Denzel Valentine will inherit a much larger, more primary role for Michigan State next season. After proving himself as a capable starter on a loaded team last year, he is only one of two starters to return. He made massive strides from his freshman campaign to his sophomore's, which he will need to replicate for 2014-15.
Valentine improved his numbers in nearly every statistical category. In the upcoming season, the onus will be placed on him to carry the team offensively, while remaining a stingy defender.
So where must he improve, and what must he seek to rectify?
Valentine's shooting percentage plummeted from 45 percent as a freshman to 40 last season, largely due to many ill-advised shots he took. As a sophomore, he showed incredible maturity in many phases of the game, however, he would occasionally take shots that weren't in the flow of the offense.
While Valentine improved his three-point shot immensely, he still attempted numerous threes that disrupted the flow of the offense. Additionally, he didn't always play on balance, which immediately hindered his potential to make productive plays.
His shot selection wasn't terrible, but it needs to be more refined going into next season. He has the ability to make shots as well as finishing strong around the rim. He must play at his own pace as he will be relied on much more to score.
Valentine only turned it over 1.8 times per game, a low output considering he dished out nearly four assists per contest. However, he forced the issue at times in order to make the stunning, no-look pass that he craved. Many times, it worked, and the he created a scoring opportunity. But at others, he committed careless turnovers and ended possessions early.
He is one of the best all-around passers in the conference. Valentine's aptitude at finding the open teammate seriously benefits this team, especially because it is devoid of many individually gifted scorers. As noted in his occasional poor shot selection, he must slow the game down in order to limit the negative plays.
This includes making the sure passes, not always the fancy ones. His assist-to-turnover ratio is just above 2:1, so turnovers aren’t a glaring issue. Eliminating those forced passes will boost that ratio even higher.
More Complete Offensive Game
Valentine is a solid spot-up three-point shooter, and he can finish around the rim with strength. But aside of those areas and his passing excellence, Valentine doesn’t possess a hugely versatile offensive repertoire.
For his size, he has solid quickness. It isn’t the type that allows Valentine to blow by defenders, but he is certainly crafty enough to escape a line of defense. With much more offensive responsibility, he will need to diversify his skill set, including finding ways to escape the defense off the dribble.
Additionally, he doesn’t possess much of a mid-range game. He must seek those type of shots, whether they are pull-up jumpers or floaters inside the lane.
Valentine has the shooting touch and overall ability to improve considerably over the offseason. He has already displayed that. However, for the rising junior to meet the lofty expectations that the upcoming season presents, he must improve in many facets offensively.