The only one of the Spartan’s top four scorers from last season returning in 2014 is Branden Dawson. This means that Michigan State will have to find new go-to scoring options if it hopes to be competitive next season.
Dawson has shown he can be a dominant player when he is locked in, but he has lacked consistently throughout his entire career. Since every returning Spartan player besides Dawson averaged 8 points per game or less in 2013, the question must be asked; who will lead the team in scoring next season?
Dawson scored 11.2 points per game for MSU last season, but as I mentioned above he didn’t come to play every night. There were some games when he would simply disappear, forcing Tom Izzo to put him on the bench.
Dawson did play much better after coming back from his self-inflicted hand injury. Following the injury he played in three regular season games before the B1G Tournament started. Once the B1G Tournament and NCAA Tournament rolled around, Dawson was a man on a mission.
Dawson averaged 15 points and over 7 rebounds per game in the B1G Tournament and an impressive 18.3 points and 9 rebounds per game in the NCAA Tournament. His most dominant performance came in the round of 32 against Harvard when he scored 20 of his career-high 26 points in the first half.
There is no doubt that Branden Dawson has the talent to lead the Spartans in scoring, but his lack of consistency is concerning.
Kenny Kaminski’s 2013 stats aren’t all that impressive aside from his 3-point shooting, but I still believe he has a chance to lead Michigan State in scoring next season.
Let me make it clear, I am not saying that Kenny Kaminski is Nik Stauskas, but I do think that Kaminski can make a similar leap in his sophomore year as Stauskas did in his. If Kaminski can turn himself into an all-around basketball player instead of just a shooter, like Stauskas did, he can be a dangerous scoring threat.
Again, I don’t believe Kaminski is nearly the athlete that Stauskas is, but if he can improve his all-around game the way that Stauskas did last year, he has a chance to lead the Spartans in scoring.
Although Branden Dawson and Travis Trice will be the seniors next year, Denzel Valentine will be the heart and soul of the team. Valentine has already shown the ability to be a leader on the court, and with all the departures from last years team he is poised to become the voice of the Spartans.
As far as Valentine’s scoring prowess is concerned, he averaged just 8 points per game last season but he will likely be looked to as the number one scoring option in 2014 because of his versatility. Valentine could see time at four different positions next season, and he has the skill set to put up points at every one of those spots.
Valentine has always been a great passer, but last season he started to find his stroke from behind the arc. Valentine shot 37 percent from deep last year, which was a nine percent improvement from his freshman season.
If Valentine continues to improve his perimeter shooting he will be lethal with the ball in his hands next season.
Denzel Valentine is my choice to lead Michigan State in scoring in 2014 because of his ability to score in so many different ways. He can attack off the dribble or shoot it from anywhere on the floor, and his superb passing skills will keep defenders on their heels all season long.