Denzel Valentine still doesn’t know what he is.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has used the rookie at a little point guard, some two guard, but mostly working at the wing with the second teamers through the first week of training camp.
Defensively, the 6-foot-6 rookie has guarded the one, two and three.
So what will he be once the regular season tips off?
“I’m just a basketball player,’’ Valentine has insisted numerous times since he was selected 14th overall in the June draft.
Maybe the best description of all.
“He’s such an instinctive player,’’ Hoiberg said of his rookie. “He does a great job. We talk about making simple plays. You’ve done your job when you beat your man, draw the second defender and make the easy, simple play. Denzel is great at that. That’s not a gift that everybody has. That’s not an instinct that all players have. But Denzel certainly has it.
“As soon as that guy comes in, he makes that instinctive play. More often than not, it’s on time and on target. As a shooter, that’s what you’re looking for.’’
And that’s why Valentine doesn’t mind not being labeled to a certain position or spot on the floor. It’s about getting on the court and doing whatever it takes to do so for the combo guard/forward. Set screens, knockdown long jumpers, feed the basketball to the stars?
No job too big, none too small.
“I think it will be important, bringing versatility to our team,’’ Valentine said of his strengths. “Being able to guard one through three, being able to play one through three. Just play-making and knocking down open shots and playing defense. Jimmy [Butler], DWade [Dwyane Wade] and [Rajon] Rondo will do most of the ball-handling, making plays, but just coming in and doing what I can, do what coach needs me to do.’’
What Hoiberg needs him to do right now is stay on the current path.
Like Butler and Rondo, Valentine is a gym rat, into the Advocate Center early and leaving late. He excelled for the Bulls in the Summer League, and is now getting a full dose of the NBA game in the daily scrimmages Hoiberg has been running.
“Yeah, it’s different than Summer League,’’ Valentine said. “We got All-Stars and Hall of Famers out here, guys that have won championships, so it’s definitely a different speed, a different pace, but kind of getting used to it. Everybody just getting back in shape, just trying to keep working on their game and getting it right.’’
The good thing for Valentine and the Bulls is he will have seven preseason games to get used to NBA speed and pace. Or at least get a taste of it.
He’ll also have some quality mentors along the way, as Butler, Wade and Rondo have each taken Valentine under their wing to help him through the process. Maybe that’s another reason why he doesn’t seem to resemble the usually overwhelmed rookie.
“If you want to say who has more pressure it’s probably [Wade, Rondo and Butler] because they’ve been there before, they’ve done it,’’ Valentine said. “So they’re probably expected to come in and change it right away. But at the end of the day we all got to go out there and perform.’’