New Orleans Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas has one more season left on his two-year, $30.14 million contract, and the 6-foot-11 big man hopes to remain in the Big Easy. Last December, New Orleans posted a surprising 23-12 record at this juncture of the 2022-23 season. However, the Western Conference contender went on to finish 42-40.
“It was a great feeling being the No. 1 seed [in December]. That’s a big accomplishment,” Valanciunas told Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports during an interview. “I want to come back to that. And I want to stay longer there. I like the New Orleans group. I’m ready to go and do it.”
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Jonas Valanciunas has captained Lithuania’s 3-0 start at this World Cup.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) August 29, 2023
More importantly, Jonas Valanciunas has enjoyed playing alongside two-time All-Star forward Zion Williamson, the first overall pick of the 2019 NBA Draft. “He has the skill set and the first step, which I feel bad for people who’s guarding him,” the 11-year veteran said.
“It’s unbelievable things. When you’re just watching him play, you feel like, ‘Wow, what the f—k is going on?’ His power, his highlights, talk for himself.”
Nonetheless, Valanciunas has proven himself more reliable than Williamson. Knee, foot, and hamstring injuries have limited the 2019 first-rounder to 114 games in his first four seasons. He’s missed 194 regular-season games and all nine of the Pelicans’ postseason contests.
Jonas Valanciunas enjoys playing for the New Orleans Pelicans, hopes to “stay longer there” with Zion Williamson
In July, the Pelicans were reportedly interested in exploring a trade for Cleveland Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen and Detroit Pistons big man Isaiah Stewart, according to William Guillory and John Hollinger of The Athletic.
Valanciunas, 31, would have been part of the trade package. Guillory said that “his limitations on the defensive end have limited his effectiveness late in games.”
“If they can make the money work and get the right fit, New Orleans is in a decent position to pull off a trade like this because it still has all its future first-round picks,” Hollinger wrote.
Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania are looking ahead to the second round of the FIBA World Cup after sweeping Group D with a 91-71 win over Montenegro on Tuesday. They’ll face USA and the winner of Greece-New Zealand.
— INQUIRER Sports (@INQUIRERSports) August 30, 2023
“They can hang on to the unprotected [Los Angeles] Lakers and [Milwaukee] Bucks picks in case they cash in a lottery ticket and make deals involving multiple protected firsts of their own.”
Valanciunas’ contract carries a 15% trade bonus. An in-season trade is also not yet out of the question. In 79 starts in the 2022-23 season, the center averaged 14.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 24.9 minutes per game. Plus, he shot 54.7% from the floor and a career-best 82.6% at the foul line.
At the moment, Valanciunas and Lithuania are advancing to the second round of the 2023 FIBA World Cup after sweeping Group D with a 91-71 win over Montenegro on Tuesday. Lithuania is set to face USA and the winner of Greece-New Zealand.
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Source: Basketball Insider