After spraining his ankle in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Heat, Raptors’ coach Dwyane Casey said that Jonas Valanciunas is a “little ways away from contributing in a playoff game.”
He’s already been ruled out for Game 1 and is questionable for Game 2.
The Raptors were fortunate to escape their series against Miami without their mammoth center, but it helped that Hassan Whiteside wasn’t able to contribute for the Heat. Although he’s already more than a week to rest, it’s reported that he hasn’t yet started basketball-related activities.
Through Toronto’s first ten playoff games, Valanciunas was a monster on the glass, in the paint, and on defense. He averaged 15 points on 55% from the field, 12.1 rebounds, and 1.4 four blocks through those games and collected six double-doubles. A decent mid-range game was working for him and the Raptors, as he shot it at 62% and was the only really consistent offense for Toronto.
Opponents were shooting just a tick over 46% when guarded by Valanciunas, which is a welcoming statistic as the Cavaliers have shot the lights out against the Pistons and Hawks.
Without him on the floor, the Raptors are subject to getting mauled on the boards by Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson — who everyone knows is absolutely relentless attacking the glass — when the Eastern Conference Finals start.
Moreover, his presence in the paint alone is enough to deter the Cavaliers from attacking the paint. While not a premier shot blocker, Valancinuas is a legitimate seven feet with long arms and would make it tough for even adept finishers like LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.