Jonas Valanciunas In The Mix For The Top Pick In The NBA Draft

May 17, 2011 – 12:24 pm by Ryan Phillips

Yesterday we reported that Turkish forward/center Enes Kanter could end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Other than Duke point guard Kyrie Irving and Arizona forward Derrick Williams, Kanter is really the only guy scouts have mentioned at No. 1 until now. Well, toss another name up on the list.

According to several sources, we’ve heard that Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas will likely end up firmly in the top-pick discussion. We profiled Valanciunas recently and how you should probably learn how to pronounce his name, but we didn’t think his stock would climb this high. But, most scouts are expecting Valanciunas to jump up draft boards and the big night approaches.

The only thing really holding Valanciunas back is – get this – the fact that he’d be a tough sell to North American fans who know nothing about him. Really? That’s ridiculous. If you’re an NBA exec, you should take the best player available that high in the draft. “Selling” the guy to your fans should have nothing to do with it. You know what sells fans? Wins.

Valanciunas is 6’10, 230-pounds and is just 19 years old. He’s talented, has a ridiculous wingspan, great touch, is a very good rebounder, runs the floor well and has a great basketball IQ. He needs to add strength and his outside shooting, but his game is suited to the NBA. Watching his highlights, he reminds me a lot of Pau Gasol.

We’ve said it before, but this is an especially weak draft. After the lottery results come out tonight, we should know a lot more about who will likely go where. But expect Valanciunas to come off the board early.

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