Raptors sign 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas to extension
Jonas Valanciunas has been the big man in the middle of the Toronto Raptors' rise for the last three seasons.
Now he has the big contract to match.
The Raptors and Valanciunas announced his four-year contract extension Thursday. The deal is worth $64 million, a person with knowledge of the contract told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the team is not publicly announcing the terms, which were first reported by Yahoo Sports.
''Jonas' contributions continue to improve with each season and we view him as a significant part of what we are building in Toronto,'' Raptors President and General Manager Masai Ujiri said in a statement issued by the team.
The 23-year-old Lithuanian was the fifth overall pick in 2011. He has averaged 10.9 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 223 career games, almost all of them as a starter.
With nimble footwork and a massive 7-foot, 270-pound frame, Valanciunas entered the league with big expectations. He hasn't become a dominant force on a consistent basis yet, but the Raptors are banking on his continued improvement as the team looks to graduate from just a feisty out in the playoffs to one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference.
Coach Dwane Casey retooled his assistant coaching staff in the offseason, bringing in Jerry Stackhouse, Andy Greer and Rex Kalamian in part to try to bolster Valanciunas's development on both ends of the floor.
He averaged a career-high 12.0 points per game last season to go with 8.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. His .572 field goal percentage was second in the NBA.
In an era of exploding salaries, Valanciunas's $16 million average annual salary in the new contract falls right in line, and even a little below, what the most sought after big men on the market are getting. Enes Kanter signed a $70 million maximum contract with Oklahoma City, Omer Asik got a five-year, $60 million deal from New Orleans and the Knicks gave Robin Lopez a four-year, $54 million deal.
The Raptors signed DeMarre Carroll, Cory Joseph, Bismack Biyombo and Luis Scola this summer to try to bolster a roster that has been competitive in the regular season, but flamed out in the playoffs. The Raptors have won consecutive Atlantic Division titles, but were bounced in the first round both years and have not advanced to the conference semifinals since 2001.
If they are to get over that hump, Valanciunas will likely be a big reason why.