Grizzlies news: Jonas Valanciunas says new coach, Mike Conley's future will factor into player option decision
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Jonas Valanciunas says Grizzlies’ new coach, Mike Conley’s future will factor into player option decision

Mike Conley, Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas was mostly forgotten last season. After acclimating even better than anticipated to a new role coming off the bench for the Toronto Raptors, the veteran center was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies at the deadline in exchange for Marc Gasol, a deal that proved its worth for Nick Nurse’s in the Eastern Conference Semifinals as Gasol played a huge role in limiting the efficiency of Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid.

All the hope and optimism stemming from the Raptors’ acquisition of Gasol made it easy to ignore what Valanciunas did with the Grizzlies over his final six weeks of the regular season. In 19 games with Memphis before suffering a season-ending ankle sprain on March 31st, Valanciunas averaged 19.9 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks on 54.5 percent shooting, numbers made all the more impressive given he played just 27.7 minutes per game.

Despite his standout showing during his brief time in a Grizzlies uniform, the Lithuanian’s future with the team remains undecided – but mostly because of his own doing. Valanciunas has a player option on his contract for next season, and his decision whether to exercise it will apparently depend largely on who Memphis hires as its next head coach and Mike Conley’s presence with the team, as he told journalist Donatas Urbonas.

Valanciunas’ player option is worth $17.7 million, almost surely more than he would command on the free agent market, leading most to believe he would pick it up. A short-term financial windfall, though, is apparently not at the forefront of 27-year-old’s priorities.

Keep an eye on the Grizzlies’ moves with regard to their head-coaching vacancy and Conley throughout the summer. Either way, both stand to loom large in Valanciunas’ decision-making process, and by proxy, Memphis’ financial situation.