clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Is Denzel Valentine the next Draymond Green?

The versatility and leadership skills are uncanny.

Big Ten Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It is no surprise to Michigan State fans that Draymond Green is a success. Watching the years of hustle and growth Green experienced under the tutelage of Tom Izzo, you had a feeling he would perform well at the next level. While you may have not predicted the meteoric rise he has been on, you had a good idea.

In a piece today on The Ringer, Danny Chau discusses how in tomorrows draft the league is going to be looking not for the next Lebron or the next Curry, but rather, the next Draymond Green. A player with extreme versatility, who you will be able to grab for second round prices, and is going to be able to emotionally lead the team.

In his piece, the example of a player that fits the mold for the emotional leader in none other than Denzel Valentine.

It’s one thing to say it, but it’s another to do it. Draftniks might consider the Draymond Green–Denzel Valentine comparison lazy, but it’s apt on levels beyond alma mater and the fact they’ve both thrived without having ideal athleticism. In a season that landed him several national player of the year nods, Valentine set such a high standard for his teammates that they couldn’t help but vocally express their indebtedness to him. “I have to be more of a voice for [Valentine], in practice and in the games, because he has so many different things on his plate,” teammate Lourawls Nairn told Sports Illustrated. “Sometimes he may not want to say something because he’s too tired. I just try to help him out in any way possible, understanding that he has so much to do for us. Our job is to take as much pressure off him as we can.”

Watching the Spartans this season you saw Valentine emerge as a true leader. Taking over for the outgoing Travis Trice and Adrian Payne, Valentine was a hybrid. Emotional, vocal leader on the floor he made sure that his teammates not just heard him but understood him. It was hard not to see the influence of his brother come through (Drew Valentine, spent two years behind the bench as MSU graduate manager) as Denzel was essentially a coach on the floor.

Then in the huddle and in practice, Denzel had this ability to get the most out of his teammates in a positive manner. He was the definition of excellence at Michigan State and it pulled up those around him. You take a look at Matt Costello, Tum Tum Narin and Bryn Forbes (who played with Valentine at Everett High School in Lansing), they all played the best basketball of their careers with Denzel as the leader and we are not just as the points leader either. Jordan and Lebron are leaders, but they lead by taking over the game and bringing others games up with them. Draymond and Denzel lead in a different manner, by doing whatever needs to be done.

Again from Chau’s article:

According to the Spartans coaching staff, Michigan State’s overtime victory over Louisville in the 2015 Elite Eight happened because of Denzel Valentine. When asked about that game, Valentine said: “I put it in my mind that I wasn’t going to let us lose. My role is tricky, because it’s not really one thing Coach (Izzo) can say to do, because I’ve got to do a lot of things. My main thing is just do whatever it takes to win, whether that’s get a big rebound, bring the ball up the court, make shots, make passes. Whatever it takes to win, that’s what I want to do.’’

Valentine, much like Green is going to be the one to put in the work to do what the team needs in the moment. Everyone focuses on the guy that is going to take the last shot, but there are things that need to be done to even allow that to happen and Valentine, like Green, will be the one to do it.

If you take a look at Golden State’s record breaking 73 wins, you could argue (rarther successfully) that the season (or the finals run) would not have been possible without Draymond Green’s performance. Look at Green’s stats per Third in points per game (14.0), second in steals per game (1.47) and blocks per game (1.4), and first in rebounds per game (9.5) and assists per game (7.4). While Steph averaged 30+, Green did what was needed for the team to win. Now take a look at Valentine’s numbers this year per ESPN: First in points per game (19.2) but more importantly he was also first in assists (7.8) and steals (1.0) and second in rebounds (7.5). He was all around the type of guy that does what is needed to do to win.

Much like Green, Valentine does not check all the physical boxes that some of the other draft picks fit. He is not Ben Simmons big and he is not Buddy Hield quick. But then again, Green was taken after Royce White and John Henson. People worry about Valentine’s defense too. Well, take a look at what Green’s NBA draft profile said about his defense:

The consensus is that Green won’t be able to guard either forward position because true small forwards will be quicker and true power forwards taller and able to post him and shoot over him.

This is the same guy that has finished runner up in the Defensive Player of the Year voting two years in a row.

I am not claiming that Valentine is going to be exactly like Green. For one, Green is able to guard all 5 positions. The way the league is going, specimens like Green are incredibly rare and Valentine’s versatility and size do limit him to playing and guarding 1-3, but that range of being able to see the floor and handle the ball or run off screens to get looks opens up a wide range for Valentine.

Where ever Valentine ends up being drafted tomorrow he is going to bring a great attitude, an incredible basketball IQ, and the emotion of a selfless leader. Not to mention, he might just have that Draymond-esque chip on his shoulder of being a kid from Michigan who was drafted lower that he should have been.