by Ray Kuhn
Four year players are a dying breed in the NCAA and to say that they often don’t get the proper respect come draft time would be an understatement. While Denzel Valentine certainly has the body of work that warrants being selected in the lottery, there is a legitimate possibility that it won’t happen.
Draft Express currently has him as the 12th ranked player, but he is going 20th in their mock draft (while being the second ranked senior). That is after the guard led Michigan State deep into the postseason, made vast strides throughout his years at the school and navigated the Spartans through a difficult Big-10 schedule.
One of the things that benefits Valentine is that true positional boundaries are beginning to decrease in importance. Measuring 6’6” and weighing in at 210 pounds, he is listed as a guard but doesn’t fit the conventional mold of what a shooting guard is. While he has shown the ability to make plays and score, one of the initial words that come to mind when thinking of him is not shooter.
That doesn’t mean we should sell him short when it comes to his shooting ability. He went from averaging five points per game in his freshman season to 19.2 points last season, shooting 46.2% from the field. Before we go and assume that these were efficient baskets, he took an average of 7.5 shots from behind the arc in his senior season while making 44.4% of them. That did not come from out of nowhere as he connected on 2.6 of his 6.3 attempts from downtown two years ago.
The well rounded Valentine also averaged 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists last season as he put his 6’10” wingspan to good use. While he isn’t an athletic freak, he is a legitimate basketball player and gets the job done. Intangibles are key here, and Valentine is versatile and got slotted into multiple positions depending on the situation.
Valentine is one of those players whose “potential” falls behind that of others, but who is a lot safer of a selection and will likely have one of the best careers out of this draft class. In Chad Ford’s player evaluation, he listed Valentine’s strengths and weaknesses (click here to view):
|Positives||· Versatile forward who can play multiple positions
· Very long
· Excellent shooter with deep range
· Good ball handler and passer
· High basketball IQ
· Tough defender
|Negatives||· Lacks elite athletic abilities|
While there is the chance that passing on Valentine will get a better player in the long run, this could easily turn into a Draymond Green like situation.