Michigan State's talented Denzel Valentine: 'I'm just a basketball player'
Denzel Valentine wants to be like Draymond Green.
Really, every NBA prospect wants to be like the Golden State Warriors’ jack-of-all-trades star.
That’s what more team general managers and scouts are hearing when they ask the players what their position is. The answer was similar, if not rehearsed, during interviews at last week’s NBA scouting combine and likely will be heard repeatedly leading into next month’s draft.
“They ask me what (position) I see myself (playing), and I just give them my general feedback,” said Valentine, who like Green, starred at Michigan State. “I don’t see myself at a position. I was talking to Draymond the other night, and he was just saying he’s a basketball player, and I kind of see myself as just a basketball player.”
Today’s NBA players do not want to be confined to a position. Power forwards and centers want to push the ball up the court on fast breaks, pass and shoot three-pointers – all of which Green does well.
Guards today look to post up and to rebound against bigger players.
Suddenly the label of a “tweener” – a player without a traditional position – isn’t disparaging. Green has become a trailblazer for tweeners.
And with the draft lottery on Tuesday, the Kings could add a version of Green because they desperately need more skilled, versatile players.
The best scenario for the Kings in the lottery is for the Philadelphia 76ers to win the No. 1 pick (25 percent chance) and Sacramento to jump from eighth to second. If the 76ers fall below the Kings, Philadelphia can swap spots with Sacramento, stemming from last year’s trade that sent Jason Thompson, Carl Landry and Nik Stauskas to the 76ers.
The Kings have a 6.8 percent chance of moving into one of the top three spots. If Sacramento falls out of the top 10, its first-round pick will go to the Chicago Bulls as a result of the Kings’ 2011 trade for Cleveland’s J.J. Hickson and the Cavaliers’ subsequent acquisition of Luol Deng from Chicago.
But moving up in the lottery isn’t essential for the Kings to find a solid player.
Ironically, Green slipped to the second round, 35th overall, in the 2012 draft partly because teams weren’t sure what position he could play in the NBA. He was considered too short at 6-foot-7 to be a traditional power forward and not quick or athletic enough to play small forward.
It should be noted the Kings’ most productive draft pick since DeMarcus Cousins in 2010 was Isaiah Thomas, the 60th and last pick of the 2011 draft.
Now an All-Star in Boston, Thomas led the Celtics to the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
Green also has become an All-Star for Golden State – leading the Warriors in rebounds and assists – and one of the best defensive players in the league because of his versatility. Valentine said Green is “paving the way for guys like me and guys that fit my mold.”
Valentine might be a big point guard at 6-foot-6. Or maybe he’s a shooting guard or small forward.
Valentine says his qualities are similar to Green’s.
“The things that he brings to the table – a winning mentality, being versatile, toughness, leadership, a high basketball IQ, doing a lot of different things on the court – I definitely compare myself to him,” Valentine said.
If the Kings stay at No. 8, a player like Valentine could be an option. The Kings’ production at guard, especially shooting guard, was disappointing this season.
Valentine said it doesn’t matter where he plays.
“No, and I really didn’t have a preference at Michigan Sate,” Valentine said. “It was just wherever Coach told me to be.”
Cal’s Jaylen Brown echoed Valentine.
“I’ll play whatever position the coach needs me,” said the 6-foot-7 Brown, who played forward for the Bears. “I’ll play one through four. I think I can handle the ball; I think I’m strong enough to guard somebody down low. I consider myself a basketball player.”
NBA draft lottery
Odds to land in top three and win the first pick:
% chance top 3 / % chance No. 1
Philadelphia 64.3 / 25.0
L.A. Lakers 55.8 / 19.9
Boston (from Brooklyn) 46.9 / 15.6
Phoenix 37.8 / 11.9
Minnesota 29.1 / 8.8
New Orleans 21.5 / 6.3
Denver (from New York) 15.0 / 4.3
Kings 6.8 / 1.9
Toronto (from Denver) 6.8 / 1.9
Milwaukee 6.5 / 1.8
Orlando 2.9 / 0.8
Utah 2.5 / 0.7
Washington 2.2 / 0.6
Chicago 1.8 / 0.5
The Kings enter the NBA draft lottery in the eighth slot after winning a tiebreaker with Denver and Milwaukee. They will keep their first-round pick if they remain in the top 10. Should the Kings fall three spots, which is almost mathematically impossible, Sacramento’s first-round pick will go to the Chicago Bulls. The Kings can’t receive the No. 1 pick. If they win the lottery (1.9 percent chance), Philadelphia can swap picks with them because of the 2015 trade that sent Nik Stauskas, Jason Thompson and Carl Landry to the 76ers. The best-case scenario, should the Kings win the lottery, is for the 76ers to win the second pick.
Bee Sports staff