Column: Best picks for Davis and Valentine
For most people, there is only one prom night--the ephemeral occasion to display the most garish wardrobe and potentially embark on a years-long relationship. Fortunately, for a couple of Spartans, they'll be able to stroll down the carpet, cameras flashing in an enormous ballroom, one more time.
Deyonta Davis and Denzel Valentine are both projected to be first-round picks in tonight's NBA Draft. Davis will be in the green room with some other 15 projected lottery (the first 14 picks of the draft, from non-playoff teams) draftees including Valentine, whose suit is tailored, trimmed, and ready to go for his special night in attendance.
However, like any prom night, the lasting memory doesn't come from the suit or the photos but from the date who's driving you home when the night's over. So here's to a great second special night for both Davis and Valentine, with the top three partnerships for both to walk away with.
Deyonta Davis with his family, high school coach Keith Guy and NBA commissioner Adam Silver at… https://t.co/OmAtPYmXcp— Spartan Basketball (@MSU_Basketball) June 23, 2016
Davis is a shy kid, recognizable for his concise, one-sentence responses. One potential stumbling block for Davis in the NBA could be intense media attention and cumbersome pressure from a big market. In Denver, Davis would be in a relatively low-key location, importantly with a colleague in place in former Spartan Gary Harris. The dim lights and friendly confines of a young, promising team could be the perfect place for Davis to develop before being ready to fully turn into a big-time prodigy.
Moreover, the Nuggets needs big men who can protect the post, as their current selection is offensively oriented. The Nuggets have the seventh, 15th and 19th selections in the draft and plenty of promise, but still need more men in the ranks before dubbing themselves a team for the future. Davis would sure buttress that perception.
The Bucks are one step further along rebuilding road than the Nuggets, but are again a small market lacking in national supervision from overbearing fans, a good absence for Davis. The Bucks are also famous for being one of the longest teams ever in the NBA, carefully selecting a faction of lanky, wingspan-abundant players. Sound like anybody?
The Bucks have the frontcourt depth to allow Davis to grow and be mentored by similar players, like veteran John Henson. However, he would also be in a position of immediate effectiveness on the team. With Davis and Henson exchanging lineup spots with former Detroit Piston Greg Monroe and Jabari Parker, the Bucks could instantly switch from offense to defense, with Davis a part of the defensive stronghold. At the same time, Davis could learn from Parker and Monroe simple post moves to fortify his offensive game and become a two-way player present in the game for a long time.
The Hawks have a definite direction going forward, although their roster situation is murky because of many moving parts. The Hawks have been a team with dominant big men since pairing Paul Millsap and Al Horford side-by-side on the block. With that duo in jeopardy as free agency beckons, nothing would please the Hawks' ownership more than a failsafe backup like Deyonta Davis.
In Atlanta, Davis would be brought into a big-man-suited system that still has a bright future, unlike Memphis further down the board. Although the Hawks are not as young as either the Nuggets or the Bucks, the Hawks have a point guard to boast of in Dennis Schroder. Schroder would bring along Davis offensively better than any other realistic guard combination. With slick passing skills and a knack for penetration, Schroder would provide Davis with easy chances to mitigate the offensive adjustment struggles that many college big men have. The money is still good, too, as the Hawks have the 12th pick.
The Bulls are conceivably the team with the highest draft pick that would contemplate picking Valentine. With worrisome developments about the health of Valentine's knees, many other lottery teams that would have considered Valentine will back off. For the Bulls, a franchise stranded in basketball limbo, the risk might be one that's worthwhile.
The Bulls have never shied away from drafting older prospects, such as Doug McDermott and star player Jimmy Butler, and now need a ready-to-go player before free agency hits. After trading Derrick Rose but electing to resign Butler one year ago, the Bulls have an open spot in the guard hierarchy, and Valentine could fit in quite well. Coach Fred Hoiberg likes to have a fast-paced offense, and although Valentine lacks ideal agility and athleticism, his decision making and intangibles make amends. Valentine's ability to turn a rebound to points on the other end were a valuable part of his record-breaking senior year at MSU and could help compose an unsettled and oscillating Bulls squad.
Here's one for the hometown. Far from far-fetched, though, Valentine and the Pistons seem to be a quite good match. The Pistons are in dire need of someone to step into the backup point guard straits to plug the leak, and Valentine would need little time to settle in. Although some positional ambiguity perturbs Valentine's detractors, his synonymous versatility is what would let him answer the call so comprehensively for the Pistons.
Last year, Detroit was very last in the NBA for bench scoring, somehow mustering together a measly 25.7 points a game from very inadequate options. Outside of Stanley Johnson and Aron Baynes, questions persist across the court as soon as a bench player checks in. However, Valentine's ability to score in difficult circumstances and passing prowess could answer both calls for individual points and the creation of a defined second team. Valentine would not only pour in his own buckets, but by creating chances for others, individually move the team up at least five spots in bench scoring. And if the Pistons could somehow score a sixth man like Ryan Anderson, the bench could improve from horrific to impressive.
San Antonio Spurs
Here's the Connor Cook, nightmare draft-drop scenario, and it's not altogether disregard-able. The missing cartilage in his knee has sparked the grenadier comparisons of the fragile Brandon Roy and Danny Granger. And while the noteworthy talents of those two are often glossed over, the injuries rightfully are the prominent considerations of teams in the draft. That means that the team to draft Valentine, if they were so preoccupied with wellbeing, would have to be already imbued in a win-now mentality.
Through a series of trades, only two teams remain at the bottom of the draft order who can confidently overlook longterm considerations: the Spurs and the Golden State Warriors. And the Spurs draft first. A player with maven-level basketball IQ and experience, who could involve himself as a member of the younger unit while having the discipline to be in a win-now mode, and a player with instant impressions on a roster would likely be a strong candidate for the no. 29 pick. Denzel Valentine is that player. Gregg Popovich, coach of the Spurs, loves college winners. He doesn't care what other people say about age, and he follows his own rubric for assessment. Popovich always has the serendipity or the savvy to snag the steal of the draft. It seems like we might be rehearsing the same verse once again.