The NBA trade deadline is a little over three weeks away, and the Chicago Bulls have some decisions to make.
Halfway through the season with a 14-27 record, the Bulls have a couple of pieces that might be intriguing trade bait for contending teams. And while no singular rumor has gained much traction just yet, one new name has entered the chat.
According to the Sun-Times, the Bulls “would jump at the opportunity” to trade Denzel Valentine – which, given his recent drop in playing time and attendant displeasure (more on that in a bit), perhaps isn’t too surprising.
Through this season, Valentine has struggled to crack the rotation despite playing some productive basketball, when he was given the chance. Indeed, he appeared in 18-straight games off the bench from November 25th-January 2nd, averaging 6.7 points, while shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 36.4 percent from downtown. His minutes varied greatly over that stretch, but when he did play in the game for about 20 minutes, he typically had a decent outing.
From December 6th-16th, specifically, Valentine scored double figures in six of the Bulls seven games. He knocked down three 3-pointers in four of those games and shot a total of 45.7 percent from deep.
He also averaged roughly 19 minutes per game over those seven contests, but then quickly dropped to only 10 minutes per game over the next six. Eventually, Boylen shortened the rotation, excluding Valentine altogether (and when Boylen did randomly call for someone’s service off the bench, it would typically be Shaquille Harrison).
Needless to say, it wasn’t particularly surprising to learn about Valentine’s displeasure with respect to sitting out of Jim Boylen’s rotation: “I’m definitely not happy about it,” Valentine said Saturday. “I’m a competitor. I want to play, I want to be productive, I want to help the team win. But that’s out of my control, so I’m not about to let it make [me] not happy every day.”
It’s hard to say Valentine did anything wrong – indeed, his frustration understandable. As Boylen continues to play Ryan Arcidiacono and Harrison over Valentine, it only makes it more obvious that Boylen has a knack for picking favorites that may have less to do with the objectively best option at the time (call it a coach’s prerogative all you want (and Valentine does exactly that), but that doesn’t make it easier to swallow).
Valentine has arguably outperformed both those players when given the chance, yet he’s been firmly planted on the sideline for most games (last night he got 2:00 whole minutes after Boylen waved the white flag and threw him in the game).
For some confusing reason, the Bulls don’t seem to like what Valentine has to offer, and therefore his name has moved to the top of the “most likely to be traded” list. When asked about a potential trade though, he’s been nothing but professional.
“I let my agent handle that,” Valentine told NBC Sports Chicago. “I try not to worry too much about that. I try to make the most out of my situation right now. I feel I can play on any team. I’m trying to make the Chicago Bulls better. Any other stuff is out of my control.”
Speaking of that control and why other teams would be interested … Valentine is only owed $3.3 million this season and will be a restricted free agent this summer, so the commitment isn’t too steep. Plus, contending teams often welcome guys with a long-range shooting ability. Off-the-bench scoring never hurts either, which is something Valentine has provided in bursts at times this season (something the Bulls apparently feel like they can’t use).
And remember, he could either be fit into a package deal or sent off solo depending on how badly the Bulls want to get rid of him.
In K.C. Johnson’s latest mailbag, Valentine is labeled as “certainly available,” with the 76ers thrown out as possible suitors. But whether they’re actually interested or not, I have little doubt that – if the Bulls are proactive about it – they could find a way to trade him this season (obviously, if the goal is to simply get rid of him for some reason, then you just take what you can get).
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway brought up the idea of a matching contract and second-rounder in return for Valentine, which I’d gladly take.
In the end, this isn’t that complicated of a situation: Valentine is unhappy and Jim Boylen refuses to play him. I wouldn’t mind giving him more opportunities, especially with how this season is going, but if the Bulls don’t have him as part of their long term plans, then it’s probably wise to capitalize on his presence however else they can (as an asset).
Of course, that’s the logical way to handle this situation, so it’s 50/50 whether the Bulls will choose that route.