Jonas Valanciunas and the Grizzlies are flying under your radar
Jonas Valanciunas taking a jumper - Via SportsNet.ca

Since coming over from the Toronto Raptors, Jonas Valanciunas has exceeded expectations for the Grizzlies.

In his 19 games with Memphis last season he averaged 19.9 points along with 10.7 rebounds. Those are near all-star caliber numbers.

So far this season, he's averaging 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds but has been improving as the season has progressed.

Memphis knew they were past their championship window and decided to move on from Marc Gasol at last year's trade deadline. They managed to acquire a solid young center entering his prime in Valanciunas along with an expiring deal in C.J. Miles, a young player later traded in Delon Wright, and a 2024 second round pick.

JV signed a bargain deal to return to Memphis in the offseason when he agreed to a 3-year $45 million deal.  To give that some context, here are a few players making up to $1 million more/less than him this season:

Valanciunas was slotted to be their transition center; a guy to get his shots up and to help the Grizzlies make it through these developmental years with some integrity. He's been more than that.

While the start of this season didn't go as well as he had hoped, he's picked it up in the past month, especially when he gets ample playing time.

In the past 4 weeks JV has had elite production when he plays 25+ minutes. He is averaging:

22.0/10.8/2.2 with 1.2 BPG on 69.5/58.8/70.6 shooting splits

The Grizzlies currently sit in a playoff spot at 8th in the West; a far cry from most pre-season predictions. This article on SB Nation from before the season states that Vegas had the grizzlies over/under at 26.5 wins at the time. Even with all going right, article author Joe Mullinax projected the Grizzlies to win 25-30 games.

They are on pace for 37 and could push .500 if things continue to go well for them.

Ja Morant is electric, JJJ is a two-way beast, rookie Brandon Clarke is excelling in his bench role, and JV is putting up big numbers while being top 30 in PER.

If they were flying under your radar before, they shouldn't be now.

The young core they have is one of the best in the NBA and they could be a force in the years to come.

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