Each week throughout March Madness, DIME is profiling draft prospects from each region of the NCAA Tournament who we deem most intriguing. There’s no real rubric for this exercise. We’ll be be highlighting surefire top-five picks, run-of-the-mill first-rounders, and even guys who may not hear their name called at Barclays Center on June 23. There’s just one rule: Only players still participating in the Tournament will be considered. Read our installments on Duke’s Brandon Ingram, Kansas’ Devonte’ Graham, and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray here.
March, needless to say, can make a prospect’s draft stock. The pressure of do-or-die basketball on the country’s biggest stage can ruin it, too. But NBA franchises will be carefully monitoring the next three weeks’ developments regardless, altering draft boards in accordance with what scouts, general managers, and even the viewing public sees — which could dramatically alter their futures in the process.
The NCAA Tournament is about winning, first and foremost. And not only will the following prospect wield a heavy hand when it comes to his current team’s fortunes, but perhaps those of his first professional one, as well.
The Player: Denzel Valentine, six-foot-five senior guard/forward for Michigan State University.
The Present: Valentine averages 19.4 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 7.6 assists per game. He shoots 48.3 percent from the field, 44.7 percent from three-point range (on 7.5 tries per game), and 85.3 percent from the free throw line. He was named Big 10 Player of the Year and All-Big 10 First Team this season.
The Future: Valentine is a four-year senior. He’s not quick enough to defend guards off the bounce and doesn’t have the length to check small forwards, let alone play extended minutes as a small-ball 4. He lacks burst with the ball in his hands and explosive leaping ability, too.