Report: Toronto Raptors still making an effort to trade Jonas Valanciunas

TORONTO, ON - MAY 05: Jonas Valanciunas
TORONTO, ON - MAY 05: Jonas Valanciunas /

The Toronto Raptors have reportedly tried to trade centre Jonas Valanciunas this offseason, but teams aren’t overly interested in the 7-foot Lithuanian.

The Toronto Raptors have been trying to trade centre Jonas Valanciunas since the February trade deadline, according to Sean Deveney of the Sporting News. The problem, however, is teams are not overly interested in the 25-year-old big man.

According to Deveney, Toronto had conversations with Detroit and New Orleans at the trade deadline, and again at the NBA Draft, but nothing developed from those conversations. Atlanta, Charlotte, Phoenix, Portland and Sacramento also discussed JV with the Raptors, but, according to Deveney, “talks did not get very far.”

With the Raptors in the midst of an offseason being described as a “culture reset,” and promising young players — like Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam — on the come up, what is the team supposed to do with JV?

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Ideally, trading him would be the best resolution. However, based on what Deveney reported, that seems like an unlikely scenario. Instead, it seems more likely the Raptors will use Valanciunas in a bench role going forward and try to integrate him into the offence like Milwaukee did with Greg Monroe. The Bucks big man was a force off the bench during the second half last season and perhaps using JV in a similar role could be beneficial.

It’s not that Valanciunas is a bad player; a bad defender? Yes. But bad player, no. The problem is his game really hasn’t developed much over the past few seasons. He’s essentially a throwback centre who can dominate the glass, finish around the rim and shoot the mid-range jumper when needed. Defensively, he’s a liability, and in today’s NBA teams just run pick-and-rolls right at him to get the switch and then relentlessly attack him.

With three years and over $50 million left on his deal (plus a player option in 2020), the Raptors might be stuck with JV until his contract expires. Having an offensively inclined 25-year-old centre on your roster isn’t the worst scenario in the NBA, I mean, just look at some of the bad contracts around the league. But for a tax-strapped team like the Raptors, it’s obviously a less than ideal situation, especially since Serge Ibaka signed a new three-year deal this offseason.

But despite all the trade rumours swirling around JV, the easiest resolution for both the Raptors and JV is if he takes a step forward and develops his game. Considering how stagnant his development has been, this solution is a big if.

Jonas Kazlauskas was the Lithuanian national coach during the 2016 Rio Olympics and he was brutally honest with his criticism of Valanciunas, saying, “he has to dedicate himself to basketball more.”

It’s tough to shed a label like that once it’s been given to you, but it does make you wonder what the Raptors’ coaching staff thinks of JV. Throughout the past few seasons we’ve regularly seen Dwane Casey bench JV during the fourth quarter and his inconsistent play has been an issue. Perhaps this all goes back to the commitment issues Kazlauskas mentioned?

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There’s no way to prove a statement like that unless the Raptors’ coaching staff comes out and publicly questions JV, but it does provide interesting food for thought. Either way, JV is still a Raptor and trade rumours about him continue to swirl. Nothing new here.