The Lithuanian Center was the MVP of the recent U18 European Championship. Everybody expects big things in the future from the 1992 born big guy. But the future for Valanciunas has already begun as he is averaging impressive numbers for an 18-years old in the opening days of the Euroleague. We took a closer look at his first two games of the season in the toughest competition outside of the NBA.After an opener versus Fenerbahce Ülker where he scored 10pts at 3/3 FGs and grabbed 10rebds, Jonas Valanciunas continued on Wednesday’s game versus Montepaschi Siena with 11pts and 6rebs. Next to these statistics, the advanced numbers featured by in-the-game.org showed how big his impact on the Rytas game is already. In the opening game, he had nearly the best +/- value of his team with –3 when being on the court while the team had a –14 when he was off. No player of the team with similar minutes to him had that kind of numbers. In the home game versus Montepaschi that ended with another loss for his team, Valanciunas had simply the best +/- numbers of his whole team with +3 when on and –7 when off the court.
When it comes to his real game, Valanciunas scores mainly after Pick and Roll situations. 6 out of his 8 baskets so far came after an assist of a team mate. This could be seen particularly well in the first quarter of yesterday’s game where did a real Pick and Roll clinic together with Khalid el-Amin. With his quick feet, he got open easily after the pick as the defense of Montepaschi always went out for the hedge and opened some space in the paint that Valanciunas used extremely well. Once he has caught the ball, he loses no time during the control and goes up immediately for the short floater or the layup. He moves very well and has no problem when the help defense comes as he jumps that quickly that he can finish his move before the helper can go up for the block shot. All of his movements look very well executed with great speed for a player of his size.
On the defensive end, he falls for some fakes in the low post and gets called for some easy Rookie-fouls. However, he uses his size extremely well and goes up straight without trying to get the block shot on the offensive player taking a jump shot over time. This is very effective as he changes the shooting trajectory as he has long arms and good verticality. However, he needs to get stronger physically to defend bigger guys in the low post as he can not handle them only with his good lateral speed.
An interesting point is that Valanciunas nearly gets any ball possessions in the low post. His limited physical presence hinders him to play Euroleague level centers in the low post for the moment. However, he is very active on setting away screens and getting open on the roll on these away-screens. We will see now over the season how Valanciunas develops by getting more experience on this level. He has still a lot of upside as his speed should give him a highly interesting face-up game in the future as well.