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Bigger, stronger Jonas Valanciunas pushes Heat around in Summer League

Jul 14, 2013, 11:45 AM EDT

Raptors Heat Basketball AP

LAS VEGAS — Not a lot of people noticed, but at Jonas Valanciunas had a nice rookie season up in Toronto: 8.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game, he shot 48 percent in post up spots and 62 percent as the roll man in the pick-and-roll. He had a PER of 15.6. All of those solid numbers for a skinny 20-year-old adjusting to the NBA game.

Except he’s not that skinny anymore, and he’s adjusting pretty well. He showed that to the Miami Heat in his Summer League debut Saturday night.

Valanciunas bullied the Heat inside to the tune of 23 points on 10 shots, and had 7 rebounds (3 offensive) in the Raptors’ loss to the Heat 81-72.

Through a couple days of Summer League, Valanciunas may have had the best performance of a player that will translate well to the NBA game. He wasn’t just a shooter with a hot hand, he was an improved player showing his physical dominance.

Valanciunas just looks filled out and stronger than he did last season, broader across the shoulders. Miami’s Summer League team, much like it’s regular season team, plays small, and they had 6,9” Jarvis Varnado at center. Valanciunas is 7’0” and is listed at 240, but that weight seems dated. Valanciunas was the big guy on the block and he punished the Heat for that lack of size.

Valanciunas used his bulk to get position deep on the block. He did a good job of cutting to the basket when defenders rotated and that led to a couple big dunks — Valanciunas was drawing ohhs and ahhs from the crowd through much of the first half.

Put simply, Valanciunas was the best player on the floor.

It’s Summer League, so all good performances need to be kept in context. But Raptors fans should be excited — Summer League is about growth and development and Valanciunas showed a lot of that. He looked good. He looked like a center who could make a leap next year.

It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of team Masai Ujiri builds in Toronto, he’s just starting to move the chess pieces around the board. Now it looks like he’s got a real center to lock down the middle of the paint, one who is mobile and just coming into his own. And that makes the Raptors a lot more interesting and dangerous going forward.

  1. elwaysagenius - Jul 14, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    Nice to see he’s committed

  2. thomaskouns - Jul 14, 2013 at 12:47 PM

    This guy is going to be good.

    He was scouted in 2111 as a rarity for a European big in that he’s physical, has a strong inside game and was a ferocious rebounder in Europe and by all accounts loves the game which is a rarity for a center.

  3. norcalkingsfan - Jul 14, 2013 at 1:29 PM

    fantasy sleeper

  4. saint1997 - Jul 14, 2013 at 5:04 PM

    I love JV but I’m not sure how a low post dominant C fits in with the Raptors style they’ve seemed to adopt of being a run and gun team

  5. elcapitanfiscal - Jul 14, 2013 at 8:53 PM

    Who cares it’s the Raptors..if he becomes a real good player he’ll bounce..

  6. bigmeechy74 - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:06 AM

    Weird that the cavs passed on him for tristan thompson. The jury is still out on both guys, but this dude has a way higher ceiling

  7. ProBasketballPundit - Jul 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

    PBT just really wanted to put “Heat” in a headline.

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