3 ideal NBA free agency destinations for Jonas Valanciunas
After an impressive second half of the season with the Memphis Grizzlies, Jonas Valanciunas announced that he would not pick up his player option for the 2019-2020 season. Valanciunas has to be looking for a long-term deal and is willing to leave money on the table in exchange for job security. With that in mind, here are a few of the teams that would be a good fit for the Lithuanian big man.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Washington Wizards are hoping to lure Masai Ujiri away from Toronto. If he were to take the Wizards position, it would be nice to see him bring in a familiar face in the form of Valanciunas.
The Wizards have been struggling to find a long-term solution at the five for years now. It seems clear that the Dwight Howard experiment is not going to be the answer. Valanciunas could be the solution.
He would instantly step in as the Wizards best rebounder by a large margin. Washington ranked 27th in the league in rebounding last year. Their best rebounder from last season, Bobby Portis, is an unrestricted free agent. This is a team that desperately needs help on the boards.
The Wizards should try to move on from one of Howard or Ian Mahinmi before they consider bringing in Valanciunas. Howard and Manhimi are already locked into making a combined $21 million next season. Valanciunas will likely command an eight-figure salary. It would not be wise of a team that’s already committed to paying John Wall $37.8 million next season to invest an additional $30+ million in centers.
Rockets GM Daryl Morey has been open about the Rockets desire to bring another star to Houston. It seems that everyone not named Chris Paul or James Harden is available. That includes the recently-extended Clint Capela. Capela and Eric Gordon would almost certainly have to be included in any deal for an established star player. If an opening were to appear for a new starting center, Valanciuans would be a perfect fit.
Valanciunas could pick up right where Capela leaves off in the Houston offense. The offensive responsibilities are simple: roll hard to the rim, attack the boards, finish easy looks. Those are all things that Valanciunas does very well.
Looking at the pick and roll efficiencies of the two players shows how well suited Valanciunas would be to replace Capela. Capella averaged 4.4 points per game on 64 percent shooting as the roll man. Valanciunas recorded similar numbers at 4.1 points per game on 63.3 percent shooting.
After handing massive contracts to Harden and Paul, the Rockets would need to sign Valanciunas on the cheap. He’s already proven that he’s looking for long-term security rather than a big payday. Perhaps a longer-term deal that allows him to regularly contend for a title would convince him to take even less.
The best and most obvious landing spot for Valnciunas would be back with the Grizzlies. Valanciunas was a force as soon as he arrived in Memphis. He filled the role that had belonged to Marc Gasol with ease. His tenacity on both ends of the floor helped him record multiple 20 point/20 rebound games in just nineteen games. That’s exactly the kind of hard-nosed play that a young team like Memphis needs.
Memphis did select Jaren Jackson Jr. with the 4th overall pick of last year’s draft, he’s clearly the future of the team’s frontcourt. Pairing him with Valanciunas might lead to some interesting results. Together the two could form a frontcourt with the unique ability to stretch the floor and dominate inside.
Jackson Jr. showed off a promising three-point stroke throughout college and his rookie season. He connected on 36 percent of his three-point looks as a rookie. His development into a consistent three-point threat would give Valanciunas the space to work inside. It would also spread the floor and leave plenty of room for both to operate with Memphis’s likely draft pick, Ja Morant.
Morant is a dynamic passer. He’s capable of whipping passes across his body with either hand as well as finding the roll man in tight spaces. Rookie guards often struggle with the speed of the NBA early on. Having a soft handed veteran like Valanciunas around would make Morant’s acclimation to the league a little easier
Most expect Valanciunas to resign with the Grizzlies and picking up where he left off. But if for some reason talks break down the twenty-six-year-old bruiser will not be short of suitors this summer.
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