As we inch closer to the 2011 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers appear primed to select Lithuanian center Jonas Valanciunas (pronounced YO-nas Val-an-CHOO-nis) with the fourth-overall selection, pairing him with Duke point guard Kyrie Irving.
As folks like WFNY have been attempting to inform and educate on the 19-year-old center, many have questioned the lack of information being put out by the team – no word of workouts, interviews, etc. Johnathan Givony of Draft Expresssquelched all of these concerns this morning by reporting the Cavs flew Valanciunas in on Tuesday for a “secret” meeting that consisted of a workout and interview with the player exceeding expectations on both fronts.
Reports of issues with Valanciunas’ buyout were thought to initially suppress his draft stock. As we have been told over the last few days, the Cavaliers were hoping to be able to trade down (with the Washington Wizards still in the mix) and acquire Valanciunas’ services at a marginally lower price. Unfortunately, the discount may have been short-lived as the Detroit Pistons, Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs are all looking to select the 7-footer if given the opportunity. Rumors had circulated that the Spurs were looking to move players like Tony Parker and George Hill to move up to the seventh-overall selection (owned by Sacramento) which would ultimately be used on Valanciunas.
Other names that have been thrown in the mix with the fourth-overall pick are the obvious ones like Turkish center Enes Kanter and not-so-ovious ones like Texas forward Tristan Thompson (who John Hollinger has in lockstep with Derrick Williams). But with a multi-year rebuilding process in place, the inability of Valanciunas to play in the NBA until the 2012-13 season is of little concern to Chris Grant and his front office staff. As stated on this medium and via Twitter, the team actually views this as somewhat of a positive in the event of a lockout in 2011-12 as their developmental big man will have a place to play.
Despite his desire to rock gingham check under stripes, Valanciunas continues to boast what many scouts and executives consider to be a very high ceiling that could result in him being the best player in what is thought to be a draft that is light on difference makers. He has shown an incredible work ethic, a desire to improve and highly efficient numbers in relatively few minutes during his age-18 season with Lietuvos Rytas.
What is known at this stage is that the 19-year-old legitimate NBA center is surrounded by a lot of intrigue, mystery and the ever-popular draft term of upside. Whether or not this “secret” meeting is indicative of the Cavaliers drafting Valanciunas and making him a part of their future (via draft or trade) remains to be seen.