Ever since being acquired from the Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas has upped his game and is fitting right in with the Memphis Grizzlies.
In a trade that many same coming, the Memphis Grizzlies finally departed with longtime center Marc Gasol. The Grizz dealt Gasol to the Toronto Raptors for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and C.J. Miles.
Valanciunas was coming off a thumb injury that had sidelined him for the previous two months and rumors had been flying around for years as to whether or not he was going to fit into the Raptors’ long-term plans. Before the injury, he was averaging less than 20 minutes per game coming off the bench. During crunch time, he was often nailed to the bench as the Raptors went to a smaller, more versatile lineup.
The Grizzlies gave JV a chance to step into the spotlight once again. Since the trade, Valanciunas has averaged 25.6 minutes per game, a six-minute bump from his time in Toronto. He’s also been playing incredible basketball, averaging 18.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.4 blocks in his 10 games in Memphis.
His best moments have come in Memphis’ latest three-games stretch, where the Grizzlies beat three playoff teams (2.5 if you’re still iffy on the Orlando Magic) after another collapse in the fourth quarter cost them their game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
In those three games, Valanciunas shot 62.8 percent from the field, 91.6 from the line and scored just under 19 points a game. He will never average 30-plus minutes a game (but has already eclipsed the 30-minute mark twice, compared to zero times in Toronto) but his play has been remarkably efficient.
Not only is JV putting up his own stats, but his play has elevated the offense as a whole. The team sports a 109.3 offensive rating when he’s on the court and just a 102.2 rating when he’s off. Overall, JV is putting up a +8.1 net rating.
Additionally, he’s had a huge impact on the team’s rebounding. Before his arrival, the Grizz sat at 28th in the league in rebounding percentage (47.9 percent), outpacing the lowly Washington Wizards and Phoenix Suns. Since his first game, the Grizzlies have jumped up to 16th in the league at 49.9 percent. They are not a great rebounding team by any stretch of the imagination, but JV’s ability to box out and grab rebounds has helped them tremendously.
More importantly, the Grizzlies used to be allergic to offensive rebounds, ranking last in the league in offensive rebounding percentage. Now? They’ve jumped up to 21st.
The most significant stat is the Grizzlies have not slipped on the defensive end with JV. Even though Gasol had lost a step or two these last few years, he was still seen as a solid post defender with enough defensive smarts to make it work. The Grizzlies were sixth in the league with a 106.2 defensive rating. Since then, they have gone in and around first, putting up a 104.8 defensive rating. Valanciunas has slid right in to the team’s defensive schemes and is doing his part.
Of course, it helps that the team was already a great defensive team and the acquisition of a defensive-minded player like Avery Bradley helps, but Valanciunas is still the last line of defense for this Grizzlies team.
How well Memphis does over the last month of the season could have a huge factor in how the Grizzlies go into the offseason, and JV is sure to be a big part of that decision.