With the 2015 NBA Draft wrapping up recently, Spartans fans once again saw a Michigan State player taken, with forward Branden Dawson being selected in the second round. Not only was this the second straight year a Michigan State player had been selected, Dawson was the fourth Spartan taken since 2012.
Still, one has to ask whether this streak will continue next season. One of the premier programs in college basketball, Michigan State is coming off of a Final Four appearance and has no reason not to have another player drafted next year.
So who’s the most likely Spartan to hear his name called on draft night next?
The most obvious choice is clearly Denzel Valentine. Coming off a junior season in which he averaged 14,5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists, the 6-foot-5 guard could easily be drafted somewhere next year if he has another strong season. While teams are always apprehensive about drafting four-year players, Valentine has great size for a shooting guard (6-foot-5, 220 pounds) and can do a little bit of everything. With Dawson and Travis Trice having graduated, Valentine will likely become the Spartans’ go-to-guy next season, and his numbers should increase even more. While he needs to cut down on his turnovers (2.4 per-game), the 21-year-old is versatile, can defend multiple positions and shoots well from three (42 percent last season). There’s no reason he can’t play in the NBA.
After Valentine, there are other Spartans with NBA potential who haven’t had the chance to take a starring role yet. The most notable of these is rising senior forward Matt Costello. As a junior, Costello played just over 20 minutes and averaged 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds. While he’s not super athletic and needs to refine his skills in the post, Costello has good size (6-foot-9, 245 pounds) and plays a tough, energetic style that could endear him to NBA teams. He’s not a clear choice to be drafted by any means, but if he takes on a bigger role next season as expected, he’ll have the chance to showcase himself more. Fellow forward Gavin Schilling brings a similar body (6-foot-9, 240 pounds) to the table, but he still has a long way to go. As a sophomore, he played just 16.9 minutes-per-game and averaged 5.1 points and 3.8 rebounds.
The rest of Michigan State’s NBA hopefuls are players who have talent but have yet to receive much playing time. Javon Bess is one of those guys. As a freshman, Bess played sparingly (11.4 minutes-per-game) before a foot injury ended his season prematurely. Still, the 6-foot-5 Bess can play guard and small forward, and was expected to be a key contributor before going down. He is also a player that head coach Tom Izzo has praised repeatedly.
As for the Spartans’ incoming recruiting class, it is obviously too soon to tell who has the ability to play in the NBA. One guy to keep an eye on however, is center Deyonta Davis. At 6-foot-10, Davis has the height and shot-blocking skills teams covet. He’ll have to add weight to his 215-pound frame, but he looks like a potential impact player.
Overall, the Spartans have plenty of players capable of being drafted, with Valentine being the most likely. Expect to hear his name called next year.