Injury Breakdown: Jonas Valanciunas

4 min read

In college I worked as a physical therapy technician, working for some sports therapists that had worked on then Bullets players, including Manute Bol. This gave me some exposure to the world of rehabilitation for athletes and understanding a diagnosis. While this exposure was eye-opening, my expertise ended at putting hot packs on patients’ knees. I know that there is a lot for fantasy GMs to unpack when a player is injured. We need to not only understand the severity of the injury, how long they might be out, but also restrictions in their play once they return. For dynasty GMs, we need to understand how this injury may affect them long term.

We need to not only understand the severity of the injury, how long they might be out, but also restrictions in their play once they return.
For dynasty GMs we need to understand how this injury may affect them long term.

This is why we are so excited to bring on our newest contributor, Dr. Rajpal Brar, a Doctor of Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, a specialist in sports injuries, and owner of 3CB Performance. He’s been posting amazing injury videos for a while now. We are glad to be able to share this content with your readers. Raj’s first video in collaboration with the Fantasy Unicorns is concerning Toronto Raptors Center Jonas Valanciunas and his thumb injury in December. Take a look.

Initial Notes

For any of that have badly jammed a finger or thumb, that image of that torn UCL made me cringe. Raj makes some great points in functionality about the importance of the thumb, lending itself to the extended rehab period. It’s obviously crucial for a player to have a fully stable and functioning thumb in order to shoot, pass, dribble, rebound the ball. He also makes a good point that with Toronto in 1st place, there’s no need to rush Valancuinas back. He’ll be important to have playing at full strength come playoff time.

Moving Forward

Earlier in his career, JV was a guy that always carried a little more hype than was warranted. Seeminly held back by coach Dwayne Casey for his entire career, there was some light at the end of the tunnel for Jonas, when Nick Nurse was brought in during the offseason. Still, he was unable to fend off the oldest 29 year-old in the league in Serge Ibaka for the starting role. Up until JV’s injury, both were playing well, but there was a reduction in Valancuinas’ production, particularly in boards, that found him dropping out of the top 100. In previous seasons, he posted similar numbers, but more boards and hovered in the 50-70 range pretty consistently.

SeasonStandard 9 Cat Ranking (Per Game)

For a player whose role never quite lived up to expectations, he’s been very solid, providing decent points and boards with excellent percentages. Unfortunately, he never developed any playmaking from the post, and his defensive numbers are poor for a big man. He has started to slowly introduce a 3 point shot. It hasn’t been too successful but is almost enough where he can keep defenses honest. He’s a reliable 2nd center for most fantasy teams. Historically, he’s player that you could feel good about drafting in the 6th round. This is especially true if you did not plan to punt free throws.

Long Term Outlook

Based on Dr. Brar’s explanation, coupled with the position of luxury that the Raptors find themselves in, I would predict a full recovery with little to no long-term issues to be concerned about. He may never find himself as a 30-minute starter, but that lower mileage may help him extend his career. The hope is that he can further polish that outside shooting game to expand his contributions in fantasy. I would also expect those rebounding number to creep back up eventually.

At 26 years old he’s in his athletic prime. With Ibaka’s contract expiring after next season, we could see a changing of the guard. He does have to hold off the improved play of youngster Paskal Siakam. Siakam has played mainly in small ball lineups, putting in only 10% of his time at the center spot. Obviously, situations can change in a hurry, but consider Valancuinas to be a solid bet for top 50-75 production over the next 4-5 seasons. He’s a very nice asset for teams that care about free throw percentage. If his current dynasty GM is spooked by the thumb or is letdown by unrealistic expectations, he makes for a quality buy low.