Raptors get pick right

Jonas Valanciunas shakes hands with NBA commissioner David Stern after the Raptors selected the...

Jonas Valanciunas shakes hands with NBA commissioner David Stern after the Raptors selected the 6-foot-11 Lithuanian in the first round of the draft Thursday night in New Jersey. (Reuters)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

TORONTO - There’s an expression in basketball that applies in today’s era of above-the-rim play as it did when the game was played at a slower pace when fundamentals superceded athleticism.

In a nutshell, it goes something like this: You can’t teach size.

In time, Jonas Valanciunas may evolve into the dominant post player many have envisioned for this gangly Lithuanian.

When he does, it’s conceivable Bryan Colangelo may no longer be around to remake, retool or reposition the Raptors.

Size, a soft touch around the basket, an ability to run the floor and the all-important, much-coveted athleticism, these are the quality Valanciunas will bring.

It’s too bad this kid can’t provide immediate relief on a Raptors team requiring help at virtually every position, save for seven-foot jump shooters who have an aversion to playing defence and rebounding the basketball.

Had Valanciunas been NBA-ready, it’s doubtful the Raptors would have used the fifth overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to select this 6-foot-11 big.

Colangelo could have addressed a need at point guard as Utah overlooked Brandon Knight to select Turkish-born Enes Kanter with the third overall pick.

When Cleveland used the second of its lottery picks to take Brampton’s Tristan Thompson at No. 4, Valanciunas fell in Toronto’s lap, much like Ed Davis slipped when the Raptors had their draft number called last year at No. 13.

There’s no substitute for size and the Raptors now have two young frontcourt pieces for the future, which doesn’t look so bleak when a true centre is suddenly a real possibility.

In the immediate future, no one knows what’s in store, especially with a lockout looming.

If the event of a lockout, the Raptors can allow Valanciunas to get stronger while competing in the Euroleague, talk of a buyout no longer a priority if a work stoppage comes reality.

Even in the unlikely event of a new deal, buyouts, which can be tricky and very political, are always resolved with money.

Regardless, the selection of Valanciunas must be viewed as a solid asset as Colangelo moves forward in his rebuilding process.

Size is indispensable, unteachable and when athleticism and length is added to the mix, a team such as the Raptors, which has never had a true centre, cannot bypass this prospect.

Some have compared Valanciunas to a young Pau Gasol, which is a stretch but what the comparison reveals is Valanciunas’ ability to roll to the basket.

He’ll have to get stronger and his English can only get better.

For some odd reason, there are those who feel Valanciunas is a poor-man’s Chris Bosh.

When apprised, Valanciunas showed both his honesty as his lack in self-expression.

“Not so strong body,’’ he would say.

Dwane Casey had plenty to say.

“He’s long, will protect the rim and he’s got great hands,’’ the Raptors’ newest head coach said. “He’s a young man who is going to be great with our program.”

Casey added that Valanciunas was the player Toronto coveted all along.

And you believe him when you consider all the players every mock draft and every self-anointed maven projected for Toronto was available, including Bismack Biyombo, Kemba Walker and Jan Vesely.

“There aren’t many young big guys like that in the world,’’ Casey said of the 19-year-old.

The buyout issue, Casey conceded, did deter teams from selecting Valanciunas.

Like Colangelo, Casey may not be around when Valanciunas reaches his potential, but regardless of who is calling the shots in the front office or on the court, Valanciunas had to be picked at No. 5.

When Valanciunas gathered at the Euro camp in Treviso, Italy earlier this month, he turned heads.

Patience must now be exercised and the all-mighty dollar must now be spent.

Money, which the Raptors have when so many games were lost and no major deal was made during the 60-loss season, will also come in handy when free agency begins.

There are bigs available, Tyson Chandler, whom Casey used as the defensive anchor in Dallas, will be offered a king’s ransom.

Whether the Raptors can fetch Chandler, only time will tell.

Just like Valanciunas’ impact.


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