NBA free agency rumors: Grizzlies' Jonas Valanciunas to decline option

Memphis center Jonas Valanciunas will decline the option year of his contract to become a free agent, ESPN reported Thursday.

However, the 7-foot Lithuanian player is declining the $17.6 million option so that he can negotiate a new contract with the Grizzlies, according to the report. If he does opt out, he can’t sign a new deal until the free agency period opens in early July.

The move comes with some risks for Valanciunas. The Daily Memphian notes that opting out of his deal and signing an extension would “likely mean a reduced salary next season.” And if he can’t work out a new deal, it’s unclear how much interest the 27-year-old would draw in free agency, given his role as a “traditional” center.

Valanciunas thrived with the Grizzlies in 19 games last season after being acquired from the Raptors, averaging 19.9 points and 10.7 points per game, well above his career averages of 11.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg in his seven seasons with Toronto.

Yet new Grizzlies hcoach Taylor Jenkins is looking to open up the offense with more 3-point shooting, which would seem to limit the role of Valanciunas, who has attempted 0.3 3-pointers per game in his career.