Posted by Matt Moore
Drafting a Euro big always has its complications. Will he be able to adjust to the NBA style of play? Will he struggle with the physicality? Will his buyout be reached within a reasonable timeframe and will any of the core he was drafted into still be around then? Teams looking to draft Jonas Valanciunas will be faced with that last question it seems, if only for one more (possibly lockout-shortened) year.
Yahoo! and Draft Express' Jonathan Givony reports that Valanciunas' club Lietuvos Rytas has decided to stick with their demand of Valanciunas being unavailable until 2012 under any buyout agreement. That means that any team that wants Valanciunas will have to wait at least a year to get him, leaving him open to injury, second thoughts about coming across the pond, or any number of factors. More importantly, it means those teams looking to acquire a franchise center to build around now will have to have second thoughts. This has two consequences.
One, Valanciunas may take a hit, as Ken Berger reports. A lot of the teams at the top of the lottery (Cleveland, Washington, Toronto) are looking for immediate impact players. They have antsy ownership wanting quick results. Telling them "You're going to love this guy we got... once he gets here." is not going to go over well, even if the lockout is going down next year. Sure, it makes no sense for ownership to be unhappy about a player missing out on a year they're not going to play, but you've already gone down the wrong path by assuming ownership is a set of rational actors. Shame on you.
Second, it helps Enes Kanter considerably. Kanter has allegedly slid a bit on draft boards because, well, he hasn't played anyone in a long time. Trying to figure out how good he is is like looking at a picture of a car on the internet. You don't even know if the thing is three-dimensional. With Valanciunas not available for immediate help, Kanter becomes the top Euro big in the draft, the top center overall. Expect there to be even more talk about the Cavaliers taking Kanter with the No.4 pick.
Valanciunas could still get picked up by a team with long-term prospects, like Utah, which is clearly willing to wait for things to develop. Someone in the top 10 will swallow the extra year on Valanciunas who will only be 20 when the 2012 season begins. But in a draft rife with disappointment, this is certainly an extra tough pill to swallow for those top-five teams looking to grab an impact player.
There's still a chance Lietuvos Rytas could back down from its demands but with two days to go before the draft, they hold all the cards here.