Jonas Valanciunas Needs To Be Shut Down For Sixers To Win


Jonas Valanciunas is having a pretty remarkable year for himself and pushing the Toronto Raptors to wins. The Philadelphia 76ers face off against Toronto at home on Wednesday night, and shutting down Jonas is going to be a huge key to victory.

Valencianas has played for the Raptors for four seasons now, and has become generally accepted as their starting center. He’s good, people knew that, but this year, something has really clicked for him in his head. He’s averaging a career high 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game, averaging a double double. He’s doing this all in less than 30 minutes, only seeing 28 minutes on the floor each night.

He’s been a big part of the Raptors huge start, having a 1.2 in total win shares. To put that into perspective, the league leader, Stephen Curry has 2.5.

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Jonas is sixth in total rebounds, seventh in field goal percentage, and 14th in win shares.

It’s clear Valanciunas is a big reason the Raptors are taking the East by storm. Toronto is tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 5-3. Lately they’ve been on a bit of a slump. After winning their first five, they lost their next three, including a tough one to the New York Knicks Tuesday night 111-109.

Looking at his game log, the Raptors’ success correlates often with his success, and his double digit numbers. In all of the Raptors losses this year, he has been single digits in either points or rebounds. The Raptors are undefeated in times that Valanciunas gets a double double (has happened twice so far).

It’s clear that they don’t do well when he’s not all there. When he scored just eight points against the Orlando Magic, they were at a huge disadvantage, and lost by five.

Jonas is a two-headed monster, able to attack as a rebounding force and a scoring force. Normally, the Sixers would be evenly matched with this, having Nerlens Noel attack the rebounding front, and Jahlil Okafor attack the scoring front. But Nerlens Noel is battling a sore wrist, and may be at a disadvantage, if he plays at all.

This may leave the entire burden of battling with Valanciunas with Okafor. Luckily, it’s something he can handle. The Sixers were left without Noel on Monday night against the Chicago Bulls, and it was clear Okafor knew boards were going to be something that had to be made up. He scored 21 points and had 15 rebounds, a career high for him. It’s clear he can hang around with the double-double monsters, if need be.

There’s no reason Okafor shouldn’t be able to hang with Valanciunas. Coming off of a game where he hung around with veteran big man Pau Gasol, he’s clearly been given the tools to succeed, and can attack on all statistic “big man” fronts.

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I’m going to go ahead and make the prediction that if Jonas Valanciunas is able to easily get inside the paint to score and rebound, the Raptors will win easily. If Okafor (and maybe Noel) is not able to shut him down, the Sixers won’t be able to keep up. Valanciunas won’t be the sole reason the Raptors may win tonight–other weapons like DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry will help–but he’s a huge part of the puzzle.

The mission is clear. Don’t let Jonas Valanciunas get a double-double.