Owning Jonas Valanciunas in season-long fantasy basketball leagues over his first two years in the NBA was frustrating. On a per-minute basis, JV is one of the premier centers in the fake game, giving you great efficiency stats (high percentages and low turnovers) and the necessary rebounding and blocks you’d want from your big man. The only problem? He averaged a conservative 26.3 minutes per contest over his rookie and sophomore campaigns, despite starting in 138 of his 143 games played.
Year three looks like more of the same so far, as Valanciunas has yet to crack the 30-minute mark through three games played and is averaging a mere 25.0 minutes per outing. This was the year when many people were calling for more touches for JV, so he went fairly high in fantasy drafts this season. His upside is undeniable, but more low-minute games this year will just mean more frustration for fantasy owners.
That’s why now is the perfect time to send out a buy-low offer.
Yes, Dwane Casey might continue to handle Jonas with kid gloves. That’s perfectly reasonable when you consider that he’s still a kid. At only 22 years old, Jonas is still younger than Chicago Bulls rookie Doug McDermott, for instance. Casey won’t just hand him the lion's share of minutes with Amir Johnson, Patrick Patterson, Tyler Hansbrough, and Chuck Hayes rounding out a deep big-man rotation, but Jonas will earn his touches, make no mistake.
JV had a fantastic summer at the FIBA World cup playing for Lithuania and has quietly been excellent fantasy-wise through three games to start the season as well. He’s currently the 50th-ranked player in nine-category leagues (per basketballmonster.com), despite the moderate helping of minutes.
One might point to his low foul totals (3, 3, and 4 through the first three games) and think that Casey’s leash is too short, but the resulting 4.8 fouls per 36 minutes is higher than his two previous years and one of the worst rates on the team so far. Throwing him to the wolves would be fine on a lottery team, but continuing to teach him how to be patient and to avoid fouls defensively while playing on what is now a contender is a must. Either way, the chances of him continuing to average over three whole minutes less than last season is very unlikely to continue.
Besides, his 21.2% usage rate so far (compared to 17.9% for his career) suggests that the ball is going through him more than ever before, even if we don’t necessarily feel that way. His per-36 averages are monstrous and all represent career highs (with the exception of field goal percentage, which is bound to get closer to his career 53.9% rate eventually). It's a small sample size, sure, but this certainly looks like the per-minute breakout we were hoping for:
JV is definitely someone to target in season-long fantasy leagues and also makes for a good value play against the Oklahoma City Thunder tonight on FanDuel (which if you haven’t signed up for yet, you can do so here).
At $6,700, Jonas has the 7th-highest price for a center, but could flirt with one of the highest scores in terms of fantasy points. His size will be an asset for the Raps in the matchup against Thunder bigs Steven Adams and Kendrick Perkins and he just so happens to have averaged 37.5 minutes per contest through his three career tilts with OKC (the most of any matchup for him in the entire league). Those per-36 numbers above could very well be in play for JV tonight.
I’ll be rolling him out there, for sure. Who else do you guys like tonight?
Even though this is a sponsored post with affilaite links, all of the opinions in this post are my own. And as an FYI, FanDuel gave me some cash to play its daily fantasy games.