2015-16 Season Stats:
46% from the field
44% from three
85% from the free-throw line
Weight: 220 Height w/shoes: 6′ 6″ Wingspan: 6′ 10″ Max Vert: N/A
Unsurprisingly, the four-year senior is one of the most NBA-ready products in the 2016 Draft Class. Another hard-working Tom Izzo player, Denzel Valentine will attract tons of attention this summer from teams who are in desperate need of a player who can make them better instantly rather than wait for him to develop. There were concerns about Valentine’s weight, but he’s trimmed down and has improved his conditioning and ball handling skills as a result. Despite not being athletic, Valentine uses his basketball IQ to make up for that lack of skill. His footwork and fundamentals demonstrate that he truly spent his full four years at school and is going to make numerous coaches in the league happy.
The 22-year-old can stuff the stat sheet. In each of his four years at Michigan State, Valentine has improved in points per game, rebounds per game, and assists per game respectively. In his fourth season, he shot the ball a respectable 46 percent from the field, 43 percent from beyond the arc, and 82 percent from the charity stripe. Valentine is a superb rebounder for his size and he has the ability to throw an outlet pass or dribble down the length of the entire court to start a fastbreak, like a Draymond Green. That type of ability is important in today’s game when teams are constantly looking for ways to push the pace and play uptempo.
A loss to Middle Tennessee State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament might raise some questions about Valentine’s leadership, but he still won AP National Player of the Year and was recognized as the best player in college basketball this season. Point guards at any level will have trouble guarding the 6-foot-6 playmaker and his future NBA team will look to exploit that match-up as much as possible. However, it’s not a lock that Valentine will be a point guard in the league, or a two-guard, or heck, even a three for some teams. The instability of his position at the next level will scare some teams that want a sure thing for a certain spot.
Valentine isn’t a lock to be a lottery pick by any means, but he could go anywhere afterwards to around the 24th pick in the draft. Anything after 20, I’d consider it a steal. He doesn’t have the versatility to be a capable defender in the league, but like other Michigan State players who have transitioned into the NBA, hard work ethic can take him far.