If you have watched the Toronto Raptors in the fourth quarter in the past three seasons, you’ll notice one significant occurrence. Jonas Valanciunas is continuously nowhere to be found. Jonas appeared in 80 games for the Raptors last season and in 23 of those games, he sat out the entire fourth quarter. In the 57 games he did play, he averaged just 5.1 minutes. Head coach Dwane Casey said at the start of the season that Jonas will see more minutes in the fourth quarter, but in the loss against the Sacramento Kings, we saw otherwise.
Casey decided to roll with Bismack Biyombo at the (five spot) for nearly the entire fourth quarter. The Kings took advantage of Bismack’s non-existent offensive game, leaving him open in the closing minutes, doubling on Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan forcing them into several tough shots and turnovers. When Casey brought in Jonas with 25.7 seconds left in the game, it was a little too late. Jonas may have struggled in Sacramento, putting up just 4 points & 5 rebounds but his presence on the floor would have limited DeMarcus Cousins gambling on the defense end, as he continued to do multiple times on Bismack throughout the fourth quarter. It would have also had him work on both ends of the court as Jonas has proved to be a major threat offensively when the Raptors have gone to him. It would also allow both Lowry and DeRozan a chance to create something offensively without being doubled.
Bismack recorded just 4 points & 6 rebounds in 26:46 minutes on the night while Cousins strolled through with 36 points & 10 rebounds.
According to Josh Lewenberg of TSN, Bismack has played about 21 more minutes than Jonas has this season in the fourth quarter. Bismack is (-20) in 72 minutes while Jonas is a (+34) in 51 minutes.
Here is Jonas fourth quarter minutes thus far this season: (5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 9, 5.5, 6, 3, 6.5, 0, 1.5, 0) Average: 4.5 (Ranked 7th on the team)
We all would think Jonas wasn’t signed to a four-year, $64 million contract extension this past off-season to sit on the bench in the closing minutes of the fourth. Jonas’ fourth quarter absence is directed right back to Casey. Seems as if Casey doesn’t trust Jonas just yet to close out crucial games.
“Jonas is growing up,” coach Casey said before taking on the Kings. “I’ve been preaching that since he got here. It’s just going to take time.”
Jonas is still 23 years old but that is no excuse to be having him sitting in the fourth. Many may say it has to do with Jonas not being as mobile on the defensive but Casey should be able to adjust his defensive schemes in order to accompany Jonas and the great skills he brings on the offensive end.
What’s mind blowing is the fact that JV might actually be the Raptors’ best player. His net rating is by far the highest of all rotational players of +13.6. When he’s off the court, the Raptors’ net rating is a -8.1. While the sample might be small, he significantly outperforms Lowry and DeRozan in this category. When he sits, the team substantially drops both offensively and defensively. In fact, stats dictate that JV has been better defensively than Bismack, who boasts a -7.7 net rating. His usage rate offensively is 20%, while DeRozan’s is 25.4% and Lowry’s 27.2%. While the sample is small, it’s still worth mentioning. Jonas is averaging a career best 14.1 points & 9.8 rebounds in the beginning stages of this season, while also ranking fourth in the league in field goal percentage at 58.8%.
Jonas has recorded five double-doubles in the Raptors first eleven games. Casey has to stop resisting, and just let the man play. It’s hard to imagine how good he could really be if he got more playing time and touches. Fingers crossed that we get Christmas early this season and get more of Jonas in the fourth quarter.