Ryan Knaus dives into New Orleans Pelicans C Jonas Valančiūnas elite early-season production and if he can sustain this level as the season progresses.
RYAN KNAUS: Veteran center Jonas Valanciunas is off to a fantastic start with the Pelicans this season. He's ranked number 10 overall for nine cap value on Yahoo, which is 42 above his average draft position. He's also number 16 in Yahoo's default point scoring and he went into week five averaging 19 points on pristine percentages. With 12 and 1/2 rebounds, they're good enough for second in the NBA behind Clint Capela and Rudy Gobert.
Simply put, JV's offensive repertoire has been elite, whether he's operating as a roll man, picking and popping in the mid-range or sinking shots from downtown, where he's been an unsustainably hot 57% from the field. The bad news is that the Pelicans recently snapped a nine game losing streak and have a two and 12 record. Only the Rockets are off to a slower start.
We have zero indication when Zion Williamson might return from knee surgery, which is a blessing and a curse for JV's fantasy managers. On the plus side, it gives Valanciunas more touches offensively. And with New Orleans routinely playing small ball, it's a factor in his rebounds peaking at career high levels.
The negative side is that every week he misses leaves New Orleans in a bigger hole. And by the time he debuts, the Pelicans playoff picture could be bleak. Maybe JV will develop instant chemistry with Zion and continue to average close to 20 points and 12 boards. But it's also possible that the Pelicans will consider trading his very friendly contract which would change his role potentially for the worse.
And if he's in New Orleans past the trade deadline, will he even play if the postseason fades from view? The answers will determine his value in the final months of the season during fantasy playoffs. So managers should at least start asking the questions.