Denzel Valentine was the ultimate leader for Tom Izzo’s teams
Denzel Valentine was an outstanding guard for Michigan State basketball. He earned AP Player of the Year, consensus All-American and All-Big Ten honors as a senior, averaging 19 points, eight assists and eight rebounds. He was drafted 14th overall in 2016 to the Chicago Bulls.
He dealt with several injuries during his tenure, including an ankle injury that sidelined him for the entire 2018-19 season. He was dealing with a hamstring injury before this season, and in 13 games played, he’s averaging 7.3 points per game and 4.1 rebounds per game in 19 minutes.
Gary Harris gets buckets
Gary Harris left Michigan State as one of only three players to score 1,000 points in two seasons. The former Big Ten Rookie of the Year, All-Defensive Team, and All-Freshman Team honoree averaged 15 ppg and three rpg. Harris was drafted 19th overall by the Chicago Bulls in the 2014 NBA Draft. The Bulls traded the 16th and 19th picks to the Denver Nuggets for Doug McDermott.
Harris has been a consistent starter and scorer for the Nuggets. Other than his rookie year, he’s averaged 10 or more points per game. His highest scoring output was near 18 points per game during the 2017-18 season.
Miles Bridges was a lottery pick
Miles Bridges was a five-star recruit in the 2016 class out of West Virginia’s Huntington Prep. He, too, earned McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American honors averaging 25 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists as a senior. That excellence continued as a Spartan.
He became Big Ten Rookie of the Year, becoming the second Spartan to do so since Gary Harris in 2013. He secured that honor, scoring 17 points and pulling down eight rebounds per game. He led the team in points, rebounds and was second in assists.
The Los Angeles Clippers drafted him 12th overall in the 2018 NBA Draft, and they traded him to the Charlotte Hornets. In three seasons with the Hornets, his highest scoring output was 13 points and nearly six rebounds per game during the 2019-20 season. He’s had two 20-point performances this season against the Dallas Mavericks and New Orleans Pelicans on the road.
Jaren Jackson can close the gap for the top spot when he’s healthy
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s father played four years at Georgetown and 12 NBA seasons with multiple teams from 1989-2002. Jackson Jr. was a one and done for the Spartans. He came to Michigan State via La Lumiere High School and earned McDonald’s and Jordan Brand All-American honors as a five-star recruit in the 2017 class.
He averaged close to 11 points and six rebounds as the Spartans won 30 games, won the Big Ten Tournament and lost a nail biter to the Syracuse Orange in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Jackson Jr. is in a great situation with the Memphis Grizzlies alongside Ja Morant. In two seasons with the Grizzlies, he’s averaging 15.5 points, 4.6 rebounds, 48 percent shooter from the field and 38 percent from the perimeter.
He hasn’t played this season due to recovering from a torn meniscus in the bubble last season. He assured fans that the timetable for his return is not far off. The future is bright for the Grizzlies with him on the team.
Draymond Green could end up in the Hall of Fame
Finally, the No. 1 player on this list is none other than Draymond Green. Why? Because he has won three NBA Championships. He is also a five-time All-NBA Defensive Team selection, three-time all-star, two-time All-NBA, and Defensive Player of the Year. Draymond has been a consistent presence for the Golden State Warriors on the defensive end of the floor and as a scorer, rebounder, and passer.
Sure, he has a reputation for getting technical fouls, but it hasn’t stopped him from producing at a high level. In recent years, he has also taken time to speak his mind about basketball and other matters. His insights on those subjects are refreshing to hear.
This season, he’s averaging 6.6 assists, 4.5 rebounds and five points per game.
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