Denzel Valentine is a hybrid shooting guard/small forward from Michigan State University. Valentine is 6’5 and has a wingspan of 6’9. For the year, he averaged, 33.0 minutes per game, 19.2 points per game, 7.5 rebounds per game, 7.8 assists per game, 1.0 steals per game, while shooting 46.2% from the field, and 44.4% from three.
- Leader on and off the court
- High basketball IQ
- Offensive awareness
- Excellent passer
- Great three point shooter
- Plays through contact
- Good free throw shooter
- Handles the ball well
- Good team defender
- Excellent rebounder
- Struggles to get past quicker guards
- Disappears when he is not the focal point of offense
- On-ball defense
- Limited potential
Denzel Valentine is probably the most complete player in the 2016 Draft Class. Many people are counting this draft class out for being average or even worse, but I see a lot of future role players, and if you look at the depth of the four teams in the 2016 Conference Finals, they all have good depth. Valentine can fit into almost any scheme, but his limited potential will have him slide into the mid-teens for a draft selection.
On offense, Valentine is best when he is initiating the offense. He does this by being tenacious on the boards, and leading the offense out of this. His high IQ and awareness on the offensive side of the ball allow for him to create offense for his teammates, and he can make the most difficult passes look easy. When Michigan State would play though another player on offense, Valentine would tend to get a little lazy. Over the course of his four years at Michigan State, Valentine has shown drastic improvement on his three point shooting, leading to becoming one of the deadliest marksmen in this year’s class. With such a premium put on shooting in the modern NBA, adding a cheap rookie for the next four years is a decision most teams should invest in. Even when Valentine leaves the perimeter, he attacks the rim, and is able to finish through contact. When he gets to the line, he shoots well over 80%. Valentine could develop into a 50-40-90 player with some more development at the professional level.
Defensively, the biggest hinderance to Valentine is his slow, unathletic body. He shows great awareness in team defense, in regards to knowing where to be and when to help. At the college level he is a solid on-ball defender, but going into the next level, most of the highly athletic players are at his position, and his slow feet could cost him from being more than a three point threat. Valentine’s best defensive attribute is his rebounding. Valentine is excellent at tracking the ball, using his body and length to secure, and having the ability to lead the attack from there.
Overall, Valentine is a well-rounded player, with his biggest question mark surrounding his defense for the next level. Quite a few players are capable of using their high IQ’s to manage their athletic woes. I expect Valentine to be in the league for a long time. He might not make any All-Star appearance, but he will provide a tremendous leader and shooter off the bench for whatever team selects him. As mentioned above, expect Valentine to hear his name called in the 14-20 range. Boston and Denver will be heavy favorites to select him, as they have multiple first round picks, so not going for gold, but filling a role is something to can afford to do. Boston could be looking to replace Evan Turner this offseason with a cheaper option, and although he might not be as gifted defensively, he provides a better shooter, something Boston’s offense lacked all season, and in the postseason.
Pro Comparison: Jared Dudley
Every time you hear someone talk about Jared Dudley it is about the positive things you get from him, and rarely hear people bash him. He is not a dominant offensive piece, but he is a great passer, stretches the floor, and shows tremendous leadership or the bench and locker room. He is not the most physically gifted player, but he gives his all on the court. Valentine shows a similar skill set going forward.
On offense, Dudley and Valentine both like to shoot the three. Valentine might be a little more polished coming out of college, but as we see with most rookie three point shooters, they need awhile to develop their range. Both players share an extraordinary gift of seeing the court, and creating for themselves and their teammates. As with Valentine, Dudley can get lost in the offense, even as a seasoned veteran, so I do not see this disappearing from Valentine’s game.
On defense, Dudley is not a shutdown defender, but plays great team defense, which has lead to his long NBA career. Neither player has the physical attributes to be dominant on defense, but their willingness to give their best on this side of the court, makes them look like better defenders than they really are. Valentine might have to switch positions, because he is too slow to guard guards at the next level, so he might be a good small-ball lineup at either forward position. I this is a role teams want to exploit, he would need to put on weight, as he is a bit small for these positions. Even with his defensive limitations, I expect Valentine to shape a role player type career as Dudley has. One that will keep him in the league for the next 10 years.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17