April 18, 2014

Medina
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NBA Draft: Jonas Valanciunas is still available

Jonas Valanciunas is still in the mix of players who might be taken by the Cavaliers with the fourth pick in the June 23 NBA Draft.

The 19-year-old Lithuanian did not withdraw from the draft, as some thought he would, by the Monday deadline for international players.

Assuming the Cavs take Duke point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick and Minnesota follows by selecting Arizona forward Derrick Williams, what Cleveland does at No. 4 could be largely dependent on what Utah does with the third pick.

If the Jazz takes a point guard like Kentucky’s Brandon Knight or UConn’s Kemba Walker, the Cavs could very well opt for Kentucky center Enes Kanter, a Turkey native who recently worked out for the team. If the Jazz takes Kanter, the Cavs might be looking at international players like Jan Vesely, Donatas Motiejunas or the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Valanciunas.

Of course, there’s also a decent chance the Cavs could forego the international route and take a college player, but Valanciunas has to be considered in the mix.

“That’s picking on upside,” NBA co-director of scouting Ryan Blake said of Cleveland taking Valanciunas at No. 4. “Offensively, he’s not ready, but the guy can rebound, block shots and set screens. He’s like a Joakim Noah. He’s a very good player with upside, but whoever picks him shouldn’t expect him to come (to the NBA) next season.”

Valanciunas does not have a contract buyout agreement in place with his current team, Lietuvos Rytas. Some reports have said it might require as much as $3 million, while others have said it won’t be nearly that high. The team that drafts Valanciunas can contribute as much as $500,000 toward it, but he would have to pay the rest.

Valanciunas, who did not work out over the weekend when NBA scouts and front office executives viewed most of the top international prospects, can tell teams he’ll come to the league if he’s drafted by a certain pick, but there are no guarantees.

Spain’s Ricky Rubio made similar promises prior to the 2009 draft and was taken No. 5 by Minnesota, but did not sign with the Timberwolves until after the 2010-11 season.

“There are risk factors,” Blake said. “If you pick a player who has a buyout, if you can’t get him this year, maybe next year. If not next year, maybe the year after.”

Tip-ins

The most notable international player to withdraw from the draft was Brazil’s Lucas Nogueira, a rail-thin 7-foot, 200-pounder. Some mock drafts had him going late in the first round, others not until late in the second. Nogueira, who doesn’t turn 19 until July 26, is currently playing in Spain.

• Latvia small forward Davis Bertans, another player who had considered withdrawing, stayed in the draft. There had been reports Bertans, projected as a late first-round or early second-round pick, would withdraw if an NBA team did not guarantee it would take him in the first round.

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com.