HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Toronto Raptors have reportedly reached an agreement with center Jonas Valanciunas on a contract extension.
A report from Monday had the parties discussing a four-year deal worth more than $60 million. That’s far from the max (it’s about half of what Damian Lillard got in July) and seems like a good deal for the Raptors, considering Valanciunas’ size and offensive skill set.
But the center has been a defensive liability, and Toronto is trying to get back to being a good defensive team after a big fall-off on that end of the floor last season. In a Q & A with NBA.com last month, Raptors coach Dwane Casey said that he’ll look to go small late in games in order to keep up with the rest of the league.
Q: Is there still a big role for Jonas Valanciunas in the way that you want to play and in the way the league is going? How can you use him, but also make up for his deficiencies when he’s on the floor?
DC: The league is going smaller, but as long as the goal is at 10 feet, size is going to matter. You still got to have size.
At the end of games, the trend is to go smaller. Threes are fours, fours are fives, and your roster has to fit that. Adding DeMarre [Carroll] gives us that flexibility. He can play some at the four, with [Luis] Scola or Patrick Patterson at the five. We’re better equipped to play that way now than we were a year ago.
The league is going to their more skilled guys toward the end of games. Trends come and go, but right now, we have to participate in that trend.
Casey was already looking away from Valanciunas late in games. The seven-footer played just 292 fourth-quarter minutes last season, which ranked 254th in the league and were just 14.0 percent of his total minutes. Among players who logged at least 1,000 total minutes, only seven played a smaller percentage of them in the fourth quarter.
Still, Valanciunas just turned 23 years old in May. The Raptors hope he’ll be lighter and quicker this season, so that pick-and-roll coverage and weak-side rotations aren’t as much of an issue as they’ve been in the past.
Valanciunas was taken with the No. 5 pick of the 2011 Draft, but is with the class of 2012 in regard to extension eligibility because he didn’t come to the NBA until a year after he was drafted. Anthony Davis, like Lillard, was given a max extension early in free agency.
Other first-round picks from 2012 (that had their third and fourth-year options exercised) have until Oct. 31 to sign extensions. Otherwise, they will become restricted free agents next summer.