Tue Jun 21 02:35pm EDT
You may not have heard of him a month ago —
heck, I hadn’t heard of him a week ago — but Lithuanian center Jonas
Valanciunas has become a bit of hot commodity. He’s got a top-five pick of a
game (at least in this draft), hops for days, and has room to grow. The issue is
his availability. The buyout issues following the 19-year-old center have some
mock drafts pushing him nearly out of the lottery. After all, why select someone
that you might not see until the 2012-13 season, at best?
Then again, with a player with Valanciunas’ athleticism, skills and drive in
question, why not wait until 2012? Especially when there might not be much of a
2011-12 season. And especially if you’re a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers, finally
fully committed to rebuilding, and possessing two of the top four picks in
Thursday’s draft? With the first, sure, they’re taking Kyrie Irving. They’d be
Kahn-ish not to. But with the fourth, in a limited draft like this? With Enes
Kanter an odd thing to bank on? With Jan Veesly not really offering immediate
answers? With Brandon Knight all Brandon Knight-ish?
Why not go with Jonas? Even if you have to wait a year?
Cavs the Blog’s John Krolik wants to go with Jonas. And John agrees with my
personal draft sage, who handed me his mock draft the other night, which in turn
me agreeing with John when he writes this:
Here’s my justification: Do I think that Valanciunas will be a better player
in the 2012-13 season than Kanter or any other non-point guard player who will
be available at the #4 spot? I do. Do I believe the Cavs are ready to make a
serious playoff run in 2011-12? I do not. Given those two conclusions, I think
it makes sense to take the best player, wait the year, and not settle on a
lesser player because of impatience.
The trick behind that is that you have to sell your fans, your angry and
rabid fans, on a player that they might not see for a year. But that uneasiness
will last for, what, two days’ worth of a news cycle? All while you’re
introducing the clear top player in this draft? All before you potentially close
up shop for months as we head into a lockout? Take a chance on the big.
Especially if the buyout works, and he ends up in Cleveland, throwing down dunks
on the break with Irving leading the way.
UPDATE: Mark Deeks of
ShamSports.com, who is as about as respected as they come in terms of
international scouting, has a Twitter reply to the headline above:
Jonas Valančiūnas was born on May 6th, 1992 according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonas_Valanciunas
May 6th, 1992
5 + 6 +1+9+9+2 = 32 = his life lesson = what he is here to learn = Winning. Victory. Triumph. #1. Blockbuster.