Will The Cavs Regret Passing on Jonas Valanciunas

        Even though the US did knock off Lithuania to finish atop Group F, they did so while Lithuania was without their star point guard Vytenis Cizauskas, who averaged 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in his seven games of action. Big man Jonas Valanciunas, who was selected No. 5 overall by Toronto in last month's NBA Draft, averaged tournament-bests 23 points and 13.9 rebounds for the tournament, going off for 30 points and 15 rebounds with 4 blocks against Team USA and 36 and 8 against Serbia in the championship. His play made Cleveland look silly for passing on him at No. 4 to select Texas' Tristan Thompson due to the one year remaining on Valanciunas European contract with his club team.

        Breaking down Thompson's freshman season with the Longhorns shows the promise that lies behind the reason to pick him with the No. 4 pick, ahead of Valanciunas. Thompson was one of the best offensive rebounders in the entire country, despite being undersized for an NBA power forward (but possesses a long 7'2" wingspan), as he attacked and recovered 13.9 percent of Texas' misses. Because of his ability to maneuver his way into the heart of the paint with a scoring move or searching for a loose ball coming off the rim, Thompson also drew nearly 7 fouls against him a game where he possessed a ridiculous 82.9 free throw rate, 15th in the country and third amongst all 2011 NBA Draft prospects. On the downside, Thompson was only able to convert 127 of his 261 free throw attempts (48.7 percent) so the "hack-a-thompson" worked well for opposing teams. Still, overall, Thompson had an efficient overall game as a freshman (24.3 PER) and has lots of room to grow as he develops his offensive game both with his back to the basket and facing up.

        It's difficult to quantify statistics without becoming overwhelmed in them and while Thompson was impressive during games, Valanciunas is not only a full year younger, but has better size (7-feet with a 7'4" wingspan) and better performances. His English is not great as he demonstrated on draft night, but his game is as he showed off throughout his years with the MVP of both the U-18 and U-19 tournament. Sure his contract was an issue; when he does finally come to the NBA next season, he will still only 20 years old and with the lockout attacking the summer league and potentially the regular-season, Valanciunas could have benefitted from another year in Lithuania anyway honing his skills and packing on the muscle.

ByPresident Corey Ruff - 7-15-11