Title: RAPTORS’ VALANCIUNAS MAY BENEFIT FROM LONG-TERM BENCH ROLE, LIKE BUCKS’ MONROE
Date: April 27, 2017
Original Source: Vice
Synopsis: For my latest at Vice, I wrote about Jonas Valanciunas’ move to the bench against the Bucks and what it could signal about his future role.
Greg Monroe was starting to cook. With the Toronto Raptors leading Game 3 by 15 points in the first quarter and threatening to run away with things, the Milwaukee Bucks turned to their sixth man and asked him to create. Monroe hit a hook shot over Serge Ibaka, then another, and then another, all within the span of two-and-a-half minutes, helping the Bucks pull back to within six.
A lot can go into a short run in basketball. A gaffe here or there, some variance in the quality of shot-making, or a bad matchup. In this case, the Raptors bet it was the latter—the hulking Monroe was proving effective against Toronto’s new, smaller starting lineup, and so while it took nearly five minutes, in came Jonas Valanciunas to settle things down.
Given Valanciunas’ history with the team, his strengths and weaknesses, and the reason he’s now coming off the bench in general, calling on him to settle things down at the defensive end was a rare yet entirely defensible decision. Struggle though he might in the pick-and-roll, hedging on the sideline, or dealing with faster, stretchier players, Valanciunas uses his frame well inside and can bang with the behemoths of the league.