Jonas Valanciunas. He's got many fans in the Raptors fan community. Many believe he's been underused by the Raptors' guard heavy offence these past few years. He's also been hurt defensively by scrambling defensive coverages. This year, with an improved defensive scheme courtesy of Tom Thibodeau disciple Andy Greer, JV has been on the floor more than ever, and the team has reaped the rewards.
First, let's look at his individual accomplishments. JV has a FG% of 59%. That ranks 14th among minutes-qualified players. Only one of the players above him averages more than 6.4 FGA's per game (Whiteside at 10.4). JV averages 9.3.
JV averages 9.8 rebounds per game. That ranks 12th among minutes-qualified players. He averages the 2nd least minutes of the top 12 rebounding players.
JV ranks 66th in points per game, with 14.1. No player above him averages less FGA's than him. Looking below JV, you have to go down toat 93rd in league scoring with 12.0 points per game to find a player who averages less FGA's than JV. Tony Parker at 98th is the only other player in the top 100 in scoring that averages less FGA's per game than JV.
His scoring in the post remains strong, though this is a small sample. JV is 11th in the league in post ups, with 45 possessions used there. Among the 13 post players with 40+ possessions, JV ranks 6th in points per post up, at 0.91.
JV is 18th in the league in individual ORTG. The only players above him who average more than 15 FGA's per 100 team possessions (JV averages 17) are Doug McDermott, JJ Redick, Blake Griffin, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. JV currently ranks 15th in the league in WS/48 with .226.
Okay, so JV has been pretty ridiculous looking just at his individual numbers. But in the past he's put up good numbers while the team performed poorly with him on the court. Let's take a look at some of his on-court ratings this year.
This year's Raptors team leaders in on-court defensive rating (among rotation players):
James Johnson 91.7
Terrence Ross 96.2
Jonas Valanciunas 96.6
Luis Scola 97.0
So, Jonas is in third, behind two guys who have played in only seven games to JV's 11, and combined have played less minutes than JV. Yes, the team is much worse defensively with Biyombo out there instead of Jonas, even though that means playing against bench units (Biyombo's on-court defensive rating is the worst among rotation players at 103.8).
This year's Raptors team leaders in on-court offensive rating (among rotation players):
Jonas Valanciunas 110.2
Kyle Lowry 107.3
DeMar DeRozan 105.9
Luis Scola 105.6
Would you look at that. Third in defensive rating and first in offensive rating. The Raptors are absolutely killing teams when JV is on the floor. Being near or at the top in those ratings should tip you off that JV is obviously tops on the team in overall net rating.
This year's Raptors team leaders in on-court net rating (among rotation players):
Jonas Valanciunas +13.6
James Johnson +13.3
Luis Scola +8.6
Kyle Lowry +8.1
DeMar DeRozan +6.3
Wow. By a huge margin, the team plays much better with JV on the court than with anyone else (JJ being the eternal exception to the rule, though JV still edges him too).
But, some of that could be him playing a lot with good teammates, and not with poorer ones, right? Let's take a look at how every player on the team does with JV versus without him.
Jonas Valanciunas' impact on teammates' on-court net ratings:
Kyle Lowry: +1.2
DeMar DeRozan: +22.0
DeMarre Carroll: +22.5
Luis Scola: +8.9
Cory Joseph: +32.6
Terrence Ross: +31.0
James Johnson: -0.8
Patrick Patterson: +33.8
Lowry is fine no matter what (though slightly better with JV). James Johnson is a little better without JV on the court (it should be noted that he has a +13 rating with JV and a +14 without him, so pretty awesome either way). But just look at everyone else! Patterson is ten times the player when playing with JV. Cory Joseph certainly does better when playing with a real pick and roll option. And DeMar and DeMarre are much, much better with JV.
Now, are there any players that drive up JV's ratings? Is he dependent on playing time with certain players, or certain lineups, to maintain his awesome play?
JV's on-court net rating when each teammate is OFF the court:
Kyle Lowry: +56.9
DeMar DeRozan: +16.2
DeMarre Carroll: +24.5
Luis Scola: +21.0
Cory Joseph: +1.9
Terrence Ross: +12.8
James Johnson: +13.7
Well, looks like he's great no matter what. One surprise - the player he is most dependent on? Cory Joseph. The two playing together are amazing - they have a +34.5 net rating in 100+ minutes played together, and JV's net rating without Joseph is only +1.9 points per 100 possessions (that projects to a 45 win team). Last year his overall net rating was -0.7, so this year is a dramatic change from past years in terms of the team's play around and with him.
One last note: Jonas has seen several games where the team runs more offence through him, though they haven't been consistent with it yet (his usage remains roughly the same as last year, up to 20% from 19%). Let's look at his usage in each game.
Game 1: Jonas 4th on the team in usage, Raptors beat Indiana by 7 points.
Game 2: Jonas 7th on the team in usage, Raptors beat Boston by 10 points.
Game 3: Jonas 1st on the team in usage, Raptors beat Milwaukee by 19 points.
Game 4: Jonas 5th on the team in usage, Raptors beat Dallas by 11 points.
Game 5: Jonas 5th on the team in usage, Raptors beat OKC by 5 points.
Game 6: Jonas 9th on the team in usage, Raptors lose to Orlando by 5 points.
Game 7: Jonas 4th on the team in usage, Raptors lose to Miami by 20 points.
Game 8: Jonas 6th on the team in usage, Raptors lose to New York by 2 points.
Game 9: Jonas 7th on the team in usage, Raptors beat Philadelphia by 16 points.
Game 10: Jonas 1st on the team in usage, Raptors beat New Orleans by 19 points.
Game 11: Jonas 4th on the team in usage, Raptors lost to Sacramento by 6 points.
Two patterns. And this is early, but this seems symptomatic of the type of offence the team is running on a given night. First pattern: when JV is the most used player, the Raptors smash teams (admittedly, poor teams). Unfortunately he's only been the most used player twice, and otherwise hasn't cracked the top three. Second pattern: during the 3 game losing streak Jonas was 9th, 4th and 6th on the team in usage. Considering the first pattern, one has to wonder if that losing streak could have been easily avoided, especially with two of the losses being by a combined seven points.
So, what do you guys think about JV's season so far? Can he keep it up? Should the team be using him more? Do you see other improvements I missed? Or weaknesses I glossed over?
All stats from NBA.com and basketball-reference.com; as of Monday November 16th, 2015.