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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.


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.



  • May 2, 20119:42 am
    by Tiko


    this draft is weeeeeeeaaaaaakk..  top 3 or bust…

  • May 2, 201112:37 pm
    by Stun


    I’m from Lithuania so I saw a lot of Valan?i?nas game,I mean a lot of so  I will tell you more.First,the right comparison to Valan?i?nas game is Noah.Both guys are energy guys,who play with a lot of effort which compensates their lack of skill.Yes,Valan?i?nas has more potenial than Noah and I think he’ll be a better player,but as Noah don’t expect of him much in the first few years,because his body needs to grow and he needs to learn the NBA game.Other great thing from Valan?i?nas game that he has a high basketball IQ,great motor and the hunger to be better.I mean,if you arrange a summer with Hakeem or Kareem you would see great progress from him.

    • May 2, 20111:56 pm
      by Patrick Hayes


      Thanks for the comments, Stun. I think if he’s anywhere near as good as Joakim Noah, any team that gets him will be extremely happy.

  • May 2, 20112:02 pm
    by detroitpcb


    he’s 18. He will fill out. great skill set and as Patrick notes, huge hands. Could possibly be a Noah-like player but might have more offensive upside.

    i don’t know anything about his buyout but if he is going to be in Europe for the next three years i might have to pass on the pick. If Ben Wallace retires, the Pistons need a big, either out of this draft or from a sign and tade, who can step in and play at least 15 minutes a game.

    • May 2, 20113:23 pm
      by Tim


      If they were in contention right now, I would agree whole-heartedly. But face it, the Pistons are rebuilding. It therefore doesn’t make much of a difference if we gain talent immediately or not. Also, there are already more than enough players to sop up all the minutes anyway. I would hope that next year, between Monroe and Jerebko, there are considerably more minutes used up then were used this year by Monroe and Wallace.

  • May 2, 20114:43 pm
    by sop


    Why is impact next season the most important factor? There is no player available in this draft who can make Detroit a playoff contender next year anyways. Next year draft is much deeper so it would be nice to have a high pick. Now if the Pistons draft him and contract keeps Valanciunas in Europe for more than one season or like Rubio, then its a problem, but considering his age (he turns 19 this week) one year to add strength in might actually be helpful.

  • May 3, 201112:27 am
    by Goblue


    I think you should do a draft dream of terrence jones i feel like he would fit in well with the pistons if we loose prince and t mac he can play both the 3 and 4 and we all know how joe likes guys who can play many positions. Many question the way his production dropped at the end of the season but  so did guys like tyreke evans and jrue holiday i feel freshmen players who are one and done are risks but in this draft every one is.

  • May 18, 20115:41 pm
    by Geoff


    I’ve watched a lot of footage of this guy.
    A very good description of him is a longer version of Jonas Jerebko. It seems like an over simplified comparison, but they really do have a similar style and similar positive attributes. And thats not a knock at all, if Jerebko had another 2 or 3 inches, he would be a hell of a player, potentially an all-star.

    So I like Valanciunus. But I’m on the Biyombo band wagon. You cant teach a 9-3 inch reach and 38 inch verticle, mixed with NBA strength.

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