In his time as a Michigan State Spartan, all that Denzel Valentine did was win 112 games, go to a Final Four, win two Big Ten Tournament championships, be named a unanimous All-American, win the USA Today and Associated Press National Player of the Year award, and show up as a consistent leader and obvious do-it-all type threat for one of the best teams in America.
Not a bad four years, I suppose.
This season as a senior, Valentine posted impressive numbers of 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds, including two triple doubles. With his college playing career now behind him, however, let's take a look at how he projects to the next level of basketball in the NBA with the upcoming draft in June.
Probably the biggest strength that Denzel Valentine has going into the NBA is that he has such a well rounded game. While he isn't as big as fellow Spartan turned Golden State Warrior Draymond Green, it's fair to point out that they have a lot of similarities in their game. Valentine has the ability and size, at 6'6", to pull down a rebound and lead the break the other way. In between size guys that can do that are incredibly valuable at the next level.
Like I said, when you look at Valentines all around game, there simply aren't that many holes. He has incredible vision and passing ability, and spending four years at Michigan State really helped his decision making improve so he knows now when to try and thread the needle on a pass and when not to take the risk. He also spent his four years improving his scoring ability, and his 19.2 points per game average saw him shooting 46% from the field and 44% from beyond the three point line.
Staying in college four years is beginning to make a shift ever so slightly to a 'not so bad' thing for NBA prospects to do with the success that teams see a guy like Draymond Green having. Four year college players had almost reached a point where they were seen as used goods, but now teams are starting to see the definite advantage that coming in with that experience can be.
Perhaps one of the only knocks that you can have on Valentine as an NBA player is that the NBA is such an athletically dominated sport. Valentine doesn't have that supreme athleticism that your prototypical NBA prospect might boast, but against top level college competition, that was never a huge factor for him. It would certainly be interesting to see how Valentine manages to deal with a lack of elite athleticism at the next level. I'll definitely be interested to see the way that NBA teams view his all around skill set when paired with his average athletic ability.
While it certainly isn't a huge issue with Valentine anymore, you did occasionally see moments where he flat out had a lapse of judgment or focus on the floor. It looked like, on occasion, he completely lost concentration and would do something silly that would result in Tom Izzo screaming until his faced turned purple (which never seems to take much for Tom). Those lapses in concentration, however, are something that NBA teams would really like to eliminate.
For a player like Valentine, I strongly believe it isn't so much where he gets drafted, it's who drafts him. If he's put in the right situation where he can be allowed to play multiple positions and thrive in a system that's close to position-less like you see with Golden State's small ball lineup, then he will thrive in the NBA and likely be an eventual all-star. Most mock drafts and scouts have him as a middle of the first round type player, anywhere from 15-18. That seems like a fair spot for a player like him to go, and it isn't a stretch to say he could very quickly make an NBA team very happy.