Denzel Valentine

Denzel Valentine profile
Drafted #14 in the 2016 NBA Draft by the Bulls
RCSI: 92 (2012)
Height: 6'6" (198 cm)
Weight: 210 lbs (95 kg)
Position: SG
High School: J.W. Sexton High School (Michigan)
Hometown: Lansing, MI
College: Michigan St
Current Team: Milano
Win - Loss: 15 - 19
Denzel Valentine NBA Draft Media Day Interview


Denzel Valentine NBA Draft Scouting Report and Video Breakdown

Jonathan Givony
Jonathan Givony
Mike Schmitz
Mike Schmitz
Mar 22, 2016, 04:23 pm
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz

Voted a Big Ten All-Conference Player as a junior, Denzel Valentine took his game to an entirely new level as a senior, emerging as one of the most skilled and productive players in all of college basketball. He was named Big Ten player of the year, and is currently neck and neck with Buddy Hield for most of National Player of the Year honors.

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).

Unfortunately, Valentine's season came to a premature end when Michigan State was shockingly upset in the NCAA Tournament's Round of 64 at the hands of #15 seed Middle Tennessee State.

From a physical standpoint, Valentine has good size for either guard position, standing around 6'6 in shoes, with a long 6'10 wingspan. He has a heavy set frame that he's done his best to maximize, but will continually require toning as his career moves on, and is not a great athlete by any stretch, lacking much in the way of quickness and explosiveness.

Valentine was Michigan State's point guard this season for all intents and purposes, and his best attributes revolve around his prodigious court vision and passing ability, which are incredibly unique at his size. Valentine may have the highest basketball IQ of any player in this draft, as his timing and instincts as a playmaker are simply off the charts. Able to see over the top of the defense at all times, he can make every type of pass in the book, and is especially good at making reads in transition and early offense situations, finding shooters in the corners, big men cutting to the rim, and everything in between, particularly on the pick and roll. Valentine is the first college player over 6'5 since 1988 to average over 9 assists per-40 minutes, so it might be a while until we see another player his size who is able to distribute the way he can.

Valentine is also a tremendous shooter on top of that, making the second highest volume of 3-pointers among DX Top-100 prospects (behind only Buddy Hield), but doing so at an incredible 45% clip. Only five players in college basketball made over 100 3s this year and did so while shooting so accurately, while none did so last season.

What's even more impressive about Valentine's shooting, beyond the numbers, is the way he knocks down his jumpers, some of which come off the most complicated looks you can imagine. Valentine is frequently utilized as a floor-spacer, but is also very capable both running off screens and shooting pull-up jumpers. He does a great job of getting his feet underneath him and releasing the ball quickly, and has the ability to attack closeouts with straight-line drives and floaters when defenses play up on his shot too aggressively. Valentine is not afraid to take big shots and has had some very memorable moments in his college career hitting timely jumpers with a hand in his face and the clock running down.

Valentine's size, length and instincts also translates to his work on the glass, as his 8.5 defensive rebounds per-40 minutes was the top rate among any guard or wing prospect in our Top-100 prospect rankings, higher than many power forwards or centers in fact.

While Valentine doesn't look scared to mix things up on the glass, he's an extremely poor defender that needed to be hidden constantly at the college level in order to not emerge as a liability. While somewhat of a combo guard offensively, he's best suited guarding small forwards who don't have much in the way of ball-handling ability or explosiveness on the other end. His lateral quickness is very poor, he doesn't cover ground well, and his effort really comes and goes, as he often looks fairly lazy closing out on shooters or trying to keep his man in front. Valentine relies heavily on reaching and grabbing his man to try and slow him down, which simply will not work at the NBA level.

Another concern is his lack of burst offensively, as he often has a tough time turning the corner against better defenders in the half-court. His size, strength and ability to change speeds works to his advantage at the college level, but there are concerns about whether he'll be able to do the same against NBA-level defenders, where everyone is much bigger, longer, stronger and more athletic.

With as good of a season as he had, he still converted just 48% of his 2-point attempts (67th best out the 80 college prospects in the DX Top-100) and got to the free throw line just 4 times per-40 minutes (also ranked 67th out of 80). When he is able to get past his man, he often simply isn't explosive enough to finish what he creates inside the paint, forcing him to rely very heavily on floaters.

A player with radically contrasting strengths and weaknesses, Valentine is likely to end up as one of the most hotly debated prospects in this draft class, as NBA teams already seem to be all over the map in how they view him. His ultimate success will likely depend on a team and coaching staff's willingness to utilize his tremendous playmaking and shooting ability, while surrounding him with players who can help mitigate his extreme deficiencies defensively, similar to what Michigan State did. Potentially draftable anywhere from the late lottery, all the way to the end of the first round, it will be fascinating to see how Valentine's NBA career pans out.
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What Did We Learn At the Champions Classic? Part 2: Michigan St-Kansas

Jonathan Givony
Jonathan Givony
Mike Schmitz
Mike Schmitz
Nov 18, 2015, 04:34 pm
Denzel Valentine, 6'5, Senior, PG/SG, Michigan State
29 points, 7-14 2P, 3-9 3P, 6-8 FT, 12 rebounds, 12 assists, 1 turnover, 0 steals, 38 minutes

Mike Schmitz Video Breakdown

With a horde of NBA scouts and executives in attendance, Denzel Valentine had perhaps his best game in a Michigan State uniform, posting a triple double and completely taking over in the second half to lead his team back from a double digit deficit to victory.

If Valentine didn't bring the ball up the floor for Michigan State, it didn't take long for the ball to either be swung to him to initiate the offense, or for a set play to be run to get him a jump-shot, as he ended up scoring or assisting on 57 of Michigan State's 79 points.

Valentine's elite combination of ball-handling, footwork and ability to operate at different speeds made him extremely difficult for Kansas to stay in front of, as he is liable to thread the needle with a perfect pass, pull-up for an off-balance jump-shot, or hit some kind of circus floater/runner/sky-hook from all kinds of angles inside the arc. Kansas tried every strategy possible to slow him down on the pick and roll, but he would just wait patiently to see how the defense would react, keep his dribble alive, and then make the correct read to continue to frustrate them.

In addition to his ability to handle the ball and find the open man, its Valentine's shooting ability, both with his feet set and off the dribble, that make him such a versatile offensive player. Michigan State repeatedly ran him off quick-hitting screens to free him up for perimeter looks, and he hit a number of difficult pull-ups with a hand in his face when the defense closed out too aggressively.

While Valentine does not possess prototypical NBA athleticism or a great frame, his productivity, skill-level and basketball IQ make him very appealing as a pro prospect. We didn't get a great chance to evaluate his defense, as Kansas' anemic backcourt made him easy to hide and save for the offensive end, and he did struggle somewhat finishing around the basket due to his lack of explosiveness, despite his elite shooting touch. Nevertheless, Valentine's ability to play a variety of different roles, along with his fearless style of play, make it increasingly difficult to count him out as a first round prospect.

Top NBA Prospects in the Big 10, Part Eight: #8-10

Jacob Eisenberg
Jacob Eisenberg
Jonathan Givony
Jonathan Givony
Kyle Nelson
Kyle Nelson
Oct 26, 2015, 01:11 pm
Jonathan Givony

Denzel Valentine is in the midst of a storied career at Michigan State, already having a Final Four, two Elite Eight appearances and an 83-30 record under his belt. Valentine is coming off a busy summer, earning a spot on USA Basketball's Pan-Am Games roster in Toronto, and then as a member of his school's trip to Italy where the Spartans competed against a number of national teams preparing for the European Championships.

Valentine has good size for the shooting guard position, measured between 6-5 and 6-6 in shoes consistently, with a very long 6-10 wingspan and a strong 220 pound frame. He is a below average athlete by NBA standards, however, as he does not possess a great first step, overwhelming quickness or much vertical explosiveness.

Valentine's calling card as a NBA prospect lies in his offensive versatility, as he is a very capable ball-handler, passer and shooter.

He shows unlimited confidence in his jumper, only needing a glimmer of daylight to fire away from extreme vantage points, and making over 100 3-pointers last season, on an excellent 42% accuracy rate. Valentine has a very compact stroke, with deep range and multiple release points, being capable of making difficult looks shooting off screens, with his feet set, or off the dribble. He has terrific touch and puts a huge amount of arc on his shot, so even though he tends to shoot a flat-footed jumper, is capable of making big shots off the bounce even with a hand in his face. He'll likely benefit from the faster tempo and increased freedom of the pro game in this regard, as he loves to fire away in transition or in the early offense, where he can more easily catch defenders off balance.

Valentine is also a terrific facilitator, dishing out over 5 assists per-40 minutes in his Michigan State career, despite always playing alongside one or more other ball-handlers. He executes extremely well in the half-court, whipping the ball all over the court with great creativity, driving and dishing and making heady post-entry passes. He has a knack for passing ahead in transition, and always has his head up to help him react to what is going on on the floor.

While Valentine does a great job of using his strength, terrific footwork and ability to change speeds to facilitate as a secondary ball-handler in Michigan State's offense, he has some limitations as a shot-creator. He does not possess a very quick first step, and relies heavily on his body and fore-arm to help create space in the half-court. For that reason, he doesn't get to the paint all that often, and is forced to shoot some very difficult floaters (which he has terrific touch on, but are very low percentage shots nonetheless) when a passing angle doesn't open up to find the open man, as he knows he does not possess the explosiveness needed to finish in traffic.

A career 47% 2-point shooter, Valentine hit just 50% of his shots inside the paint in the half-court last year, a below average rate that already came on a small sample size, and also really struggled to get to the free throw line as well, only 2.7 times per-40, one of the lowest rates in our Top-100. Valentine nonetheless finds ways to get by at the college level using his terrific jump-shooting ability and high basketball IQ, but there are real concerns about how he'll fare in this area in the NBA, where creating space is at a real premium.

While Valentine is likely smart and skilled enough to “find a way” on the offensive end against better competition, the more significant concerns revolve around his play on the other end of the floor. His lateral quickness leaves a lot to be desired here, as he's mostly relegated to guarding small forwards in college, due to how difficult of a time he has staying in front of more explosive guards. Fast-twitch ball-handlers tend to go right around him, and it's not rare to see opposing coaching staffs targeting and picking at him throughout the game trying to take advantage of his slow feet in creating mismatch advantages. Michigan State tends to send a lot of help his way in the form of extra rotations, but this will be a lot more difficult to do against teams with five scorers on the court at all times.

With that said, Valentine is certainly not an indifferent defender. He is competitive and attentive for the most part, doing his best to get through screens, close out on the perimeter, and use his length to his advantage. His strong feel for the game shows up in the work he does at times off the ball, and the 1.3 steals per-40 he's averaged throughout his career is not a terrible rate. He's a tremendous rebounder for a guard, with his 6.3 defensive rebounds per-40 being better than many of the big men in our Top-100.

Valentine is a strong contender for Preseason Big 10 player of the year honors, and is undoubtedly in position to have a huge senior season. Head Coach Tom Izzo is talking about giving him significant playmaking responsibilities this year, and judging by some of the preseason footage at our disposal, he appears to be in outstanding shape conditioning wise. While Valentine may not share the same upside as some of the younger players in the DX Top-100, few are as productive or versatile, and the amount of wins he's strung together in his career certainly can't be dismissed.

Nike Academy Scouting Reports: College Shooting Guard Prospects

Mike Schmitz
Mike Schmitz
Jul 02, 2015, 04:12 am
Mike Schmitz

Valentine separated himself as one of the best pure passers at the camp, showcasing excellent court vision and overall feel for the game. The Michigan State standout is very comfortable as the primary ball handler and distributor, despite his struggles beating his man off the bounce consistently. Valentine moves the ball, can play pick and roll, and sees plays developing a step ahead of almost every other wing at the camp.

Valentine certainly isn't perfect with the ball, as he will oftentimes try and thread the needle or get a bit sloppy making the simple play, but as an overall basketball player and distributor there's a lot to like about the Lansing, MI native. He's crafty, plays at different speeds, and knows how to use his body in tight spaces.

But while his passing most certainly impressed, Valentine didn't shoot the ball all that well overall, an area where he'll need to be nearly knockdown to make it in the NBA given his body type and limitations as a finisher and shot creator. Valentine can most certainly make shots (41.6% from three as a junior with natural touch) but he doesn't have the most natural stroke as he has some slight, unnecessary movement in his mechanics and doesn't have a very consistent release point.

Valentine also has his struggles defending quicker guards, one of the biggest reasons he may end up on the outside looking in as an NBA prospect. As a pure basketball player Valentine brings a lot to the table offensively, but he'll have to work on his body and really become a knockdown shooter to make it in the NBA. Valentine's skill set is very well suited for the Europe, where he'll most definitely have the opportunity to turn in a long and successful career if things don't work out for him on this side of the ocean first.

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