Toronto Raptors: 30 greatest players of all-time

(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
(Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Jonas Valanciunas – Toronto Raptors(Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images) /

7. Jonas Valaciunas

Jonas Valanciunas has benefited greatly from a long-tenured head coach in Dwane Casey and a General Manager who is willing to nurture talent in order to get the best out of them.

JV was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 Draft with a fairly decent reputation coming out of Lithuania as a 20-year old center. His transformation into one of the most efficient scoring bigs has been a revelation for the Raptors, and at 26, there’s nothing stopping him getting any better.

Yes, JV might not be the greatest defender – by all accounts, he’s not very good at all. He struggles to defend a pick-and-roll and can’t really get up to block shots, but with the right defensive help around him, that doesn’t prove to be much of a problem.

Heading into the 2017-18 season, JV was viewed as a foregone conclusion, however, the game had passed him by and JV couldn’t adapt.

Centers were beginning to stretch the floor and if you couldn’t do the same, you would find yourself on the bench. That’s when Valanciunas proved that he could be a real asset for the team going forward. He always felt like the third-option by default, but once he began to knock down 3-pointers at a decent clip, you felt like you could rely on him that bit more.

Teams started to pay attention to JV fading to the 3-point line and the paint would begin opening up.

Valanciunas has played the majority of his games with the bench in 2018-19, and at times he’s struggled to make a real impact. Other times he can put up a double-double in one quarter.

Regardless, JV has developed into one of the biggest successes in Raptors history.