Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Jonas Valanciunas


Kyrie Irving and Derrick Williams have pretty much assured themselves of being the top two picks in the draft, but quietly the best international prospect in the draft, Jonas Valanciunas, has moved solidly into that three spot in just about every mock draft out there right now, and with his mix of youth and size, it’s not inconceivable that he could move into the top two with great pre-draft workouts. The Pistons would need some luck to get him, but he’s a prospect they’d gladly take if they sneak into the top three somehow.

Info

Measurables: 6-foot-11, 240 pounds, 18-year-old F/C from Lithuania

Key stats: 7.7 points, 5.8 rebounds per game while shooting 71 percent with Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius in the Lithuanian league

Projected: Top five

How would he help the Pistons?

He’s solidified his position as the big man with the most upside (Bismack Biyambo fever aside) in this draft. At one time, he was actually rated behind Donatas Motiejunas among international prospects, but with a good performance in Euroleague play and some promising workouts, Valanciunas has surpassed Motiejunas according to most scouts.

He, like most young players in European leagues, didn’t play big minutes, but as his 71 percent shooting shows, he’s fantastic around the basket. Below are some of his highlights, and the thing that stands out most to me are his hands. He is constantly catching the ball in traffic, and the best part is, he catches it high and keeps it high. If you remember back to the Darko Milicic days, one of the things that Darko was harped on about the most was his tendency to catch the ball, then bring it down to his waist level before trying to make a move.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

The first real question about Valanciunas is one that virtually every big man in every draft faces: can he bulk up? At just 18, he already has a pretty solid build, so he looks like adding weight shouldn’t be a problem.

The second area he’ll have to improve is also something young bigs struggle with, but it’s a harder habit to kick: he fouls a lot. Valanciunas was averaging 3.1 fouls in just 14.9 minutes per game in league play.

Neither of those things should be major red flags as they are pretty common things for young bigs to struggle with, but they are also both things that may prevent him from contributing a lot as a rookie, and it would be really helpful for the Pistons if they came out of this draft with someone who could give quality minutes immediately in some capacity. ESPN also reported in March that his buyout in Europe could be an expensive one, meaning a team that drafts him might have to wait a season or two to get him. He might still be worth the pick, but that would obviously derail any plans of him making an immediate impact.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

He runs the floor extremely well, is quick off his feet and has no qualms whatsoever about throwing his body around in the paint. Not one to just stand around and wait for opportunities to come to him, Valanciunas wants to be productive all the time, which is a big reason he’s been able to earn playing time in such a demanding environment this season, despite his obvious immaturity.

“I don’t have very good skills right now, many good moves, so I have to fight,” he tells us.

From ESPN:

Valanciunas is the most highly rated international player on our board. But will he come to the NBA this season? Concerns about a massive buyout could keep him in Europe for a couple more years. Is anyone willing to take the risk high in the lottery?

From NBADraft.net:

Extremely fluid running the floor for a player his size … His long wingspan and huge hands make him an imposing force inside … Has good dexterity to catch the ball and make plays around the basket … A good athlete who gets off the floor well and attacks the rim … Born in 1992, considering his age, he appears to be a guy that is not done growing and could top out at well over 7-feet … Wide shoulders will allow him to put on a good deal of strength and weight without hindering his agility.

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