There is a lot of talent in the modern NBA, and there is zero debate about that. Great players exist at every position across the association. There are only 150 starting spots in the NBA, and then you have your extremely talented reserves. At the center position, the conversation always starts with Joel Embiid, Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic. But after that? There is no clear way to steer the conversation.
There’s a huge problem with respecting centers from bloggers and media members. In a league that’s all about the three-point spot and spacing the floor, those who can’t shoot are seen as being a weakness. With the exceptions of Jarrett Allen, Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert, of course. Nikola Vucevic has emerged as a serious three-point threat in recent years.
But, a guy that doesn’t come up much is Jonas Valanciunas. He is as consistent as any player in the league this year, and has been since being traded to the Grizzlies two years ago. So, this begs the question: Why doesn’t JV get any love? He’s had a great campaign, and deserves some respect.
I’m writing this article to share with you all just how valuable he has been to a Grizzlies team that is 27-25, and the #8 seed in the West.
A Double-Double Machine
This season, only two players have more double-doubles than Jonas Valanciunas. They are Nikola Jokic (48) and Russell Westbrook (40). JV is right there, slotted in at #3 with 39. He has appeared in 47 games, meaning he has only posted eight games where he didn’t log at least 10 points and 10 rebounds in the same night. Not bad at all.
In all, he has posted a double-double in 22 straight games, helping the team to a number of critical wins along the way. There have been two occasions of JV posting 30+ points and 20+ rebounds twice in this stretch, proving that he really is dominant. Who else has been doing that the center spot besides Jokic? Nobody. Rudy Gobert is right behind him with 38 double-doubles, but he has played in 55 games, so 17 times, he hasn’t made it happen.
JV averaged 15 and 11 a season ago, and in the 19 games he played for Memphis in 2018-19 after being acquired, he averaged 20 points and 11 rebounds. He won’t make threes at a very high clip, and he only takes about one per game. But, Valanciunas can knock it down when you need him to.
He Hasn’t Fouled Out of a Game Yet
If a player makes it through a game without fouling out, it’s a big deal. It means that they were able to be there for the full 48 minutes as the team needed. And when it’s a center, it’s doubly important to stay in games, as you’re needed to protect the rim, and set the tone with screens. Your rebounds also start the offense going the other way.
Valanciunas is yet to foul out of a game in 2020-21. He’s picked up five fouls on a number of occasions, but he hasn’t had a performance where he picked up #6. Xavier Tillman has proved to be a solid backup for him while Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to rehab, though he hasn’t really had to close games out.
JV had COVID a few months ago, and had to miss several games. As soon as he came back, he was back to putting up big numbers. To overcome an illness like that and get right back to the track he was on, is huge. There was never any rust, or any games where he had to commit fouls to either stop fast breaks, or prevent easy baskets. He uses them well.
He Should Be Considered a Top-10 Center
At the end of the day, the only big men that are definitively better than JV are; Gobert, Embiid, Towns, Vucevic, Jokic, Bam Adebayo and Capela. Kristaps Porzingis is more of a PF/C, so doesn’t qualify. The same goes for Domantas Sabonis.
All that being said, Valanciunas is a top-10 big man in the league. He’s as consistent as they get. He will always be there for a big performance when the team needs it.
SO, SHOW HIM SOME LOVE. He needs more respect. His current double-double streak isn’t meriting any national attention, and that is just plain stupid. Come on.