Grizzlies’ Offseason Study Guide: Jonas Valanciunas


The NBA season kicks off within the month, so let’s break down Jonas Valanciunas and how he can solidify himself as a top-10 center in the game today.

We are using these “Offseason Study Guides” to break down the Memphis Grizzlies’ roster. We recently took a look at Jaren Jackson Jr, Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks. Today is Jonas Valanciunas’ turn. We will dig into Defense, Passing, Movement & Shooting.


Marc Gasol

I have to start with Marc Gasol because he embodies the city of Memphis, the center position and defense. Marc was the 2013 Defensive Player of the Year and did it with elite activity, effort and smarts. Defense goes way beyond athletic ability. Some of the all-time great players were not top-tier athletes. If you are able to put yourself in the right position and offer more determination, then often times you become a defensive threat. Gasol was that defensive threat for Memphis and beyond.

Jonas is an above-average defender near the basket, but very much needs to improve on the perimeter to officially solidify himself as a top-10 center in the league. The pick-and-roll was made famous by John Stockton and Karl Malone in the 1990’s and is considered, by some, the hardest motion to defend. Valanciunas struggles with the pick-and-roll play due to speed and movement.

If I could offer a single thing for JV to work it would be the “Hip Swivel.” This is simply keeping yourself in front of defenders with a quick, one-step movement. Anthony Davis is a very good example of staying in front of defenders on the pick-and-roll. If Jonas can become lighter on his feet when defending the PnR, then the Grizzlies can become a top-10 team defensively in 2021.

Joakim Noah

AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH – Energy & excitement from this crazy hair masterpiece!

Joakim Noah was the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year. He excelled in one area better than most anyone: being active. When Joakim is in the game, you can bet that the team will play with energy and excitement.

JV averaged 26 minutes per game this past season and has averaged 25 minutes per game throughout his career. Those minutes will probably continue to stay the same, so knowing the work load, I would like to see him play with more energy and activity. Tony Allen was the energizer during the Grit & Grind era and Jonas could become that spark on this new “Grizz Nxt Gen” team.


Nikola Jokic

It is hard not to have Nikola Jokic in every offensive category, but I wanted to show off his passing. Marc Gasol spoiled us in Memphis for many years with this trait. Jokic has taken it to a different level in the past few years and seems to be getting better every year. Court vision and slowing the game down allows a player to become a better passer. The NBA game is so fast now that the traditional big men are becoming extinct. Passing can allow you to continue to be a part of the offense in a more consistent way.

The old-man post game is what comes to mind when you think of Jonas. This doesn’t have to be the box that he continues to be put in. I would like to see JV become more of a face-up post player which should allow for more spacing and court vision. The Grizzlies want to play fast, but they rely on Valanciunas when they become more of a half-court team.

Jonas will continue to move more to the three-point line this 2021 season. This expansion of his game continues to create spacing that is much needed for the players on this currently constructed team. Jokic is a very good example of being able to pass from the top of the key and this allows for more players to cut to the basket for easy buckets.

As I look into my crystal ball, I can hear Pete Pranica on the call: “Jonas alley-oops to a high flying Morant! Boom!!!”


Pau Gasol

I have never been a huge fan of Pau Gasol and many times, as a Grizzlies fan, yelled “YOU’RE TOO SOFT!” Pau played with more finesse than I preferred but he also had a fire that came out, at times, that I loved. The elder Gasol played with a lot of movement on the offensive side of the ball that actually fits into the NBA game now better than back when he played. He was able to pick and roll, pop and slip at an elite level.

Valanciunas has done very well under coach Jenkins with facilitating the half-court offense at the top of the key. I would like to see him work from the post on a pick-and-roll with the side wings more. If Jonas can shed a little more weight and become quicker on his first step, then he will continue to grow with how the games moving. JV is one of the best screeners in the game, but he isn’t able to capitalize on it due to his lack of shooting and rolling towards the basket.


Brook Lopez

The better Lopez twin has absolutely redeveloped his three-point shot over the last four seasons. Brook attempted 31 three pointers in his first eight seasons combined and made a whopping three.

Then he transformed.

Over the last four seasons, Lopez has attempted 1,549 three pointers and made 535, good for 34%. This is an absolute transformation of his game. As the game continues to get faster and three pointers become a focal point of offenses, change like this is what keeps players in the league for 13+ years. I applaud Lopez for putting in the work to develop his shooting and JV should study how he changed his game.

Jonas has shot roughly one three pointer a game good for a 35% success rate over the course of his career. Imagine 3-4 attempts per game while maintaining this percentage. This would open up the court more for himself as well as his teammates. Ja Morant is still developing his outside game, meaning more spacing from JV could tilt the half-court game in the Grizzlies’ favor.

If the Grizzlies have their three main big men shooting from outside at a high percentage, then they will become tough to beat. Valanciunas does not need to force outside shots up, but work on becoming a threat.

Zach Randolph

“Where We From, Bullies Get Bullied” – Z-bo

Swagger, toughness, grit, touch. All words that describe Zach Randolph. This section is about shooting, but there is so more than just shooting threes as a big man in the NBA. Randolph fought for the basketball and used his dynamic footwork to get buckets.

Z-Bo had amazing touch within 18 feet of the basket, and Jonas could fall in those same footsteps. As mentioned before with Lopez, we would like to see JV develop his outside shot, but that short jumper can be so deadly as well. We saw a glimpse of Valanciunas showing off that soft touch on a baseline fadeaway last year. I want to continue to see more of that to make himself more of a threat.

As with Randolph, JV can get to the front of the rim with that first step power move. That move should still be a focal point in his game moving forward, and an improved shot makes it even more effective.

Lithuanian Sensation

Jonas Valanciunas

Let this video remind you why the Grizzlies have a top-10 center in the league.

Valanciunas is one of my favorite players on the Grizzlies and even in the NBA. He exudes confidence and will absolutely give you everything he has night in and night out. 2021 could be seen as a breakthrough year for a guy who continues to stay consistent and finally gets his recognition as a walking double-double machine. Valanciunas is walking into his prime with a Gucci fanny pack because he drips Lithuanian swag.

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About Daniel Greer

Audio Director for The Lead Sports Media. Contributor for Grizz Lead & Bet The Lead. Host of the Grizz 901 podcast.

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