Say this about Bryan Colangelo, no one will ever accuse him of lacking guts.
On Thursday night at the NBA Draft, the Raptors' general manager eschewed local cries for the likes of Brandon Knight, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo and instead elected to take young, Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas.
Though those in the know are aware Valanciunas was in the mix as high as the second selection and is seen as a potential franchise big man in the mold of Pau Gasol, selecting another European high in the lottery after two other European disasters by previous management and his own backing of the enigma that is Andrea Bargnani was a bold move, to say the least.
This one simply has to work out for Colangelo, who recently received a two-year extension along with a team option for a third season.
It is possible Valanciunas won't even make his way over until the third year, though the second seems more likely.
A high buyout and the need for more development should keep him in Europe for the 2011-12 season, which isn't a bad thing, considering there might not be a season at all due to a lockout.
Valanciunas was non-committal about his NBA future, saying his European club would work with the Raptors to see if coming over next year would be possible. Not likely.
He did tell the Toronto Sun on Wednesday he thought very highly of the city of Toronto and how he would fit with Andrea Bargnani and reiterated that point on Thursday in Newark.
"He's kind of like power forward guy ... so maybe he has better shooting. So maybe I'm better on rebounding," Valanciunas said.
"I don't know. We will be good."
Cheered on by a massive Lithuanian contingent at the Prudential Center — a huge flag of his home country was waving as he put on a Raptors cap for the first time, Valanciunas said he knew Toronto had a large Lithuanian presence.
The recently-turned 19-year-old considers Raptors forward Linas Kleiza a mentor.
"There's a lot of Lithuanian guys there. I think (that and Kleiza's presence) will help me in the NBA, so I like this situation."
A gutsy Colangelo pick
Toronto Sun | Jun 24