Toronto Raptors: Bidding Adieu To Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto Raptors - Jonas Valanciunas (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Jonas Valanciunas (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /

After being traded to the Memphis Grizzlies Thursday afternoon, we reflect on Jonas Valanciunas’ time with the Toronto Raptors.

The winds of change swept through Toronto Thursday afternoon. Jonas Valanciunas was traded from the Toronto Raptors to the Memphis Grizzlies before the 2019 trade deadline. The 26-year old had been slated to make his return from a hand injury prior to the trade.

Valanciunas has only played in 30 games this season. He is currently averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. There is much to reflect on when it comes to his seven seasons in Toronto.

On The Hardwood

The Raptors drafted Valanciunas fifth overall in 2011. However, he did not make his debut with the team until the 2012-2013 season. Valanciunas has been in a feature role with the Raptors since coming to the NBA.

In his first season with Toronto, JV started in 57 of the 62 games he played. Statistically, he averaged 8.9 points and six rebounds as a rookie.

With a year of North American basketball under his belt, Valanciunas showed instant improvement as a sophomore. He upped his per game point total to 11.3 and rebounds to 8.8. Valanciunas was selected to play in the Rising Stars Challenge at All-Star Weekend 2014.

From 2014 to 2019, the 26-year old became a consistent contributor for the Raptors.  Over the past five years, he has regularly averaged 12 points and 7 or more rebounds per game.

In the Playoffs “JV” was always able to elevate his game. He has started in 36 of his 43 career Postseason contests. Valanciunas has also recorded 16 career Playoff double-doubles.

After DeMar DeRozan was traded, he and Kyle Lowry became Toronto’s longest tenured players. Valanciunas currently ranks 6th all-time in games played with the team at 470.  He has started in 94% of all regular season and 83% of Postseason games with the franchise.

Off The Court

The 26-year old was always a team first player. Even while playing in a career-low 18 minutes per game this season. Instead, Valanciunas worked each offseason to become a better overall athlete and develop a respectable three-point shot.

“JV” became a fan favorite for more than just his play on the court. He was a practical joker around the locker room and his humorous nature was put on display in various TV Commercials. Valaciunas’ most notable television spots were for GoDaddy:

The Lithuanian native is also a proud countryman. Valanciunas annually held a “Lithuanian Heritage Day” event in Toronto. This event allowed members of Toronto’s Lithuanian community to purchase tickets at a reduced cost and meet him after the game.

Another organization that the now former Raptor represents is “Save the Children.” Valanciunas provides mentorship and guidance for Lithuanian youth.

Valanciunas also participated in “Bay Street Hoops” The aforementioned event is a charity basketball tournament where all proceeds are donated. “Bay Street Hoops” aims to make sports more accessible for youth.

Saying Farewell To “JV”

Thursday’s trade is another reminder that the NBA is a business. Toronto is all-in on its pursuit of a championship. Trading one of the team’s longest-tenured players certainly hurts but winning comes at a cost.

Jonas Valanciunas will be missed for both his work on and off the court. It is hard to replace key contributors but even harder to replace better human beings. There is a silver lining in the fact that he was traded for Marc Gasol.

Both players are leaving the only franchises they have ever played for. Both players are leaving teams they have helped turn into competitors from the ground up. There is no doubt Valanciunas will bring his contagious energy and generosity to Memphis.

Next. The Full Marc Gasol Scouting Report. dark

Much like life, the NBA is full of uncertainty. However, if three things are in fact certain they are: Death, Taxes and JV’s threes.