Bulls add to the backcourt by picking Denzel Valentine in Rd. 1
Subscribe for unlimited digital access.
Try one month for $1!
Subscribe for unlimited digital access. Try one month for $1!
If trading Derrick Rose on Wednesday was the “first step,’’ as Bulls general manager Gar Forman coined it, Step 2 came on Thursday.
With the 14th pick in the first round of the NBA Draft the Bulls selected Michigan State guard/forward Denzel Valentine, doing what they can to add some toughness to a team that came up very soft throughout most of the 2015-16 season.
“To me, in my mind, the biggest disappointment was this team lacked a collective fight to them,’’ VP of basketball operations John Paxson said at the end of the year when assessing his team. “And I’ve never been around a good group of players or team that didn’t fight together. That’s just the truth.’’
At 6-foot-6, 210 pounds, fight has never been a problem for Valentine.
The four-year player delivered big shot after big shot for the Spartans, and was expected to go even earlier in the draft if there weren’t concerns with his knees, including undergoing arthroscopic surgery back in December.
That surgery, however, only cost him four games, as Valentine went on to win AP Player of the Year, averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, leading Michigan State to the Big Ten Tournament Championship.
According to scouts, Valentine is considered a high-IQ player, helped along by spending four years under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. He has the court vision to play point guard, while also blessed with a 6-10 wingspan to move over to the small forward spot.
The knock on Valentine is his athleticism. He wasn’t the quickest defender, and there was plenty of film floating around on him struggling to beat opponents off the dribble. The other red flag with Valentine is his agent in B.J. Armstrong.
While Armstrong, who also represents Rose, is now at least engaging in dialogue with Forman, the former Bulls guard admittedly wouldn’t speak to anyone associated with the Bulls except chairman Jerry Reinsdorf a few years back.
That poor relationship did very little in helping the Bulls and Rose stay on the same page, especially while Rose was going through his injury problems.
“He’s a big-time winner,’’ Forman said of Valentine. “The coaching staff, everybody at Michigan State just raves about his character, his make-up, his leadership.’’
Maybe so, but he wasn’t exactly the first choice for the Bulls either, who were reportedly in heavy pursuit of Providence point guard Kris Dunn, supposedly using Jimmy Butler to try and land him. A fact that Forman denied on all fronts.
“During the draft we started getting texts and seeing on TV we were in heated talks with somebody,’’ Forman said. “We were in no talks with anybody. There was no discussion during the entire draft this evening as far as Jimmy Butler was concerned.’’
Not that Forman has a history of honesty, but if he’s taken for his word what this meant for the Bulls was the “retooling’’ still needed some work, and what it meant for Butler was it was still his team.
As far as how Valentine fits into the mix, yes, the Bulls suddenly have a crowded backcourt, acquiring point guards Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant in the Rose trade. Butler is versatile enough to play the two or three, while Spencer Dinwiddie is also looking to get some rotation minutes in the backcourt.
That means if the Bulls and coach Fred Hoiberg want to find minutes for Valentine, it might have to come at the forward spot early on.
In the second round the Bulls selected small forward Paul Zipser.