EAST LANSING, MI – NOVEMBER 21: Denzel Valentine #45 of the Michigan State Spartans brings the ball up court against the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers at the Breslin Center on November 21, 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. Michigan State defeated Loyola-Chicago 87 – 52. (Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images)
As we are one week away from the 2016 NBA Draft, the Atlanta Hawks are set to have the 21st pick next Thursday. A late first-round pick can be viewed as a position where you can hit or miss on prospects due to the lack of talent remaining; however, the Hawks could be in for a treat of solid players this season. One intriguing prospect that could fall to the Atlanta Hawks is shooting guard/shooting forward Denzel Valentine. Valentine was one of college basketball’s most talented players and was a key contibutor for Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans. Valentine was the Spartans star player and had another solid campaign before the Spartans took a stunning First Round loss to the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders . Last season, he averaged (19.2) points, (7.5) rebounds, and (7.8) assists per game. Valentine’s impact on the Spartans displays that he could be a solid contibutor in the NBA and for a team looking for a impact player on the wing, he could fit the Hawks.
Denzel Valentine throws an alley oop to Brenden Dawson
Despite playing a key role in Michigan State’s 2015 Final Four run, Valentine’s stock rose back in November when he posted triple-double against Kansas. Valentine’s 29-point, 12-rebound, 12-assist outing kicked off a National Player of the Year campaign that’s now expected to result in interested lottery teams. Valentine will follow Oklahoma’s star shooting guard Buddy Hield as the second senior taken in the draft. Last season, the senior guard earned:
NABC Player of the Year
Consensus first-team All-American
Senior CLASS Award
Lute Olson Award
Big Ten Player of the Year
First-team All-Big Ten
Third-team All-Big Ten
First-team All-Big Ten.
Valentine earned a majority of those honors last season, which is huge for a upcoming NBA prospect. Valentine’s senior year at Michigan State is regarded as one of the best single seasons by a Spartan ever. Valentine ranked among the NCAA leaders when it came to 3-point shooting his senior season as well.
Denzel Valentine against Kansas
One of the biggest reasons Valentine coming to the Hawks could be a huge benefit is the impact he brings offensively . During his senior year, Valentine posted 8 double-double games and 2 triple-double games. Valentine’s first triple-double, which caught the attention of many NBA scouts came on November 17th, 2015 against the Kansas Jayhawks; he posted (29) points, (12) rebounds, and (12) assists as Michigan State stunned Kansas 79-73. Valentine’s second triple-double of the season was on November 26th against Boston College as he scored (29) points, posted (11) rebounds and (10) assists . Valentine’s basketball acumen, easily his best asset, rivaled that of any other college basketball player this past season. His averages across the board were superb, but the most telling stat could be his 45.8 assist percentage, the second best in the country. As a member of the Hawks, he could be the final answer we need at the wing position. Valentine is the all-around guard the Hawks could use especially with the uncertianty we are facing at the shooting guard position as NBA Free Agency approaches.
Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine (45) reacts after they defeated Maryland 74-65 in their Big Ten basketball game at the Breslin Center in East Lansing, Saturday, January 23, 2016. (Mike Mulholland | MLive.com)
Valentine, in my opinion, is a Draymond Green at the guard position (triple-doubles not the reason) due to their similar style and impact on both ends of the court. Valentine is a 6’6, 220 pound propsect that has a 6’10.75 wingspan, his standing reach is at 8’6 and body fat percentage stands at 9.2. One of the things the Hawks would have to work with is his defensive presence. Although he’s a solid player offensively, he still lacks the size and athleticism of most players in his postion on the Pro Level. Most average or elite defenders have the size and athleticism to stretch the floor against opposing wing players so that’s an aspect that Valentine will be working on as his NBA career begins.
Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine poses at media day Oct. 27, 2015, at the Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Personally, I would love to see the Hawks acquire Valentine on Draft Night because he has a higher ceiling than most prospects and would certainly thrive in Coach Bud’s system. Although he’s been mentioned as a possible lottery player or even slipping to the late teens and early twenties in the First Round, the prospect doesn’t care where he lands. “It doesn’t matter where I go,” the former Michigan State star said. “It just matters what you do after you get drafted and how you perform after the draft.” There’s only thing that keeping Valentine away from wearing volt green: How are the Hawks going to acquire him? It’s possible that Valentine could miss being a lottery pick (1-14), but it’s not a guarantee. If the Hawks are trying to acquire Valentine, they could consider trading up, which is another consideration for Atlanta.
Denzel Valentine’s game-clinching basket to advance to the Final Four in 2015
If the Hawks were to move in the lottery, Jeff Teague would probably be the player traded away for a chance at acquiring a lottery prospect. There are rumors circulating that the Hawks were discussing with the Philadelphia 76ers about a potential Jeff Teague for Nerlens Noel trade and possibly Nik Stauskas and/or Robert Covington could be included as well. However, after Teague recently posted and deleted a message on Instagram stating that he played through a torn patella throughout the entire season, despite the injury not requiring any surgery, the trade talks could fall through. The Utah Jazz are another team that’s shopping their lottery pick for a possible upgrade at point guard so the Hawks could possibly consider making another trade with Utah. With the uncertainty of Kent Bazemore future in Atlanta and aging Kyle Korver, the Hawks are desperately looking to upgrade their shooting guard position. Drafting Denzel Valentine can fill that void and he would develop into a solid contributor for the Hawks.