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How Darius Songaila’s play in the Olympics is a bad sign for the Raptors

Aug 4, 2012, 6:30 PM EDT

Lithuania's Jonas Valanciunas (C) vies f Getty Images

In Saturday’s Team USA squeaker against Lithuania, fringe NBA player (who hasn’t been in the league for a year) played nearly 18 minutes, particularly down the stretch.

Raptors lottery pick and presumed starting center next season, Jonas Valanciunas, played just eight. It’s yet another game where Valanciunas has struggled to see floor time and struggled to produce when granted any. It’s been the first real concern in the big man’s development, when he was expected to be the next big thing to hit the NBA with his defense and production in the pick and roll.

Afterwards, Lithuania’s coach told ESPN that he preferred Songaila’s “NBA know-how” vs. Valanciunas’ youth when Tyson Chandler was off the floor.

Yikes.

Songaila has some ability, and in all honesty, international competition changes the complexion of what many players can do and who they are. Jose Calderon is a legitimate star, Russell Westbrook is a role player. This is just part of it. But that’s got to be concerning. It’s thought that Valanciunas can make an immediate impact. If he’s unable to convince his coach to get minutes on talent alone over Songaila, that’s an issue.

But there’s no reason to panic. One, Valanciunas is young, and the coach is trying to win games right now. His job isn’t to develop Valanciunas, whereas the Raptors have that luxury when the playoffs are possible but not essential. He also won’t be facing, you know, Team USA every game, or the Gasol brothers. But if we’re not tapping the breaks on the JoVal car, we may want to at least get the foot ready.

  1. pavelfitzgerald - Aug 4, 2012 at 9:24 PM

    You made the counter point that most people were thinking as they read this article – it’s not this coaches job to develop him. The kids incredibly young & would’ve got torche against NBA talent. Thats why a small USA team won’t roll out Davis’s desperately needed height – because he’ll get torched too. Toronto is incredibly ignorant if they think they can start that young man from day 1

    • saint1997 - Aug 4, 2012 at 10:37 PM

      Exactly. Unlike guards, young big men coming into the league will struggle at the beginning because the thing that made them so dominant pre NBA (size) is lost. Anthony Davis will be better than Tyson Chandler, doesn’t mean he should start ahead of him

      • borderline1988 - Aug 6, 2012 at 6:59 AM

        I agree and hope you’re right. But Voluncianus didn’t just struggle against Team USA – he has looked awful in all his games. It’s concerning b/c the very least we could have hoped from him was to play defense and stay on the floor (I’m pretty sure Anthony Davis can do that, they just don’t need him). Post scoring and post defending can come later.

        But at the very least, grab some rebounds, block a shot or two..do something that’ll show potential.

  2. jolink653 - Aug 5, 2012 at 10:24 PM

    I thought he did some good things on the floor for a really young guy going up against the top talent in the NBA…A couple years with Toronto getting used to the style of play here and I think he’ll turn out to be a very nice player

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