It wasn't against Dwight Howard or Tyson Chandler. Heck, it wasn't even against Joel Anthony or Ronny Turiaf. But despite qualifiers, Toronto's first-round pick Jonas Valanciunas absolutely dominated in the FIBA under-19 World Championships.
Not only did Valanciunas lead Lithuania to gold in the U19 games (the U.S. finished fifth), he was easily the tournament's best player. The Raptors new center averaged 23.0 points, 13.9 rebounds and 3.2 blocks per game to go with 59 percent shooting from the field and 81.1 percent from the free throw line. He put a bow on his wonderful tournament with a 36-point, eight-rebound and three-block effort in the gold medal game.
Somewhere, Bryan Colangelo is probably just a little bit excited.
But it wasn't just about the numbers against non-NBA players. That stuff is nice, but there's a lot more in play if Valanciunas -- the most intriguing player in this year's draft -- is going to become an NBA force. Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Star saw a little more from Valanciunas.
He showed just about everything the Raptors were hoping for when they picked him fifth overall.
In addition to the gaudy numbers, Valanciunas displayed a genuine love for the game and an intensity and desire to get results at both ends. He showed good fluidity and bounce and kept his foul rate — one of his main weaknesses — mostly under control. He played every minute of the final and looked like he could have kept going, instead bolting around the gym and playing to the many Lithuanian fans in the building before accepting his MVP and championship trophies.
Like I said, the numbers and stats are one thing, but the intangibles that makes an effective NBA players are equally important. You hear words like "motor" and "upside" tossed around a lot and in most cases, they don't mean anything. But stuff like hearing a guy is committed and passionate are good any way you shake them.
Valanciunas will be Lithuania's backup center on the team that will host the Eurobasket tournament in August and September. There, we'll all get a little better taste of what he's capable of as Turkey is in Lithuania's group which features Chicago's defensive stud Omer Asik. Put up 36 points and eight rebounds against Asik and that'll catch some real attention.
Regardless of perspective, it's hard not to at least take notice of what Valanciunas accomplished as the tournament's MVP. He's probably not NBA ready in terms of walking on to the floor and competing as a starter from day one in Toronto. He's still extremely young and needs to fill our his lanky 6-11 frame. But dominating against your age group and handling top prospects from the United States as well as the rest of the world is something to at least notice.