After acquiring him from the Raptors in the Marc Gasol trade, the Grizzlies empowered Jonas Valanciunas. Memphis gave him an expanded role with more minutes and touches. The center averaged 20-11-2-2 in 19 games before his season ended with a sprained ankle.
“Every single day, we were hyping him to believe that he could do more,” then-Grizzlies coach J.B. Bickerstaff said in April, “and that there was more there.”
Apparently, that message took.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Sources: Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas plans to decline the $17.6M option on 2019-20 contract, clearing way to become a free agent. His primary intention will be to negotiate a new deal with Memphis, where he averaged 19.9 PPG and 10.7 RPG after February trade from Toronto.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) June 13, 2019
For his sake, I hope Valanciunas knows what he’s doing. For that matter, I hope the Grizzlies know what they’re doing, too.
Valanciunas is a fine center in a league overstocked with quality centers. He scores well inside and is a capable rebounder. He’s okay defensively, but limited athletically.
A $17,617,976 salary is a lot for a player like that. Even if Memphis plans to re-sign him at a lower starting salary, a long-term contract for the 27-year-old could be a lot for a player like that.
Jaren Jackson Jr. looks like the Grizzlies’ center of the future. But, given the physicality of the position, he might not be ready for it yet. There’s nothing inherently wrong with keeping Valanciunas to allow Jackson more time to develop while splitting his time between power forward and center.
It just depends on the price.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Memphis and Valanciunas have already agreed to terms. Either way, there’s plenty of room for this to backfire – for Valanciunas if he must explore the market or for the Grizzlies if they re-sign him.
But whoever signs Valanciunas will at least get a good player. Teams often overvalue that while undervaluing opportunity cost.