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Contract extension raises expectations for Valanciunas

It appears the Raptors are set to give Jonas Valanciunas a nice payday, making it clear the future of the team rests largely on his shoulders.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday it was announced that Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas had taken a leave from training with his Lithuanian national club to return to Toronto with the reported intention of shoring up the details of a contract extension with the team.

Considering both sides had until Oct. 31 to reach a deal or the big man would become a restricted free agent after the 2015-16 NBA campaign, the fact that it's supposedly happening in the dog days of summer is great news for those hoping Raptors management wouldn't let the process linger too close to the start of the season.

According to ESPN's Marc Stein, the alleged agreement is a whopping $60 million over four years. Since the 23-year-old is still playing out what's left of his rookie deal, the huge payday wouldn't kick in until 2016-17. Jonas averaged 12.0 points and 8.7 rebounds per game last year while shooting 57 percent from the field.

Even though nothing has been officially announced yet, there's no reason to believe it won't happen in the near future. So, then, the question remains: is Valanciunas worth the price tag, and if so, can he live up to the heightened expectations that will surely follow the deal?

Let's get one thing straight: $15 million a year is a lot of money. Along with DeMarre Carroll, the big man would become the highest paid member on the roster for almost a full calendar year until it's DeMar DeRozan's time to cash in on a new contract. 

Is JV a $15 million a year guy at this point in his career? Probably not, but considering his sky-high ceiling, it's a necessary step worth taking.

If general manager Masai Ujiri wasn't able to come to terms with Valanciunas before the late October deadline, the risk of another team throwing a monster offer sheet his way was simply too high. That's the situation the Oklahoma City Thunder recently found themselves in when the suddenly empty cupboard Portland Trail Blazers offered center Enes Kanter $70 million over four years, forcing the Thunder to begrudgingly bite the bullet and match.

The immediate impact of Jonas' deal on the court remains to be seen. It became a familiar sight last season to see head coach Dwane Casey pull JV during crunch time minutes late in games in favour of more experienced bigs. Casey clearly wasn't always comfortable with Valanciunas playing in the 4th quarter, meaning his issues were put on the back burner in order to give the team the best chance to win now.

Now that it appears the Raptors have committed to him long-term, those frequent final frame Valanciunas disappearances in the end of games have to stop. While he may still struggle occasionally, the Dinos will need to live and die with him in order to keep those mistakes from happening again in the future.

As a result of the team's restructuring there's a good chance JV's usage rage will go up this season, meaning he'll need every bit of extra focus he can muster. The murky waters of contract uncertainty won't be weighing on his shoulders going forward, which should provide the 7-foot center with a clear mind knowing the Raptors fully believe in his capabilities.

For a team that's historically had problems attracting free agents and keeping young talent, locking up the Lithuanian long-term can make Raps fans sleep comfortably knowing another still developing first-round pick won't be departing for seemingly greener pastures south of the border anytime soon.

The Raptors are all in on Jonas Valanciunas. It's JV's turn to prove to the organization that they made the right decision, a goal that's not out of reach by any means.

What do you guys think of the deal?