Thursday, June 09, 2011

Jonas Valanciunas - 2011 International Draft Prospect Scouting Report

Jonas Valanciunas
6-11 Center
Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)
19 Years Old

More international prospect scouting reports:
Bismack Biyombo | Jan Vesely | Donatas Motiejunas | Nikola Mirotic

We'll start our series on international draft prospects by focusing on Lietuvos Rytas' Jonas Valanciunas, one of the top international prospects, along with Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely and Bismack Biyombo. The consensus is that Jonas is a lottery talent and we have to agree, the Lithuanian should not last past the 10th pick.

Lietuvos Rytas is a quality European franchise that managed to advance to the Top 16 stage of Euroleague play. Jonas was an extremely efficient player, with these averages in only 15 minutes per game:
7.7 pts, 5.8 reb, 71% FG (#1 in EL), 88% FT, 0.7 blk, 1.4 TO

Using John Hollinger's translations for Euroleague stats to NBA numbers, Valanciunas' production was quite impressive, especially considering he was just 18 for the season (he just turned 19 last month), and also played a tough schedule (out of 15 Euroleague games, eight were played against powers Panathinaikos, Montepaschi Siena, FC Barcelona and Caja Laboral). Here's what Jonas' 2010-11 Euroleague numbers translated into NBA stats, per 36 minutes:
13.5 pts, 15.9 reb, 0.7 ast, 62.3% FG

Jonas's numbers in the Lithuanian domestic league (LKL) were just as impressive, in 20 minutes per game:
11.5 pts, 7.3 reb, 67% FG, 78% FT, 1.8 blk, 1.8 TO
Valanciunas led the LKL in blocks and FG pct., was third in rebounds.

The first thing that jumps out when watching Jonas's game is how long he is - seems like he could dunk on his tippy toes. Not positive what his standing reach is, but would imagine it's in the 9-5 range. His length is a big part of his effectiveness.

Along with incredible length, his overall activity level is another key to his success at the highest level of Euro ball. Impressive that a young guy with a relatively thin build is willing to bang bodies with stronger men. Does not back down from contact. Appears to have a decent frame that looks like it could handle 15 lbs. or so. Listed around 240 lbs., though he looks closer to 230.

Would call him a solid (not great) athlete with good hops. His running style is a tad awkward but he does move with good pace thanks to long strides. Jonas is not quite as fluid as another mobile Baltic big, Andris Biedrins, but he's longer.

Jonas and Biedrins do have similar games in that they both lack a refined offensive game but they shoot a high pct., rebound hard and block some shots. Both guys have issues with committing fouls. But Jonas does differ by drilling his foul shots.

Love how he keeps the ball up high and rarely brings the ball down when he catches a pass or a rebound (reminiscent of Pau). Also, like how he has a habit of providing a high target with his hands when rolling/cutting to the rim. Pretty good hands and show signs of snatching passes & rebounds out of his area.

A menace on the offensive glass - averaged nearly 2 off. rebs per game in EL, nearly 3 in LKL - where his length allows him to be a tip-in threat much like his countryman Ilgauksas, or Pau.

He is an excellent finisher in transition, off cuts or rolls. Most of his makes are coming off of lay-ins, tip-ins, dunks or short hooks. He converts at an incredible rate, though his points are not coming because of a varied post games or jumpers.

It's somewhat surprising to see how well he usually establishes offensive post position considering his lack of bulk. Though once Jonas gets the ball, his post game will not wow you.

Prefers to turn over his left shoulder where he likes to finish with a little righty hook. When on right block, he likes to take a few dribbles into the paint, then spin back for his righty hook. The touch on his hook is alright, not deadly.

Would not consider his footwork fluid and he sometimes looks awkward trying to go over his right shoulder. No sign of a turnaround jumper.

Rarely took jumpers anywhere on the floor this season. From the few perimeter jumpers and free throws we saw, his shot looks decent. He uses his guide hand to help push his shot a little too much, but his follow-thru is nice. With the way he converts FTs at a high rate, reasonable to think he can develop a solid mid-range jumper.

I would say his passing out of the post is adequate. He won't pick the defense apart with his passing, but he did seem to make quality reads most of the time.

Defensively, Jonas is kind of a mixed bag currently. Right now, he has a difficult time guarding the post - he allows his opponents to shoot 53% on post-ups. He has trouble holding ground and his offensive man has an easy time sealing and backing him down.

He can't hold off his man with just his forearm and this forces him to lean his whole body on his man, further compromising his balance. This makes him very vulnerable to spin & counter moves. He leans so heavily on his man, when that man makes a counter, it's likes a chair is pulled out from Jonas and leaves him off balance.

His defensive stance needs to be tweaked. Has a tendency to lurch his torso over too much instead of sitting back on his butt. Needs to learn to align his body like he's squatting a barbell. Couple this with average agility and you could foresee Jonas being exposed by some NBA athletes in pick/roll situations.

When he is able to stay with his man, his length allows him to bother shots on the post. Also, his length is a factor off the ball, where he's a capable shot-blocker. His block numbers were nothing special in EL play (0.7 blks per), though he did manage 2 bpg in the Lithuanian league.

Think he has the tools to be at least an adequate defensive presence in the NBA. And when/if he fills out, works on his stance, maybe he becomes an above-average defender.

The major negative to Jonas's game right now is the foul trouble - he average 3 fouls in both the EL & LKL. His fouls seem to stem from his overaggressiveness at times, and his lack of strength. He sometimes will get offensive fouls fighting for post position, which, in turn, up his turnover numbers. His turnovers are a little high, as well - seem to come from his aggressive nature.

He is not ready to be a starter in the league yet. He needs to work on his body and curb his habit for fouls to earn meaningful minutes.

Though, his length should allow him to be a factor on the glass and finish some shots at the rim almost immediately. His combo of length and solid mobility should allow him to cause some problems defensively to a degree. He'll definitely continue to have problems guarding the post until he beefs up.

You see a guy like Tyson Chandler playing a key role for a championship-level team and it's not absurd to imagine Valanciunas playing a similar role later in his career.

*--(Synergy Sports Technology helped provide data for this report)

More international prospect scouting reports:
Bismack Biyombo | Jan Vesely | Donatas Motiejunas | Nikola Mirotic


At 7:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

15.9 rebounds per 36 min? Sounds pretty high to me.

At 8:17 AM, Anonymous Yep said...

Yep. His rebound percentage is up there with Love's and Howard's. Slower pace and fewer minutes in Euroleague often cause irritations. This guy has been an abnormally productive rebounder.

I have to say this site provides the far & away best articles on European basketball from North America. Facts are all accurate and the spot-on evaluations testament of plenty of games watched. Authors know their stuff and provide unfiltered opinion when others just polarize to get clicks.

At 2:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely not ready to nba. After 2 years - maybe!

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not ready for major minutes but give this kid 2 years and you will have double double machine for sure. What you can't fake is effort and this kid gives you 200% effort every single minute on the floor. Reminds me a lot of Noah, he sucked first season in NBA but through effort and hard work look where is he now. And Jonas already has better offensive game and jumper then Noah. He should not last past top 5.

At 11:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big guy, extremely talented in the rebounding department and can knock down his free throws. Top 5 talent in my eyes, but will most likely slide past 5

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