Clippers NBA Draft: Denzel Valentine to L.A. could happen

Mar 13, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) brings the ball up court against Purdue Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson (3) during the Big Ten conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 13, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans guard Denzel Valentine (45) brings the ball up court against Purdue Boilermakers guard P.J. Thompson (3) during the Big Ten conference tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Denzel Valentine is one of the most productive and NBA-ready prospects in this year’s draft, and there’s an increasing chance that the Los Angeles Clippers may get to select him.

If you said a few weeks ago that the Los Angeles Clippers could land one of the best players in college basketball, 6’6″ shooting guard Denzel Valentine, in the 2016 NBA Draft, it would have been laughable. Even as someone projected to fall late in the lottery or just outside of it, the notion of him falling to the Clippers’ range would have been ridiculous.

Now, that may not be the case at all.

Valentine could be an almost dream-like pick for the Clippers, currently selecting with the 25th pick, hoping to find a rookie talent than can contribute to their contender status right away. He fits that description perfectly, coming off one of the most productive, well-rounded performances in college history.

Yes, his poor defense is an obvious flaw and so is his lack of high-end speed and explosiveness, but shooting 44.4 percent from three and becoming the only college player to average 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists per game in a season since 1993 is exceptional (per Sports Reference).

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And most importantly for the Clippers, Valentine could be within reach.

According to some recent mock drafts, specifically the experts over at DraftExpress, who have him falling to 23, Valentine’s estimated selection is declining. If that’s a realistic range for him, dropping to the Clippers at 25 hardly seems farfetched. And if the Clippers trade up as they’re reportedly hoping to, a selection just inside the top 20 could easily be high enough.

To take the possibility of Valentine to L.A. even further, reports of his health are taking his declining stock even further, possibly making him a no-go player for some teams selecting earlier and pursuing a future star.

To the concern of multiple teams and the Clippers if he falls to them, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders has reported that a knee condition is hurting Valentine’s draft stock:

"Word is Michigan State’s Denzel Valentine may have a fairly significant knee issue, so much so that one team sort of compared him to former Indiana Pacers All-Star Danny Granger, who came into the league with a degenerative knee condition and struggled every year to play 82 games. League sources said it’s still likely he will get drafted in the first round, but his stock looks to be a tough one to lock in with so many teams believing his knee will be a problem."

It’s surprising to hear that’s the case. Despite some minor knee issues in the past, Valentine hasn’t really been viewed as a player tainted by major health concerns.

As such a proven player who’s so well versed and talented in numerous areas of the game, though, is Valentine still worth taking for the Clippers?

With reports of the health issues and a general drop in his draft stock as more knowledge of higher-upside prospects emerges, Valentine isn’t as valuable as he may have been a few weeks ago, thus the falling stock. But surely he can’t avoid the Clippers’ attention if he falls within their range (trading up or not).

It goes without saying that Doc Rivers won’t be trusting a rookie with a major role, but if there’s anyone who could come in with reasonable minutes on the wing, it’s Denzel Valentine.

Paul Pierce may retire, Wesley Johnson could leave in free agency, Luc Mbah a Moute defends everywhere but can’t space the floor, and some wing help in the draft should be the team’s top priority.

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When you counter in Valentine’s efficient (and high-quantity with 3.4 makes per game) three-point shot, his stellar passing to aid the sometimes stagnant ball movement of the second unit, and his work on the boards to help the Clippers after they ranked 29th in rebounding rate this season, it’s impossible to deny that he’d address multiple areas of need. The fact that he’s 22 with experience should only further encourage Doc to hand him some minutes.

That being said, the reasons he may fall later in the draft — a knee issue and his lack of speed and explosiveness — are worthy concerns. Players that talented don’t fall for nothing.

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However, Valentine’s skill and production speak for themselves, and his ability as a playmaker, shooter and triple-double threat as such a versatile guard can’t be questioned. Being at least a sound role player or sixth man in the NBA seems almost guaranteed in his future.

Sometimes you just need to take the most talented player available. And if he slips late in the first round or Doc trades up a few spots, Valentine is most likely going to be the most talented and experienced prospect available who suits their needs.

The Clippers need someone with poise, skill, passing, and versatility; not a hyper athlete they need to become a star.

Providing his knee issue can be evaluated as something that won’t hold him back or derail his career, Valentine may simply be too good for the Clippers to pass up, should they get the opportunity to select him.

Next: Latest Mock Draft: 76ers' No. 1 pick and Clippers' top target

This could be a seriously interesting draft for L.A.