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2016 Houston Rockets Draft Prospect Series: Denzel Valentine

By Tamberlyn Richardson
Mar 31, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine holds his trophy during a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine holds his trophy during a press conference at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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Continuing the Houston Rockets Draft Prospects Series the focus turns to a “sleeper” in the 2016 NBA Draft  Michigan State, shooting guard Denzel Valentine. Another gem ranked by pundits primarily in the high teens to low twenties, could this be the shocker who ends up moving into the lottery picks?

Draft Prospect:

Specifics:

  • Height: 6’6″
  • Weight: 210
  • Country: America, Lansing, Michigan
  • Position: Small Forward
  • Age: 22.6
  • Reach: 8’6″
  • Wingspan: 6’10.75″
  • College or Pro League: Michigan State, Senior
  • Stat line:  31 Games,  19.2 Points Per Game, 7.5 Rebounds Per Game, 7.8 Assists Per Game

Current Rank:

Please note, the rankings below come from the most up to date versions as the time of writing. That said not all the mock drafts provide second round ranks or updates often only extend to the end of the first round.

Therefore, if you check a ranking and note the number has changed it’s likely due to updates and a shift in the rankings.

ESPN Chad Ford: 22

Draft Express: 22

NBA Scott Howard Cooper: 18

Bleacher Report: 23

The Skills:

A quick jump down to the awards and honors section gives you a solid idea of how special Denzel Valentine is.

What makes him most remarkable is the absence of weaknesses in his game. You’ll often hear him referred to as the small forward version of Draymond Green. That’s not just because he’s coming out of the Tom Izzo Michigan State system, rather it’s his full 2-way game and intelligence that make the comparisons more obvious.

Of his many talents he offers variety on offense where he can be a pull up shooter, can create offense for himself or others including in the pick and roll. the latter two items are under rated talent especially from rookies let alone from a small forward.

Examining his four years under Tom Izzo’s system points to the work ethic of Valentine who improved in every category early except blocks which was 0.1 less. Most impressive are his assists which climbed from 2.4 in his rookie season to 7.8 in his senior year as well as his three point shooting which was an abysmal 28.1% in this rookie campaign and skyrocketed to 44.4% this season. And his attempts also increased each season with him attempted 7.5 per game this season.

The #ALLINnetwork continues to produce great daily content! Today it's a #NBAdraft podcast with @raptorsrepublic https://t.co/TCnYmhWHOk

— Steve Gennaro (@_sgennaro) June 19, 2016

As Steve Gennaro of All In Sports Talk succinctly put it he offers the 3 things you look for in today’s game length, defense and three point consistent shooting. This makes him especially appealing  for team with a strong core. Better still his play making and assists are better than most guards in the draft. Again Gennaro points out he averages 9.6 assists over 40 minutes which puts him in the top 10 since 2000.

Draft Express extolled on his assets as well:

"Valentine is the only player in our extensive college basketball historical database (dating back around 30 years) to average over 19 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists per game. The only ones to come close are Penny Hardaway (23, 8+6 as a sophomore at Memphis in 1993), Evan Turner (20, 9+6 as a junior at Ohio State in 2008) and Michael Anderson (24, 6+7 as a senior at Drexel in 1988)."

Tamberlyn's Tip Off Ep8 w/Nicole of @TWSSSPORTS put a bow on #NBAFinals & dive into #NBADraft #ALLINnetwork https://t.co/EFd3OXA4Pe

— Tamberlyn's Tip-Off (@TTOTambz) June 21, 2016

Let’s add in rebounding the averaged  8.5 defensive rebounds in 40 minutes (best of all 100 prospects in the draft).

Only player in the top 15 in the Big 10 in scoring, rebounding and assists.

Even better is his mindset, character, basketball I.Q. and leadership which is why he draws comparisons to Draymond Green.

Weaknesses:

Recently there have been questions regarding a degenerative knee condition, but Valentine’s camp says it’s not an issue and won’t be an issue. Since he missed just 4 games over his 4 year College career it does seem believable. Obviously teams who are interested in drafting him will likely run him through their medical staff to confirm there are no issues.

While some pundits question his defensive ability I’ll remind you of what was said about Draymond Green coming into the draft.  Sure he needs to improve on his lateral slides, but show me a player with as much offensive upside and full skill set where there aren’t questions  about their defense.

The one area I see he needs to improve is with his high I.Q. he needs to be better at getting to the line.

Honors and Awards:

As per Wikipedia:

While the list above is extensive it’s worth taking a visit to Valentine’s Wikipedia page where there are numerous other awards. He received 29 Player of the Year Awards (either winning, runner-up or finalist), 16 All American Awards, 15 Big 10 Regional Awards, 13 Weekly Awards and more.

Suffice to say  Valentine was a solid producer and worthy of being among the best in this draft class.

The Fit:

More from Space City Scoop

I’ve written over 30 of these draft prospect profiles and clearly I’m extremely high on Valentine.  I’m torn between wanting my home town Raptors to take him at 9 or trade down for him and the Rockets to trade up for him.

You’ll find him in my mock draft breaking into the lottery. That said, the Rockets should definitely trade up for him.  Looking back at last season three key areas Houston had glaring issues was finding someone other than Harden to create shots, consistent three point makers and players who offered 2-way skills. Valentine checks off every box.  Not only can he create shots, but again he can run the pick and roll from the small forward position!

If Morey wants an NBA ready player who can improve their team immediately this is the man.

Consider if teams had a shot to draft Draymond Green knowing what they know now if they would and after just recently witnessing him be the only Warrior to show up in Game 7, how can you not take a second, third and fourth look at Denzel Valentine?

Next: Draft Prospect Guerschon Yabusele

Next: Draft Prospect Chinanu Onuaku

Next: Draft Prospect Demetrius Jackson

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