Jonas Valanciunas – Underrated and underappreciated

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 13: Jonas Valanciunas
PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 13: Jonas Valanciunas /

As the Toronto Raptors proceed through what is becoming an increasingly special season, Jonas Valanciunas continues to fly under the radar.

It’s becoming tougher to deny this is turning into a special season for the Toronto Raptors. Whether they can actually take that next step come playoff time is another thing, but for now, supporters should fully embrace what the team is achieving on the court.

While they’re at it, Toronto Raptors fans should make a point of watching Jonas Valanciunas more closely. Often the subject of trade rumours, the Lithuanian is arguably being underrated and underappreciated this season.

There are different theories on why Valanciunas has never quite fulfilled his potential: Dwane Casey’s inability to utilise him properly, his own inconsistencies or just the belief he’s playing in the wrong era!

Regardless, the affable centre is enjoying a fine campaign, albeit somewhat under the radar. Look at what he did during December.

At first glance, averaging 12 points and 8.5 rebounds in 14 contests may not sound like much. However, consider that both of this figures are above Valanciunas’ career averages of 11.4 and 8.4 respectively.

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Now, throw in the fact the 2011 fifth overall draft pick achieved this production, despite only averaging 22.1 minutes per contest. (Also consider he managed five double-doubles during December.) Translate his statistics over the course of 36 minutes and he averages 19.5 points and 13.8 boards.

Talking of minutes, Valanciunas is on course to average the lowest time of his professional career, at 21.0 minutes per contest. And yet he’s proving he can do more with less, as evidenced by the second-best player efficiency rating on the team this season, (behind DeMar DeRozan).

It’s entirely possible Casey may never fully figure out how to use Valanciunas effectively. In addition, the player himself may never be able to produce on a more consistent basis.

However, this shouldn’t take away from what the two-time FIBA Young Player of the Year is achieving this season. No matter your perception of him, he is achieving more with less and having a quietly effective campaign.

As a final note of hope for the future, here’s something else to consider. Despite this being his sixth season in the NBA, Valanciunas is only 25 year’s old, meaning there’s still time for him to develop and mature into the player someone of his talent should be.

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What’s your take on Valanciunas’ performances so far this season for the Toronto Raptors? Do you agree he’s underrated and underappreciated? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.