With the 2014 NBA Draft coming up in two days there is no better time than now to gaze into the crystal ball and predict which player currently on the MSU Basketball roster will be the best NBA player.
When talking about NBA prospects at Michigan State right now the conversation has to start with Branden Dawson. Dawson toyed with the idea of turning pro following his impressive postseason performance this past season, but ultimately elected to return for his senior year.
By making the decision to return to Michigan State, Dawson has not only given himself another shot at a Final Four, but also an opportunity to greatly improve his draft stock.
There is no question Dawson has the size and athleticism to play in the NBA right now, but he lacks two key things that he will need to develop if he hopes to become a first round pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The first thing he needs to work on is his consistency. Michigan State fans are tired of hearing about it, and frankly I’m tired of writing about it, but Dawson has yet to prove he can be counted on night in and night out. This problem can go away quickly if Dawson comes out next season and puts up 14 points and 10 rebounds nightly and eliminates his disappearing acts.
A somewhat reliable jumpshot is the second thing that Dawson needs to develop if he hopes to be a high draft pick in next year’s draft. He has proven he has the ability to score in the paint at the collegiate level, but at just 6-foot-6 he won’t be able to dominate down low in the NBA.
Dawson must improve his game in a few areas, but his elite athleticism makes him an intriguing NBA prospect.
If there is one thing that NBA teams are looking for in prospects now more than ever, it’s versatility. Through just two years at Michigan State Valentine has shown the ability to play four of the five positions on the floor. This will make him a prospect worth watching in a couple years when he is eligible for the draft.
Valentine’s biggest strengths aside from his versatility are his court vision and passing ability. At 6-foot-5 he can pass like a point guard which makes an offense more dynamic, especially in transition.
Valentine has yet to become a prolific scorer at Michigan State, but he has only been there for two years, and at the end of last season he showed considerable offensive improvements. He shot over 37 percent from 3-point range last year, a nine percent improvement from his freshman season.
With two years left at MSU, Valentine has plenty of time to work on his game and become a legitimate NBA prospect.
There are several other players on MSU’s roster that have the potential to get drafted at some point, but they are all far from locks. Alvin Ellis III showed some promise as a freshman, and if he can turn into a lethal scorer in the next two years he could get some looks from NBA scouts.
Gavin Schilling is an interesting name to consider because he had a subpar freshman season but all signs point to him becoming a solid big man in the next couple years. Depending on his next few seasons, his size and athleticism could lead him to an NBA career.
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn could also gain some attention from The Association following his career at Michigan State. Nairn’s strengths are his intangibles and explosiveness, and he looks to be the Spartan’s point guard of the future. He has yet to play a minute of college basketball, but if he lives up to expectations he could end up getting attention from the NBA.
Despite Branden Dawson’s sky-high potential, I believe Denzel Valentine is the best NBA prospect on the 2014-15 Michigan State Basketball roster. The fact that Valentine has an extra year to hone his game in college, along with his uniquely elite passing skills make him the best NBA prospect on the team.