changing.
DeMar DeRozan didn't help matters after he placed heavy praise on the 21 year-old when speaking with David Aldridge of NBA.com
"He can take us to the next level, without a doubt," DeRozan said Saturday. "The league, when you have a dominant big, like he could potentially be, it will show you what good teams really are. With myself on the team, and we have Rudy, and we have a point guard like Kyle, if we have a center like Jonas stepping up at a young age, that could do a lot for us, man."
He's not wrong either. Jonas possesses the potential to take this team to another level if he plays like a dominant big man --- this is a completely different team though, if he suffers a sophomore slump, which is not uncommon for a young centre to experience.
For the Raptors, Valanciunas' play could be the difference between them being a lottery team or earning a possible playoff birth and being competitive for the first time in six years.
That is a heavy weight to carry.
Especially when you consider that he is still only 21 and plays a position that historically requires a number of years in order to properly acclimate to at the NBA level.
Ultimately, a lot is going to be expected of JV. This is undeniable. Just as it was the case last season, be careful not to expect too much too soon.