NBA draft profile: Michigan State G Denzel Valentine


Denzel Valentine

Position: PG/SG
Height: 6-5
Weight: 220
School: Michigan State

The NBA has increasingly become a land where players are either specialists in one specific area or can do it all at a high level. The accomplished Denzel Valentine falls squarely into the second category.

Under the four-year tutelage of legendary coach Tom Izzo, Valentine turned into one of the most versatile players in the nation. Valentine increased his numbers across the board every season to cap off his collegiate career by averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists as a senior. That stellar output helped him earn several awards, including Big Ten Player of the Year, AP National Player of the Year and First Team All-American.

Not only did Valentine bump his personal stats at Michigan State, he grew into one of the best leaders in all of college basketball as he guided the Spartans to a 112-36 record during his time on campus.

In a time when one-and-done prospects are considered the norm, NBA teams will be hard pressed to find a more pro-ready or mature prospect than Valentine.

To put it quite simply, Valentine is a basketball player. He has the size to play either guard position at the next level and while his physique will likely never be truly sculpted, it won't be an issue when bodying up NBA players.

Valentine's high basketball IQ and court vision lend itself to being a prototypical point guard. He is a superb passer and more than willing to set his teammates up for easy baskets. Per, who has Valentine listed at 6-6, he is the first player taller than 6-foot-5 to average over nine assists per 40 minutes since 1988.

But don't sleep on Valentine's scoring ability. He can fill it up on the offensive end and do so at an efficient rate. The Lansing, Michigan, native shot 46.2 percent from the field, 44.4 percent from three-point range and 85.3 percent from the free throw line as a senior.

Valentine's willingness to stick his nose in the paint and rebound from the guard position is also a bonus.

Valentine will never be mistaken for a world-class athlete. He is slow-footed and lacks the burst you would like to see from a guard. While he was able to overcome that on offense at the collegiate level with his smarts and shot-making ability, it was a problem at times on defense, which will only be multiplied by the uber athletes of the NBA.

The only other major knock on Valentine is his age. He will turn 23 shortly into his rookie season (birthday is Nov. 16), which means teams may wonder whether Valentine has already reached his ceiling.

How he'd fit with Sixers
Extremely well. The Sixers have a long list of problems and finding a long-term lead guard is certainly near the top of the list. Valentine would be able to feed the big men and knock down his own shots to keep defenses honest. Even if the Sixers do acquire a veteran PG (Jeff Teague?) this offseason, they would still be tripping over themselves to reach the podium or to pull the trigger on a deal if Valentine is hanging around after the lottery teams have selected in the draft.

NBA comparison
I'll go with Deron Williams. Another guard who stayed in school to hone his skills, Williams knows how to use his size and handle to get his own shots while still being a quality passer to keep his teammates involved. Valentine may not have the same amount of bounce to his game as Williams did earlier in his career, but the other qualities are certainly there.

Draft projection
Late-lottery to early-20s. Teams in the lottery often go for upside, which they may not be convinced Valentine has much of at 22 years old. However, if a team is looking for a polished player to step in right away, it may pull the trigger.

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