How Does Denzel Valentine's Status Affect the Bulls Short and Long-Term Plans?

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How Does Denzel Valentine’s Status Affect the Bulls Short and Long-Term Plans?

Chicago Bulls

With a new coaching staff at the helm, some additional depth on the bench, and the majority of the starting rotation seemingly locked into place, the Chicago Bulls have somewhat surprisingly nudged fans and analysts into a state of optimism ahead of the 2019-20 NBA Season. And for the most part, I’m right there with them. This is an aggressively revamped roster, about which there is plenty to be excited.

But I’m also here to remind everyone that there’s plenty to worry about, as well – especially with respect to Denzel Valentine.

In general, the excitement for Valentine’s return this season has been … pretty much nonexistent. But getting him back on the court is more important than many would like to admit. With incredibly weak depth at shooting guard behind Zach LaVine, Valentine is in line to be the primary backup throughout the year.

Unfortunatly, we’ve been kept a bit in the dark with respect to Valentine’s health status. The Bulls have hung in there with (apparent) plans to throw him right back in the swing of things this season and it was reasonable to believe that he’d finally be active coming into training camp …

But according to the Sun-Times Joe Cowley, that will not be the case:

Denzel Valentine (foot surgery) isn’t expected to be ready for full basketball activity this week. He needs to be on the court as soon as possible, however, so the Bulls can figure out whether he fits into their future plans.

There is a growing school of thought that Valentine was a system player at Michigan State, and he needs to change that way of thinking quickly.

This now begs the serious question: Will Valentine ever really be ready?

Hopefully, we’ll get a more concrete answer as to when Valentine will be able to participate fully in basketball activity during Media Day (today). But even if Valentine comes back, it’s going to be hard to ask for much from the 25-year-old. Not only has he missed an entire NBA season, but his body is likely never going to be the same. Already a player that lacks natural athleticism, becoming a go-to bench piece is an extremely tall task.

I’m never going to criticize a player for suffering an injury and taking the time needed to get right, but I will call out the Bulls for not doing something about this current wing situation. I’m not going to say you should give up on Valentine, but is having plans to rely on a player that’s coming off a major surgery fair to him or the team?

For the time being, off-the-ball play by Coby White and Tomas Satoransky should cover up the lack of depth at shooting guard, but if Valentine can’t prove to stay healthy, things could get messy quickly.

Two-way contracted player Adam Mokoka may have to see increased playing time (which gives me flashbacks of last year’s G-League frenzy). And the more time White plays at the shooting guard, the less time he’s learning to how to man the offense.

Also, it’s worth noting, Valentine’s status could force the organization to push for a Kris Dunn trade sooner rather than later. I don’t mind trading for a shooting guard, but I’d much rather have the Bulls watch a healthy Valentine/Chandler Hutchison, and then evaluate what position is worth trading for.

At the end of the day, for a team trying to claw it’s way out of a rebuild and up the Eastern Conference, the Bulls can’t wait much longer to decide what Valentine’s future holds.

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)


Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is a writer for Bleacher Nation and a human being. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.