Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Jonas Valanciunas

Toronto Raptors v Detroit PistonsThe 27-47 Toronto Raptors have only eight regular season games remaining and will miss the playoffs for the fifth straight year.

With nothing to play for but pride and player development, coach Dwane Casey has started to give his younger guys more run. One such baller who has capitalized on this opportunity is 20-year-old rookie Jonas Valanciunas.

The 6’11” Lithuanian center was picked 5th overall in the 2011 NBA Draft. However, he stayed in Europe last year due to contractual obligations. In his first season with the Raptors, Valanciunas has played in 55  games and started 50.

The Eurohoops-experienced rookie has come on of late, and Toronto is starting to see a return on their investment in the future franchise center. Valanciunas played in all 15 of Toronto’s March contests and averaged 11.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg, and 1.1 bpg in 27.1 mpg while shooting 62% from the field and 82% from the line.

Over the last three games, Valanciunas has improved to 16.3 ppg, 9.7 boards and 3.7 blocks. He has scored in double figures in nine straight games, averaging 15 ppg over this span while shooting an impressive 69% from the field.

The big Lithuanian has played professional ball since he was 16 years old, so he’s far more seasoned than most rookies and can withstand the long NBA 82-game schedule.

As fantasy teams enter the home stretch, Valanciunas would be a great addition to a roster looking for points, boards and blocks at a reasonable price.

Remember the famous Lithuanian saying:  If you run from a wolf, you may run into a bear.

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