Fantasy Basketball: Jonas Valanciunas Is a Late-Round Steal

Justin HasanContributor IIIOctober 20, 2012

Valanciunas will have ample opportunity to be fantasy relevant from day 1
Valanciunas will have ample opportunity to be fantasy relevant from day 1Nick Laham/Getty Images

The toughest part of a fantasy draft is in the last few rounds where the choice is often limited to wily veterans in the twilight of their career and unproven rookies with no guarantee in the rotation.

In this year's NBA fantasy draft, Jonas Valanciunas will be worth a pick at the end of your draft. J-Val (a nickname unlikely to ever catch on), was drafted in 2011 by the Toronto Raptors, but remained in Europe to further develop last season. 

He may be an unproven talent at the NBA level, but he has played at the highest international level, including in the recent London 2012 Olympics.

He started every game for the Lithuanian team that lost to the eventual gold metal winner, The United States, by only five points. It is true that Valanciunas logged only nine minutes in that game, but the experience for the 20-year-old, including games versus France and Argentina was a big step in his career.

Based on the preseason and the lack of another true center (sorry Aaron Gray) on the Toronto  Raptors, Jonas has a starting spot locked up.  Both Amir Johnson and Ed Davis will come off the bench, but the starting center spot is the Lithuanian's to lose.

From a fantasy perspective, Jonas should average 10 rebounds, along with eight points and a block per game. Why the high rebound forecast? Well, he is playing alongside possibly the weakest rebounding big man in the league, Andrea Bargnani.

Despite being seven feet tall and averaging 33 minutes per game, Bargnani grabbed just 5.5 rebounds per game last season.  That is even worse than Brook Lopez, who averaged six boards per game in the 2010-11 season (he was injured almost the entire 2011-12 season). Basically, Jonas Valanciunas will have little competition for rebounds this season.

In the preseason win versus the Detroit Pistons, J-Val finished with 11 points and eight rebounds in just 29 minutes. In Friday's win over the New York Knicks, he finished with 10 rebounds against the big frontcourt of Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.

I was impressed with his aggressiveness throughout the game and he even had a great stuff on a dunk attempt from Stoudemire.  In the last rounds of your fantasy draft, take  Valanciunas with certainty that this rookie should be fantasy relevant from opening day.

Written by Justin Hasan exclusively for