Let's start this edition of Lunchbox Links on a positive note shall we?
Raptors' franchise cornerstone Jonas Valanciunas, who was injured in the final seconds of Tuesday's game versus the Chicago Bulls, seems to be a-ok. He was diagnosed with a flexion extension injury of the neck, but results came back negative in terms of further damage and he was scheduled to fly back from Chicago yesterday. No word yet on if he'll play tomorrow against the Bulls but I'm betting at this point that he'll sit it out.
If he sits, expect to see a healthy dose of Aaron Gray, and of course lots of the Raptors 2012-13 MVP, Amir Johnson.The National Post's Eric Koreen gives us a terrific breakdown of Johnson's value to the team, and then follows that up with a candid one-on-one with the former high school star.
The best part of Koreen's look at Amir's value?
Start here: With Johnson on the floor this year, the Raptors score 1.10 points per possession (an equivalent team would be sixth in the league) and allow 1.05 (the equivalent of 11th). With him on the bench, those numbers fall to 1.01 (28th) and 1.14 (30th).
Yep, that's not too bad.
My second favourite part?
Amir wearing the same workout shirt all season, to the point of it now being essentially ripped to shreds.
Moving on from the good news we have Mr. Koreen's look at the NBA's non-playoff teams, where he has the Raptors ranked ninth. The upside lies of course in Mr. Valanciunas, whereas the light at the end of the tunnel has been dimmed by the contracts of Rudy Gay, Andrea Bargnani, Landry Fields, et al.
Speaking of Bargnani, how about this stat - Bargs is on pace to finish the season averaging 3.7 rebounds per game. There are only two players 6-9 or taller this season, with a worst rebounding rate per 48 minutes. Oh, and no big deal but there are also 10 guards with higher rebounding rates per 48 than Bargs as well.
Bargs is part of the reason in fact that the Dinos find themselves on SportsIllustrated.com's list of the NBA season's biggest disappointments.
And not just this year!
Eric Koreen makes another appearance in today's links thanks to last week's look at the last five years of Raptors' futility.
The Toronto Star's Doug Smith even gets in on the fun and gives us his top franchise-altering mistakes, including firing former GM Glen Grunwald. Pretty hard to argue with any of these.
And unfortunately, as we've noted numerous times, there's likely no solace for the fans of this franchise via the upcoming draft. Therefore we're not even going to bother linking to Chad Ford's first mock draft (plus, who cares until the lottery order is set??) and we'll simply say that we're not getting our hopes up about retaining a pick.
Toronto hasn't been great at tanking for one, something the NBA needs to get a handle on, and second, the Dinos historically have had minimal "good luck" when it comes to the draft.
We'll end these links with the news that Amar'e Stoudemire is apparently going to help coach Canada in the upcoming Maccabiah Games in Israel.
Happy Thursday everyone!