MSU Basketball: Small forward position preview

Out of the five spots on the floor, the small forward position is probably the one worrying Tom Izzo the least going into 2014. He has a ton of guys who can play it, including proven playmakers like Denzel Valentine and Branden Dawson.

Like most of the other spots on the court, there are a slew of Spartans who will see time at small forward next season, but I’ll discuss the three who will see the most time and predict who I believe the starter will be for the MSU basketball team.


Dawson has nothing but opportunity ahead of him in 2014. He has the chance to become the leader of the team, take MSU to a Final Four and play his way into being a first round draft pick.

All of those opportunities hinge on whether or not he will gain the consistency that has been absent from his game since the day he stepped on campus at MSU. Dawson has the ability to put up all the numbers you could ever want from a small forward, but he just doesn’t bring it every night. He went on a tear in the 2013 postseason, posting his two highest scoring games of his career in back to back games, so there is hope that he has finally figured it out.

Dawson’s body and overall game lend themselves better to the power forward position, but he has seen more than his fair share of time at small forward. He could become even more dangerous as a small forward if he can get some jump shots to fall consistently, but even without a perimeter game he has the athleticism to dominate.

Next season is it for Branden Dawson, he will either finally live up to his astronomical potential or become the greatest “what if” story at MSU since Delvon Roe.

Freshman Javon Bess could earn playing time at small forward in 2014

Freshman Javon Bess could earn playing time at small forward in 2014


As an incoming freshman it’s hard to imagine Bess taking too much playing time away from Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine, but that doesn’t mean he should be completely forgotten. ranks Bess as the 199th best overall prospect and 46th best small the 2014 class. He’s a 3-star recruit who isn’t coming in with much hype around him, and while Spartan fans don’t usually get excited about 3-star recruits, everyone knows what Tom Izzo can do with a kid who has some talent and a chip on his shoulder.

At 6-foot-5, 185 pounds Bess will definitely need to bulk up, but his offensive game should allow him to contribute right away. He is an extremely balanced offensive player, showing the ability to post up, shoot from the perimeter and make smart passes.

Bess probably won’t win the starting job in 2014, but he could log some significant minutes and become a cornerstone of the team in 2015 and beyond.


If you’re looking for the new “Mr. Everything” at Michigan State, look no further than Denzel Valentine. Even though he will only be a junior next year, Valentine’s versatility and leadership have many people already calling him the face of the team.

Valentine’s passing has been compared to the great Magic Johnson, and towards the end of last year he showed the ability to score in bunches. While his passing was his biggest asset the past few seasons with all the scorers around him, he will be depended on to be one of the primary scorers for MSU in 2014. He has all the skills to excel as a go-to scorer, and his passing prowess makes it that much tougher for defenders to deal with him.

Valentine’s value to the team last season was grossly underappreciated by MSU fans because he wasn’t putting up crazy numbers or throwing down windmill dunks–he was filling the holes left by all the injured Spartan stars. Next season Valentine won’t be the one forced to play out of position because of injuries, he’ll be the one depended on to lead the team.


Denzel Valentine is the perfect fit at small forward for Michigan State. He has the size to defend the position and the offensive skillset to put up big scoring numbers. Valentine will be able to settle in at small forward in 2014 and solidify himself as the face of the team.

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