Title: Valanciunas’ confidence grows with more holistic role on Raptors
Date: October 12, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about Jonas Valanciunas’ new role in the Raptors’ offense and the confidence it’s giving him early on.
It is the height of pick-up disrespect. A player catching the ball above the three-point arc, an out-of-position defender with legs too tired to close out, a non-shooter with little choice but to take the shot so egregiously being handed them. A miss in that situation hurts. It hurts the pride, it can shrink the confidence, and it can justify the defender using the same approach if the same situation arises again.
There’s been a lot of talk of Jonas Valanciunas’ improved range since he nailed the first three-point shot of his career in the final game of the regular season last year. He was always an elite free-throw shooter for a big man. With one of the softest touches around the rim and anywhere inside the paint, the hope has been that the 7-footer could extend his range beyond the 10-to-16-foot range, where he’s shot 46.9 per cent over the last two seasons. With the Toronto Raptors talking up the need to shoot more threes – and produce them from unlikelier sources – whether or not Valanciunas would be given the green light to fire from outside has been one of the more fun questions in training camp.
On Tuesday, Andre Drummond was willing to risk three points to see how Valanciunas’ stroke had come along, giving him the rec-league treatment after doubling DeMar DeRozan in the post. After Valanciunas missed – this, his first attempt of the pre-season – Drummond grew even more disrespectful a quarter later when Valanciunas dribbled an offensive rebound out beyond the arc. Drummond didn’t just decline to close out, he waved Valanciunas away entirely.