It was quite the year for the Michigan State Spartans in 2013-14. Falling short of a Big Ten regular season title because of multiple injuries and variations to the starting lineup was tough on the Spartans. However, they bounced back to win the conference tournament title and made a run to the Elite Eight. Denzel Valentine was a big reason for the success and he is drawing comparisons to a Spartan great.
If Valentine were to be compared to any Spartan great, who would it be? Magic Johnson? Nope. Mateen Cleaves? Nope. Draymond Green? Ding ding ding; correct answer.
The sophomore combo guard can do everything that Green could do — and maybe even a little better and more athletically than Green did it. While Green has two inches on Valentine, the soon-to-be junior guard has what it takes to be the next Green-like player for the Spartans.
Two years removed from the Draymond Green era, the Spartans are going to have to rely on Valentine to become that player in a leadership role — nearly the same role Green was expected to be once Kalin Lucas and company graduated.
Don’t believe me that they are nearly the same person? Check the stats.
In his sophomore season, Green averaged 9.9 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.2 steals, 1.7 turnovers and shot 67.2 percent from the free throw line. Valentine’s sophomore year looked quite similar as he averaged 8.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.8 turnovers and shot 67.7 percent from the free throw line. Eerily similar? Yes it is.
While those are all similar in comparison, the shooting percentages differ a bit as Green was much more of a post-up player in his first two seasons, shooting 52.5 percent from the field and just 12.5 percent from three-point range. Valentine is much more of an outside threat already than Green was at this time in his career, shooting just 40.8 percent from the field(down from 44.5 percent in his freshman year) and 37.7 percent from three-point range.
Green eventually became more of a threat from downtown, but it took three years to get to that point. Valentine is already ahead in the shooting category.
If you watched the first two seasons of Green’s career, you knew there was potential there, but sometimes he did things that frustrated fans and coaches alike. Silly turnovers and poor shot selection at times led people to believe he had a long way to go. Denzel’s first two years have been filled with the same type of play.
This is a Tom Izzo project that is about to pay off once Valentine becomes the team leader in his junior season just as Green had done in his.
The comparisons aren’t ridiculous at all. In fact, Valentine has a chance to become a better player and professional than Green was and has.
Call me crazy.
Connor Muldowney is the Content Associate for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at email@example.com.