Watching the ebbs and flows of the mock drafts, attempting to figure who will be available when the Milwaukee Bucks pick and trying to match their needs with the best talent available seems like an all encompassing kind of thing. And I’m sure for many, it is. No stone goes unturned during hours of research and preparation. People figure out what they like and don’t like about every prospect that can possibly be available.
Organizations spend thousands of hours scouting, interviewing and preparing for all possibilities. But as a blogger, I don’t have that sort of time. I’m doing my best to keep an eye on things, but I’m not planning for every scenario possible. I don’t research each and every prospect the way I’m sure many do. I haven’t seen grainy video footage of Bismack Biyombo working out in a YMCA in the Senegal. I can’t tell you off the top of my head Alec Burks’s vertical leap. Some things get through the cracks.
That’s why when a reporter friend of mine asked me yesterday to compare Jonas Valanciunas to a current player, I couldn’t offer him an answer. I had to be honest: I had no idea. I never thought a guy who seemed to be a sought after prospect could possibly fall into the Bucks hands in this particular draft.
That’s the thing about European players though. Buyouts can be tricky and things can change awfully quick.
Here we are a day from the draft and Valanciunas went from almost a sure fire bet to go number four, to possibly one of the Bucks main targets at number ten thanks to a buyout that likely will keep him away from the NBA for at least a season. The buzz about Valanciunas and the Bucks has gotten gotten considerably louder over the past day.
DX reported there was a potential deal between Milwaukee and Houston on the horizon if Valanciunas isn’t available at ten. On the BS Report, Chad Ford mentioned John Hammond’s job security as a logical reason as to why Milwaukee may be willing to wait a year on the Euro big man. Adrian Wojnarowski is the latest to pair the Lithuanian and Milwaukee.
But who is this tantalizing prospect potentially falling into the awaiting arms of Bucks fans?
DX is the leader in Valanciunas information. They have a number of interviews with him and a great run down of what he does well and where he needs some work. Where he really thrives, is around the hoop. He doesn’t appear to have much of a post up game, but when he gets the ball near the rim, much more often than not, its going in. That sounds like a fairly simple task for big men, but Milwaukee has struggled mightily to finish around the rim over the past two seasons.
Nearly 82.2% of Valanciunas’s shots come around the basket in finishing situations, the most among all the big men in our sample, and he made 68% of those attempts last season (5th).
Don’t expect him to step out much though. Similarly to Andrew Bogut, Valanciunas doesn’t operate much outside the paint. According to DX, he took just eight jump shots last season, converting on five. But he does show promise with his touch: He connected on better than 90% of his free throws (23 out of 24 (I assume, DX doesn’t have anything other than per game and percentage numbers)).
His 7-foot-4 wingspan certainly can’t hurt him in the eyes of the Milwaukee front office. The Bucks have been looking to add length and athleticism for two years and if he arrives a more polished prospect, it sounds tantalizing to pair him with equally long Larry Sanders in a defensive front court that could cause nightmares for penetrating guards looking to finish.
The knocks on him are a lack of experience (he’s 19) and less than ideal feel for the game. He picks up those silly fouls energy guys who are a bit too aggressive often do and his fouls are amplified by his lack of feel. Those are wrinkles that hopefully can be ironed out in time.
When watching highlight tapes of him, it’s encouraging to see how fluid he is in his movements and how aggressive he is in planting himself near the rim, ready for rebounds and awaiting dunk opportunities. There’s something to be said for playing to your strengths.
When looking at his game and putting into a frame of reference that I can understand, I think of Dan Gadzuric. Then I add more coordination and a free throw stroke. Gadz flashed signs of being a real player from time to time early in his career, if Valanciunas can eclipse that and be consistent about it, I don’t think anyone would have too many complaints.
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.