So...how about this draft? I'm not sure there's been a more tense first round in recent memory for Bulls fans with the Jimmy Butler rumors swirling (not exactly over with either). With the 14th pick in the draft tonight, Gar Forman and John Paxson elected to take Michigan State's Denzel Valentine. He fits the type of player that GarPax have typically selected in previous years, as an experienced, "NBA-Ready" player. How does he fit in with the Bulls?
As a senior, Valentine finished as arguably one of the two best players in college basketball last season, averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, shooting 44.4% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game.
For Valentine, what made him special during his final season at MSU and an eventual high lottery pick was his shot and playmaking abilities. From Upside Motor's Rafael Uehara's:
"Off the ball, he can nail catch-and-shoot 3's spotting up on the weak-side and coming off side screens. He converted 40.8 percent of his 650 3-point shots in four years at Michigan State. On the ball, he's proven able to create for himself and others out of the pick-and-roll, getting his shot off from mid-range, hitting pocket passes to big men diving to the basket and crosscourt passes to weak-side shooters."
Here's more from our own, TheMoon on Valentine's offense:
"Above the free throw line extended is where Valentine is kind of a genius. Easily the most dangerous player in college in this area. As a shooter, he was every bit as good as Buddy Hield this year; and as a passer he had no equal. He is outstanding at running PnRs in the middle of the floor. He keeps his head up very well and he is almost inerrant in exploiting any confusion in the opposing PnR coverage. It should be noted that he himself creates much of this confusion because his outside shot is so powerful.
There are weaknesses that come with Valentine, on both ends of the ball. Offensively, once below the free throw line is where struggled to find success, again from TheMoon:
"Below the foul line offense is where Valentine's flaws start to manifest. We know from hoop-math.com that Valentine doesn't get himself to the basket very often. Only 16% of his FGAs were around the rim. Once at the rim, Valentine only converted at a 60% rate. What is more, 46% of his makes at the rim were assisted. All of these numbers are very poor for a guard or a wing. They suggest what is obvious from viewing: Denzel Valentine rarely gets himself clean looks in the paint. Everything is contested and difficult and awkward. Even his passing once in the paint begins to feel less clinical and more desperate."
His defense and overall athleticism is what causes the greatest concern. Not to mention recent reports of his knee troubles. He doesn't have the quickness to defend at an NBA level, and with Doug McDermott (and Nikola Mirotic) already on board that doesn't bode well for team success. Unless the Bulls find a way to move McDermott, or Fred Hoiberg does a great job of staggering their minutes, there's no conceivable way to play both of those heavy minutes for the foreseeable future.
But every player has weaknesses, and Valentine brings quite a bit to a Bulls team that needs more playmaking to go alongside Jimmy Butler (if he stays). We'll let Ricky O'Donnell finish this write-up of Valentine with his thoughts on him from earlier this summer:
"To me, Valentine is a perfect role player, someone who can run an offense on the second unit early in his career and will develop into a great fourth or fifth starter quickly. He might not be a home run pick, but he should be a solid double."
What are your thoughts on the Bulls first round pick?