Only a couple weeks after joining Bleacher Nation this summer, I wrote a post about Denzel Valentine.
At the time, the Bulls apparent lack-of-depth was a hot-topic, so I wanted to remind folks of Valentine’s expected (and seemingly forgotten) return in the upcoming season. As you’ll recall (because I know you read each and every post!), I outlined Valentine’s steady improvement over his first two years in the NBA and prophesied how he could become an asset off the bench for the Bulls as soon as this season.
To toot my own horn, here are the final few sentences from that post:
The Bulls are also in the need of some fresh shooters, and Valentine should comeback well equipped with a very strong three-ball (shot 38% in 2017-18). At the end of the day, everything Valentine does may not be the most flashy, but he manages to always keep in mind the little things. As the Bulls begin their free agency hunt, just don’t forget about Valentine. Considering his smart play-style and well-rounded skill set, I would argue the Bulls are already adding one very helpful piece to the bench next season.
Maybe you didn’t believe me then. Maybe I seemed wrong at the start of the season, but lately … that piece is holding up quite well.
Since working his way into the Bulls’ rotation, Denzel Valentine has been anything but a disappointment. The three-ball has been right on the money all year (41.3%), and the stat sheet has been balanced nicely – Valentine’s now scored in double-figures over the last four games, and prior to the Bulls game against the Hawks, he had three straight games with three made 3-pointers. Booooya.
Wednesday night’s game was probably Valentine’s best of the season though. He knocked down 10 points, grabbed 3 boards, dished out 5 assists, recorded 4 steals, and made 2 blocks. The guy was truly doing it all.
The coolest part, though? He didn’t need any 3-pointers this time around … just a trusty floater.
Valentine hit four floaters after checking into the game in the 1st quarter to give the Bulls the lead. After the game, Zach LaVine commented on Valentine’s unstoppable shot.
— Phillip Thompson (@_phil_thompson) December 12, 2019
LaVine’s right, Valentine has an old man game, and it’s exactly what this team needs. Watching Valentine thus far, it’s easy to tell he’s a student of the game. The 26-year-old has already gotten plenty of praise for his great passing, and clearly has the court-vision necessary to help facilitate the Bulls offensive attack. He may lack the quickness and burst of his fellow teammates, but he plays like one of the smartest guys on the floor.
Nothing demonstrates that better than his first-place real plus-minus on the Bulls roster:
First batch of real plus-minus numbers came out on ESPN today. Here are your Chicago Bulls: pic.twitter.com/Pgz3RxNQYm
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) December 11, 2019
Yup, he’s been arguably the Bulls’ most trustworthy player since getting actual minutes. And when you play like that, it earns you things like this:
Denzel Valentine played 11 total minutes during the first 17 games of the season.
He's on the verge of playing the entire fourth quarter tonight.
— Mark (@mkhoops) December 10, 2019
Again, I wouldn’t consider myself a Denzel Valentine stan, but I respect how players like him can carve out roles for themselves in the NBA. He was a four-year guy at a big-time school known for his leadership and all-around skill set. Valentine is legitimately one of the oldest, most seasoned players on this team, and he’s playing like it.
If he’s able to keep up the quality performances, I don’t see why the Bulls shouldn’t consider giving him a shot at starting minutes while Otto Porter remains sidelined. Kris Dunn has been doing a solid job in his starting role, but Valentine provides more of an offensive upside. Plus, we have already seen Dunn can contribute just as well defensively in the second unit, and he’s played decent alongside Coby White.
Regardless, Valentine has quickly proven he’s a crucial piece to the Bulls rotation. As it stands, we should all be Valentine fans right about now.
Let’s see if he can keep it up!
Michael: Eli forgot to mention that I saw Valentine out at dinner one night earlier this year. Which, ya, that was cool.