Denzel Valentine remains one of the trickiest choices for NBA teams in the upcoming draft. While he remains one of the smartest players in the draft, newly revealed injury issues could scare away potential homes for him in the league.
After winning the 2016 Big Ten Conference Men's Basketball Player of the Year, Denzel Valentine seemed locked up as a lottery selection, but according to CBS Sports their most recent mock draft has him tanking to No. 22 with the Charlotte Hornets. New reports are breaking that Valentine has a significant knee issue that compares to someone like Danny Granger. Granger's promising career fell apart with every passing season due to reoccurring knee issues. Only time will tell if Valentine's injury is just as serious.
Michigan State witnessed Valentine turn from a rotational player into a NCAA star over the course of four seasons. He started his junior and senior seasons with averages of 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game. He continued to improve on his craft every year with increasing percentages across the board. He increased his shooting stroke by two percent overall while seeing a 16 percent improvement from deep over four years and an 18 percent improvement from the line. With the three point shot almost a necessity in the NBA for guards, Valentine worked on his deep stroke until he averaged hitting 3.4 three point field goals per game, good for eighth in the NCAA.
He ranked fourth in the NCAA in assists and eleventh in three-point percentage while also qualifying in the top 50 in scoring per game and free throw percentage according to NCAA Statistics.
Valentine turned into Michigan State's star with his leadership and do-it-all mentality. The 6-foot 5-inch shooting guard's court vision is unparalleled as a pass first attitude is a refreshing change of pace. His mentality makes him a coach on the floor and with his four years of collegiate experience he just might have the ability to adapt to the NBA game with ease. Scouts continue to doubt his style of play can translate, but his numbers, attitude and experience say differently.
His strength, athleticism and physical abilities are lacking on the NBA scale, which could lead to him developing into a defensive liability. Also, while his four years of experience will come into handy in the NBA, teams are wary of his age. He will turn 23 in November, three weeks into the NBA season.
Fox Sports has Valentine going No. 18 to Detroit, an established playoff roster that can use versatile players off the bench. With CBS charting him No. 22 with the Hornets, there is a trend that he belongs on playoff tested teams that need a stronger bench. Scouts doubt his ability to lead a rebuilding team so early in his career, but plugging him in on a bench of an already talented team on hand can help him blossom into a regular NBA talent.
Denzel Valentine developed into an NCAA superstar in front of our eyes over the last four years. Despite scouts doubting that his skills can translate to the NBA hardwood floors, he has the leadership and dedication to prove doubters wrong, knee injuries or not.