Jonas Valanciunas had tough shoes to fill for the Memphis Grizzlies after being acquired in a deadline day deal for a former face of the franchise. It appears he did enough in his 20 games with the team to earn their strong interest in bringing him back for the near future.
The Grizzlies are expected to agree to a new three-year deal for Valanciunas when free agency opens Sunday evening, worth $45 million, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Valanciunas performed well in a more featured role in his brief time with the Grizzlies last season, averaging 19.9 points and 10.7 rebounds in 27.7 minutes per game.
He was acquired from the Toronto Raptors, where he spent the previous 470 games of his professional career over seven seasons. His role fluctuated quite a bit over his time there, but the increased offensive duty the Grizzlies gave him presented a significant increase on his 11.8 points per game he tallied with the Raptors.
The Raptors will take their side of the deal, of course, which resulted in Marc Gasol heading the other way. They went on to capture the NBA championship, and Gasol recently accepted his player option to return for another season.
It is not easy to move on from a franchise player like Gasol, who ranks in the top two in nearly every career counting stat the Grizzlies have, but the team has done well to acquire Valanciunas at a lower price than the $26 million Gasol will be owed this season, and to have him for another two seasons beyond that.
The 27-year-old Valanciunas previously declined a player option of $17.6 million for the final year of his previous contract.
More NBA coverage from Yahoo Sports