This is the ninth installment of the NBA Breakout Ballers, a 10 part series spotlighting players that will make a significant leap in the 2015-2016 NBA season. Check out the latest feature on Eric Bledsoe. Each player featured in this series are prime prospects to target in season long formats, as well as early season DFS lineups before their prices rise. Let’s get into it!
Coming off of his second consecutive season as the Atlantic Division champions and an early 1st round exit to the Wizards, Jonas Valanciunas is looking to help fortify the Toronto Raptors place within the Eastern Conference. Drafted 5th overall in the 2011 draft, Valenciunas was selected before Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Kenneth Faried. The 7-foot center from Lithuania has been a solid and steady contributor for Toronto. In 3 years with the Raptors, Valanciunas was shuffled in the frontcourt along with Amir Johnson and Patrick Peterson. With Johnson now in Boston, Toronto has brought in aging big man Luis Scola to add size to the roster. The door has swung wide open for Valanciunas to step forward as the primary big man for the Raptors.
Unless the Raptors make a major move, Jonas Valanciunas is their only dominant option down low. That being said he is no push over on the boards or in the paint. Valanciunas has the potential to be good for a double double on any given night. After posting 22 of them in the 2014-15 season, his averages of 12 points and 8.7 rebounds per game give owners a glimpse of what he is capable of. Valanciunas led Toronto in rebounds, blocks, and player efficiency rating. Despite posting fewer minutes than Johnson and Patterson, Valanciunas has a proven ability to influence games on both ends. His 551 field goal attempts from inside 8 feet from the rim should see a dramatic increase. Other than DeMar DeRozan and Terrance Ross he is one of the few options in the lane for the Raptors. Valanciunas is a viable threat in the low post because of his ability to finish in the paint and create second chance opportunities. He is a 79% free throw shooter, which all aspects correlate to easy chance buckets and high scoring percentage.
Valanciunas will see his value drastically increase this upcoming year for the Raptors. The more touches he gets the greater opportunity he will have to contribute and showcase his talents. Valanciunas is entering a contract year, placing further emphasis on his abilities to contribute and be a factor on the court. The extent to which he is able to dominate on the floor can be seen in his offensive and rebounding statistics. Although owners may expect more from Valanciunas on the defensive end, his projected increase in minutes within the front-court should provide him the opportunity to do so.
The Raptors do not have an abundance of other options over Valanciunas. He returns as the primary big man and will be counted upon as such. Up to this point in his career his has been a member of an above average team in the East who is unable to get over the hump. Valanciunas is in place to become a major figure in Toronto next to DeRozan and Kyle Lowry.
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