The one thing that has been a constant talking point regarding the Chicago Bulls this season has been their lack of spacing. It was first brought up when they brought in both Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade, two players who weren’t known for their shooting. Combine their respective three-point averages of 29.8 and 28.7 with that of Jimmy Butler’s 33% and you got a clogged offense where the defense can collapse in the paint with no worry about a threat from deep.
It didn’t get any better when the Bulls traded Doug McDermott at the trade deadline. Despite McDermott’s flaws, he was a good three-point shooter. If the Bulls want to keep defenses off-balance, they need more three-point shooting. With the inconsistencies in minutes with Jerian Grant and Nikola Mirotic, it’s hard to see that change coming. But there is a slight bit of hope and that comes in the form of the Bulls first round pick Denzel Valentine.
Valentine has been one of the Bulls best three-point shooters this year with a percentage of 34.3%, good enough for 5th highest on the team. He isn’t afraid to shoot it either, tied second on the team in attempts/minute with Niko and only behind Cameron Payne.
In fact, three’s are all basically what Valentine shoots these days. His three-point attempt rate is at 73.4% and he seems to have found it comfortable sitting at the three-point line. Like the one we see here:
This type of shooting is exactly what the Bulls need. Whenever someone drives into the paint, the defense is almost certainly to collapse to help. Especially with Butler and even Wade when he was healthy. They collapsed knowing that the likes of Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams were waiting for a kick-out. But with Valentine showing the ability to hit those types of shots, defenses are going to have to be more careful.
Valentine also has shown a smart ability to getting to open spaces at the three-point line during fast breaks and open himself as an option when the Bulls have a numbers advantage. It’s something he showed during Summer League and it has transitioned into the regular season.
Valentine still has to improve his 3-point percentage, but he’s gone over 39% since the All-Star break. And he has shown the ability to improve as a shooter before, like at Michigan State where he shot a woeful 28.1% his freshman year but improved and he finished his senior year shooting 44.4% from three.
Despite his improvements and emergence as a three-point shooter, Valentine has a long way to go elsewhere in his game. He has to get better defensively and not let guys blow by him to get more playing time. Valentine also has to work on being more versatile offensively, as in working off the ball and scoring off the dribble.
Denzel is going to have a tough time being anything more than a bench guy if he can't create off the dribble. Takes away his passing ability— Mark Karantzoulis (@MKarantzoulis) March 19, 2017
As the 14th pick in the draft, a lot is expected from Valentine but we have to remember that even lottery players take time to develop. Some take time to develop their skills and here’s hoping that’s the case with Valentine. Given the outcomes of the Bulls recent 1st round draft picks, Valentine becoming a productive starter would be a win.