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Denzel Valentine is a lottery ticket worth cashing for the Pelicans

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Alvin Gentry said he was looking for a playmaker on the wing who can shoot...

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Almost everyone had Denzel Valentine in their top 10, but he is much lower in national mock drafts. Why are you so high on Valentine?

Isaac Constans: Ahhhh, now for the tough question. I don't want to give away a future article, but let's just say it boils down to fit, draft position, and desired roles. No insider information from East Lansing played a part in this snub, just personal preferences for drafting. My big board shied away from upperclassmen in general, as I was the lowest on Valentine, Hield, and Dunn. Call me new school and let the Warriors prove me wrong with the indisputable counterexamples of Steph and Draymond, but I like that undefinable, intangible prospect of potential in top ten picks.

To Denzel,

It's not you. It's me. Still love you, Valentine.

David Fisher: New Orleans has a lot of needs on the roster. Defense, shooting, and play making are near the top of the list. Valentine has the potential to contribute in all of those areas. I know many are down on Valentine's individual defensive contributions but he can get the job done. What the Pelicans lack, more than defensive stoppers, is smart basketball players who do their job. Too often defensive breakdowns occurred not because a player was beat one-on-one, but because they failed to execute the plan. Another area on the wing Valentine will chip in right away is on the defensive glass; a problem with quite a few current options on the roster.

Offensively Valentine checks every box. He's a capable shooter with superb footwork. On closeouts his handle and passing make him a triple threat, far beyond what is currently available to the Pelicans. New Orleans largely functioned with just one real shot creator on the floor. Think back to those old Suns teams Gentry had (or his stints with the Clippers and Warriors) and a secondary creator was also on the court with their point guard. Grant Hill, Blake Griffin, Draymond Green. Real players who could take some of the burden of the point guard. Is Valentine as good as any of those three? No. But he's far better creating for others than any non-PG current on the roster or in this draft.

Quentin Haynes: If it’s strictly a Pelicans board, it doesn’t make much sense not to have Valentine in the top 10. The Pelicans need a wing player and Valentine is one of the best of them in the draft. I wouldn’t take him with their original pick, but if they moved down and took him, I wouldn’t hate that. He’s not a good defender, which limits how good he can be, but I think if you can put together a system to hide him on defense, his offensive impact should result in a solid player.

Zachary Junda: I think it's because Valentine spent four years under the tutelage of one of the best coaches in the college game in Tom Izzo. Valentine may not be the most athletic player in this class but I feel like there's something to be said about someone who knows how to play the game.

Oleh Kosel: Valentine is special, right Coach Izzo? (Fast forward to the 2:40 mark.)

Let's look at some basic numbers. He averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 3.4 threes in his final year at Michigan State. As you probably surmised, comparisons from past history are few and far between -- a search on Sports Reference / College Basketball reveals just one name since the 1993-94 season. One needs to go back a lot further to find such production... say how about Magic Johnson (sophomore averages of 17.1 pts, 7.3 reb, 8.4 ast)? Before anyone screams heresy, relax, it's just an observation noting similar collegiate seasons, nothing more.

For those that can get past the Magic comparison, I know what you're probably thinking: Valentine's limitations as an athlete will hinder his success in the NBA. Well, I'm not overly concerned because of his intelligence. How do you think an average athlete was able to show continuous improvement to end up posting one of the best lines ever recorded in college basketball? That's right, his brain is uniquely gifted and it's not too dissimilar from Draymond Green.

Upside is often used to describe physically blessed specimens who have failed to fully realize their potential, yet why can it not count for those with incredible high IQs who still have more to learn? He has an incredible feel for the game and everything he's needed to add to his repertoire he has done so with flying colors. The NBA will present new challenges, but with an ability to think three steps ahead, I'm confident his play can stand out. Coach Izzo has claimed NBA people have told him the intelligence in the game has trended negatively for years. Just ripe for an opportunity, right Draymond?

Fernando Ritzman: Valentine could be the ideal wing Alvin Gentry described in his end of the season-end presser. He can handle playing a point forward type of roll as evidenced by his excellent distributing and scoring exploits while at Michigan State. Throw in his touch from three-point range and a basketball IQ that will help him defensively, he presents an ideal draft day target for the Pelicans.

Owen Sanborn: Honestly, Valentine was so consistent during this past season that it was difficult to leave him out of the top ten for me. This draft does not exactly scream, CAN'T MISS, so perhaps I have Valentine in my top ten by default. I have lingering questions about his athleticism and whether or not he will be able to produce enough wiggle to get past NBA defenders. However, he is from the Tom Izzo school of gamers and quite simply, he knows how the hell to play the game.