Stop me if you have heard this one: Outgoing senior. Arguably the most prolific player in school history as his position. Early season he is projected to go high in the draft but as the “experts” continue to release mock draft after mock draft, this guys seems to be sliding down the board and could fall out of the first round.
Well we know how this went for Connor Cook in the NFL Draft with all of his “personality issues” but now we are talking about the AP Player of the Year and captain of the Spartans, Denzel Valentine.
The NBA Draft is coming up this Thursday and the most recent round of mock drafts have Denzel being drafted in the high 20’s, most likely to the Charlotte Hornets. Chad Ford in his most recent mock draft (believe this was number 217.0 or something) said
22. Charlotte Hornets: Denzel Valentine
Valentine is sliding down draft boards over concerns that his knees may not be able to hold up over the long haul. Some teams are very concerned. Others, not so much.
The Hornets love the talent and he's a great fit with the way they want to play. His shooting and passing abilities at the guard position are very attractive. Will they be willing to take the risk?
As for Draft Express, they too have been moving Denzel in the past few weeks and have him settling in at 22 as well. While there are some concerns that have floated out recently about the long term health of Valentine’s knee we are going to weigh the pros and cons here.
- Basketball IQ: This is a term that is often overlooked when it comes to pure athletic talent but there are few prospects in this draft who have the vision and sense of the court like Valentine. He was running the Michigan State offense for the majority of the season and he was the quarterback on the floor. The way he was able to read the floor and make passes helped him lead the team in assists with 7.8 APG (4th in the nation).
- Shooting Ability: While he is not the most pure shooter in the draft this year (Buddy Hield) his mid range was a large strength for him this year. He brought his 3 point percentage up to 44% this year and averaged 19.2 points per game. In a league that appreciates a ball handler, with a long wing span that can shoot from 16ft+ with accuracy (Think Shawn Livingston) this skill is huge.
- Defense: Valentine was not the best defender on the court most of the season. While he has the work ethic and the length to be an elite defender he needs to work on his speed guarding smaller, faster guards off the dribble. This is something that he struggled with on elite guards in college and it is something that will plague him more as the competition gets faster and stronger.
- Injuries: While Valentine was not injury prone, he suffered a knee injury in practice on December 20th and that required arthroscopic surgery and sidelined him for a few weeks as he healed. While some noticed some explosiveness was missing when Valentine returned, he actually increased production, bringing up his averages from when he left. This is nothing that teams seem to be worrying about in the short term, but rumors about his long term knee health worry some teams and might effect stock on draft day.
What Does It Mean?
Well, the fact of the matter is that the Draft is about talent and fit. We can run a million mock drafts (Chad Ford is close to this, right?) and we are not able to predict what is going to happen but this is the internet and apparently I am qualified to make a pick.
Valentine flew under the radar for most of his career and while people are paying attention to Simmons and Hield (deservedly so), Valentine has the chance to be one of the best steals of this draft. The knee rumors are enough to knock him out of the teens but I would have to think he is still going to go in the first round. I see him falling to the low end of the first round. He is going to get passed over by both the Bulls and the Nuggets and there is a good shot he does go to the Hornets with the 22nd pick. (Though I secretly hope Barnes and Barbosa do not sign with the Warriors and they look for another SG that can handle the ball and splash in a few 3’s from time to time.)