Former lottery pick has a chance to reset career with Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics will be watching Denzel Valentine as he plays for the Maine Celtics. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
The Boston Celtics will be watching Denzel Valentine as he plays for the Maine Celtics. (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Why is Denzel Valentine in Portland, Maine? Why was a player with five years of NBA experience signed by the Maine Celtics and not the Boston Celtics?

Valentine hasn’t had the career a 2016 lottery pick should have had. But if you are familiar with Valentine’s collegiate career, you would think there’s a role for Valentine somewhere in the league.

Maybe the place for Denzel Valentine to reset his career and find that role will be with the Boston Celtics. The opportunity is there

I’ll admit, I was a huge fan of Valentine at Michigan State. He was a do-it-all guard for the Spartans that was more IQ than high views. Valentine knows how to play the game, but wasn’t going to blow anyone away with superhuman highlights.

Going from Spartan green and white to Celtics green and white was the dream scenario, but Valentine didn’t get past the Chicago Bulls at 14 in the 2016 NBA Draft. Boston ended up with Guerschon Yabusele at 16 and Ante Zizic at 23, but the draft wasn’t a complete loss (Jaylen Brown, 3rd overall).

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Since being drafted, Valentine has played for the Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, and two games with the Utah Jazz. So he signed with Maine to prove himself, and the Celtics get a front row seat to watch Valentine.

The Boston Celtics should be happy with what they’ve seen. In his second game, Valentine had 23 points in 28 minutes off the bench, shot 6-14 (5-10 from distance) with 17 rebounds, eight assists and four turnovers. The encore was 27 points on 10-20 shooting (7-13), nine rebounds, nine assists and just two turnovers.

If Valentine keeps putting up numbers like this, then it’s obvious that he doesn’t belong in Portland. And if Valentine keeps putting up numbers like this, will he get promoted to Boston?

Two things the Boston Celtics could use: better depth at point guard and shooting. Valentine was a 36 percent 3-point shooter with Chicago. And in his brief stint with the Cavaliers, Valentine shot 41 percent from deep. If he can regain that touch, Valentine would be valuable at least as a floor spacer.

The high assists numbers is similar to what Valentine did at Michigan State. At 6-5, Valentine can see the floor well and distributed the ball effectively for the Spartans (7.8 per game as a senior with 2.7 turnovers per game). Maybe in the right role with the Boston Celtics, Valentine could flourish in Boston.

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Some believe Marcus Smart would be better as a reserve, but who’s better and available? Smart stays with the first five. And Dennis Schroder’s inconsistency is maddening, to the point he’s off the floor during crunch time.

For perspective, in his first 40 games, Schroder averaged 31.7 minutes. The Boston Celtics are 20-20 in those games. Over the last six, including Wednesday’s win over the Charlotte Hornets (Schroder played 16:33), he’s down to 17.3. Boston is 5-1.

To get Valentine to Boston, the Boston Celtics would have to waive a player or trade someone. It’s possible that Schroder could be the centerpiece of such a trade. Schroder sometimes tries to be a star instead of playing his role, and it hurts the team. If the team feels the same way, Boston would be better off moving Schroder.

If Valentine accepts being a complimentary player, he could be the role player the Celtics need. Is it a gamble? Yes. But the longer Valentine is in Portland stuffing the stat sheet, the more of Valentine’s time is being wasted.