Valentine exploded for a career high 34 points and poured in eight 3-point field goals (also a career high). He was a team high +14 in 39 minutes and also grabbed seven rebounds and dished out six assists.
Valentine caught fire from the 3-point line and the scoring took care of itself from there. His career night brought his 3-point field goal percentage up to 39.1 percent for the season.
The second year guard has drained four or more 3-point field goals in a single game on 13 occasions this season. But the playmaking last night, which was reminiscent of his heyday at Michigan State (he averaged 7.8 assists per game his senior year which was fourth in the nation), was also impressive.
From year one to year two, Valentine has almost doubled his per 36 minute output in assists. The attention he commands from defenses when he is shooting the ball well makes having that ability to pass out of precarious situations a valuable weapon. Flashing this complete offensive package, Valentine went back to his unending self-confidence:
“I believe I’m a starter in this league,” Valentine said. “I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team. But whatever my role on the team is that they want me to do, the organization wants me to do, I’ll do. But personally, I believe I’m a starter and I can contribute in major ways. I just got to keep working and keep getting better.”
Valentine had a career game last night, but perhaps his point total would’ve brought home a win if Blakeney didn’t pull a Blakeney.
The Bulls two way-player took 14 shots in 27 minutes and a lack of situational awareness was evident throughout the game.
You think Denzel wants the ball? He's been on fire tonight, career-high 25 points and counting. pic.twitter.com/yVRTAFQfRk— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) March 18, 2018
Blakeney ignores a clapping Valentine, who had just hit five of the Bulls last seven points, to take a contested 3-point field goal with 16 seconds remaining on the shot clock.
According to NBA.com, this has been a reoccurring issue for Blakeney all season. Over 22.3 percent of his shot attempts come with between 18 and 22 seconds remaining on the shot clock (characterized as “very early” by NBA.com) and 17 percent of his shot attempts come with 15 to 18 seconds on the shot clock (characterized as “early” by NBA.com).
Blakeney prematurely firing up 3-point attempts in transition without rebounders under the basket has been another example of his sometimes limited situational awareness.
Blakeney has value as a microwave scorer in this league who can provide a spark off the bench. However, if he continues to stagnate the Bulls offense by looking for his own shots it’s tough to envision a substantial role for him moving forward.
Per 36 minutes, he averages the third most shot attempts on the team (out of players who are still on the Bulls). He probably isn’t the Bulls third best scorer so that number needs to come down a bit.
As the losses continue to pile up as the season winds down, Valentine was the Bulls bright spot last night against Cleveland. The immensely talented Blakeney tried to steal his spotlight, but that didn’t stop Valentine from having a career night.