Jonas Valanciunas vs Enes Kanter

By Diana Allen

The 2011 NBA Draft is one of the most mysterious drafts in recent memory. Upper-tier talent is lacking due to imminent lockout. Many of the NCAA’s top players chose to go back to school for another year. Harrison Barnes, Perry Jones, Terrence Jones, Jared Sullinger and John Henson- all are players who didn’t declare for the draft who were top ten prospects.

The lack of impact players has left the lottery portion of the draft a complete mystery to most fans and draft experts alike. GMs are having to make the difficult decisions this Thursday that fans and the media have been speculating about for months. What is making this draft even more difficult to decipher is the role that European players have in it. In the past there was sometimes one, maybe two European players in the lottery, this year they are determining the order from three down.

Jonas Valanciunas and Enes Kanter are two of the top International players in the 2011 NBA Draft. Teams like the Jazz, Cavaliers, Kings and the Wizards might be in the position to take either of these players, the question is which player do you take, do you take for the dreaded “P” word, potential or do you take a player who hasn’t played competitive ball for over a year?

Jonas Valanciunas is a center from Lithuania. At 7’0 feet tall, with a 7’4” wingspan and a 9’3” standing reach at the young age of 19 makes Valanciunas very intriguing to teams. Valanciunas has already racking up many accomplishments in his European play. Valanciunas was named the MVP of the European U16 Basketball Championship in 2008 after leading Lithuania to the championship title, he also named to the All Tournament teams in 2009 at U18 European Basketball Championships and the Euroleague Nike International Junior Tournament. Valanciunas was named the MVP and All-Tournament of the European U18 Basketball Championship in 2010 and European champion with Lithuanian team.

Valanciunas is according to Draft Express expected to go anywhere from 3-8 in the draft. Valanciunas has great hands for a big man, who’s strength allows him to keep positioning in the post for great rebounding position. Valanciunas is great at finishing around the basket on the pick and roll and is able to set stronk picks for teammates. Valanciunas however does not have a great jump-shot and has not shown the ability to produce in isolation situations.

The complication with Valanciunas is he won’t be able to play in the 2011-2012 season for whichever team drafts him. Valanciunas is currently playing in Lithuania for BC Lietuvos Rytas. So do you want to draft a player that come come over right away? Teams in the lottery generally don’t make the lottery the following season so maybe waiting for a prospect like Valanciunas is worth the wait, then again do you want to wait to start building chemistry between players on your team even if you don’t make the playoffs?

Enes Kanter does not have the complexity of a buy out situation, he however is perhaps one of the most unknown draft prospects in the history of the draft. Because of a NCAA violation Kanter was not able to play for Kentucky this past season like he had planned. Kanter received more money than was allowed from his Turkish team for living expenses than is allowed.

Kanter had a good showing in the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit. Kanter posted 34 points in the game which surpassed Dirk Nowitzki’s previous record of 33 points. Kanter easily dominated the best in the game in his age group at the Nike Hoop Summit.

Scouts and GMs don’t have much to go off of with Kanter, they have that game, and some of his prep-school games and not much else. Kanter did attend the Draft Combine in Chicago. He was able to impress teams there with his size and athleticism, though not showing up to scheduled interviews with teams left some teams sour on him. He initially did not travel to workout for team, preferring to have them travel to see him in Chicago. Kanter and his agent did loosen up though and began to travel to and work out against other player, such as Derrick Williams. Despite the mystery around Kanter’s play and his willingness to work out for team, Kanter’s talent cannot not be ignored and will be a top pick in the draft. An NBA Scout said the following about Kanter:

“He's a big, strong center, a legitimate NBA center. He plays hard -- extremely hard -- uses his body well, finishes around the basket. I think he's one of those guys who will have a long career. He knows who he is, and that's what I like about him. He's going to rebound, has good hands, scores around the basket -- you can throw it to him in the post. I don't see him being an All-Star, but I see a solid 10- or 12-year pro."

Jonas Valanciuas and Enes Kanter are two European bigs who can make a great impact in the NBA. Where they get drafted and which one of them is drafted first is still not known. Depending on the team do you want to risk taking Kanter not truly knowing what he can bring to your team, or draft Valanciuas and not know when he will be able to play for your team?