Jonas Valanciunas has three years and $49.6 million left on his current contract, and the Toronto Raptors really don’t want to be the team bankrolling it anymore.
According the Sporting News’ Sean Deveney, the Raptors have tried relentlessly, and unsuccessfully, to trade Valanciunas since February as they seek to reinvent their identity:
Toronto has sought to deal Valanciunas since the February trade deadline. They’d had conversations with Detroit and New Orleans then, sources said, and continued to have discussions around Valanciunas at the draft, but talks with the likes of Sacramento, Phoenix, Charlotte, Portland and Atlanta did not get very far.
Valanciunas could wind up being eclipsed in Toronto, even without a deal. One of the aims of the offseason for the Raptors was to both unload some salary and clear up playing time for some younger, hungrier players the Raptors have been developing. Among those are second-year men Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam, and both had very good showings this summer.
All of this makes sense.
The Raptors should absolutely want to deal Valanciunas. Serge Ibaka is a 5 in today’s NBA, Lucas Noguiera is extension-eligible and the better rim protector, and they have two cheap youngsters in Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam to evaluate.
At the same time, teams are right not to take on Valanciunas’ deal. Bigs of his ilk are almost obsolete. He has some range on the offensive end, but he doesn’t shoot threes. He’s not a terrible passer, but he’s not a plus-playmaker who will put the ball on the floor and create at a high clip for himself or his teammates. He can finish in the pick-and-roll but can’t defend it. He’s big and burly but doesn’t provide much rim protection.
Players like him—these Al Jefferson and Greg Monroe archetypes—are best suited coming off the bench as second-unit alphas. And if they’re going to headline bench mobs, you’d rather not pay them, on average, more than $15 million per year.
Though the right pot-sweetener would get Valanciunas out of town, the Raptors probably aren’t willing to fork it over. There’s no doubt they tried dumping him on the Nets instead of the DeMarre Carroll, but when you’re dealing a traditional big man with three years left on his contract, a lone first-rounder isn’t going to cut it. If the Raptors are really bent on sending Valanciunas elsewhere, they’ll have to include a higher-end goodie or be amenable to acquiring a similarly long, and unenviable, contract in return.