With the latest version (3.0) of the 2011 NBA Mock Draft, ESPN’s Chad Ford has made some changes within his top 10. One especially interesting note comes when he describes Jonas Valanciunas heading at No. 8 overall to the Detroit Pistons with the side note, “They may have to wait on him a year, but many NBA scouts believe he’s the most talented international player in the draft.”
Two classes of teams can make a choice like this: 1) a team that is already good and doesn’t need the instant impact of a first round choice, or 2) a team with incredible patience and a decent fan base who recognize the bigger picture. You watch teams at the bottom of the draft like the San Antonio Spurs or Portland Trailblazers make selections like this. But at the top of the draft, it’s a more difficult act to pull off — just ask Minnesota fans how they like the Ricky Rubio selection.
That’s why you’ll see Valanciunas fall in this year’s draft, and that’s an unfortunate mistake for such a talented player with impressive size. There’s no way a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers take him, who need some sort of public relations boost ASAP. Two selections among the top four should provide the cushion to take an impact player like Kyrie Irving and then take another big man you can wait on, but it doesn’t seem like Cleveland has that flexibility.
Instead, the Cavs are rumored toward taking Enes Kanter, if available, and that’s understandable given the great week he displayed at the NBA Draft Combine. Yet Valanciunas is that great all-around player underneath who would provide a finesse scorer who can also play tough and provide defense — something many Euro players aren’t exactly known for.
Bottom line: the book on Valanciunas is that there’s not any real weak spot, other than a need to work out with an NBA strength coach. The scoring touch and well-rounded game point due South toward a certain German big man taking his team to the NBA Finals. Jonas Valanciunas isn’t guaranteed to be the next Dirk Nowitzki, but it might be worth the wait to find out.