When Jonas Valanciunas turned down his $17.6 million player option with Memphis to become a free agent it raised some eyebrows.
Few expected him to recoup that figure on the market and there was an argument to be made that he significantly overestimated his market, given the way traditional bigs like himself have seen their value decline in recent years. However, any time a player turns down a lucrative option, it’s likely due to them having at least a pretty good idea that there’s a strong offer out there for them, and like Harrison Barnes in Sacramento, it appears a deal to bring Valanciunas back to Memphis will get done in relatively short order.
According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, when the moratorium period opens at 6 p.m. ET, Valanciunas and the Grizzlies will quickly agree to a three-year, $45 million deal to keep the key piece of the Marc Gasol trade around long term.
This signals that they see Jaren Jackson Jr. as a power forward for at least the foreseeable future, and that they were pleased with the production Valanciunas provided in his 19 games in Memphis, in which he nearly averaged 20 and 10. While the fit isn’t perfect, JJJ and Valanciunas can cover for each other’s weak spots, as Valanciunas is a big, strong center who can handle other more physical bigs, while Jackson is an elite rim protector and quality perimeter shooter.