Searching for an independent and objective opinion about Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors 21 year old center from Lithuania, Toronto journalist Kevin Rashidi contacted well-known CBSSports.com NBA writer and AWolfAmongWolves.com contributor Zach Harper.
Kevin: What impressed you the most out of Jonas Valanciunas tonight?
Zach Harper: I loved his physicality. It wasn’t just that he was more aggressive or looked comfortable. Jonas was noticeably more physical and seemed to want to push everybody around. He’s kept his mobility and seemed balanced at the same time. It was against weaker competition but he dominated.
Kevin: On TV he seemed noticeably bigger, was that the case in person and do you think that will help him take that next step as a player?
Zach Harper: He was definitely bigger than I remember him. I heard murmurs of anywhere from 8 to 15 pounds. It will definitely help him as long as he continues to carry the weight well. If he keeps getting bigger, he could hurt his mobility and develop knee issues. For now, it should help considerably.
Kevin: What would you say is his ceiling as a pro?
Zach Harper: Borderline All-Star. If we’re going with a more historical player comparison, I’d say Antonio Davis when he was at his best with the Indiana Pacers. Maybe as a more modern reference, we could reach for Tyson Chandler.
Kevin: 5 years from now, who’s going to be better established in the league, Andre Drummond or Jonas Valanciunas and why?
Zach Harper: I think Drummond will probably be the more impactful player, but I’d take Valanciunas because he’s more than twice the free throw shooter Drummond is. As long as Valanciunas continues to progress on offense, I think he’d be the pick.
Be sure to check out more on Valancuinas’ new physicality with Zach Harper on CBSSports.com
Valanciunas is a skilled seven-footer with a nice jump shot and a desire to operate in the low post. At his peak as an All-Star, Antonio Davis was a 13.7 point, 10.1 rebound, 1.9 block forward/center that played solid defense. When Valanciunas was drafted, Raptors executive Maurizio Gherardini described him as a young Tyson Chandler with good feet suggesting Valanciunas had the same potential, but wasn’t going to face the injury-related setbacks Chandler has over his career.
In Toronto it is very tempting to project Valanciunas above and beyond these two very good NBA players. If the young Lithuanian center can develop his game to the reach Harper’s assessment, the Raptors will have the impact big man they were looking for when they drafted him 5th overall in 2011.
Kevin is a freelance journalist that assists Pro Bball Report with day-to-day activities and searches for exclusive interviews with the NBA personalities and players fans want to hear from. Kevin can be contacted on Twitter at @KevinRashidi