Denzel Valentine's Shot, Free Throw Problems, Coby White Gets Buckets, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Denzel Valentine’s Shot, Free Throw Problems, Coby White Gets Buckets, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

Ugh. Fine. We’ll talk about it.

•   With less than a minute remaining in a two-possession game – after going on a 33-21 run to start the quarter – the Bulls held all the momentum. While the chances of pulling off the victory felt slim, it was still one of the more encouraging second-half comeback efforts by the Bulls this season. After all, they were missing top-scorer Zach LaVine and were playing the 7th-ranked defense in the league. No loss is ever really acceptable at this point in the season, especially after a dismal first half, but it would have at least been palatable  … that is, if Denzel Valentine decided not to pour a gross mix of maple syrup, ketchup, mayo, fish sauce, and balsamic vinegar all over it. I mean, how the hell do you take that shot?

•   What Valentine did last night encapsulates his greatest basketball flaw: He understands his role until he doesn’t. Far too often this season we’ve seen him sink a couple of baskets before ultimately forcing a highly questionable shot. We’ve seen him do it in ISO situations, on floaters, and from behind the arc. Fortunately, when it’s happened in the past, it hasn’t been in the final seconds of a game. However, with Zach LaVine and Troy Brown Jr. on the injury report, Donovan didn’t have much of a choice. Here is what Valentine had to say about the shot after last night’s game:

•   Look, I’m glad he owned up to the fact that it was a bad shot. However, some of his reasoning for taking it kind of rubs me the wrong way. He mentioned the previous shots he hit before as a sort of justification, and he admits that his one goal was to “make the play and hit the shot.” The goal should always be to win the game, which (duh) means making the winning play. Nothing about that shot promoted winning. Zero. Zilch. Nada. At 27-years-old, you just have to know better than getting lost in the game.

•   To add insult to injury, Donovan said he tried to call a timeout right before the Valentine shot went up, but the refs didn’t grant him one: “Well, I was upset because I called timeout before the shot ever went up, and I wasn’t granted timeout. And they said that he was in the act of shooting, and when I yelled timeout he wasn’t in the act of shooting … But, obviously, it was a deep shot and it probably wasn’t a great shot.”

•   To be clear, I’m not trying to attack Valentine personally, and nor do I believe it’s acceptable for anyone to do that. Like Adam Amin and Stacey King at the moment, and Kendall Gill after the game, I’m commenting on the basketball decision-making (and his explanation of his basketball decision-making). From everything I’ve gathered in the past, Valentine is a good dude and an appreciated figure inside the locker room. I also respect the guy’s ability to work his way back from some pretty big injury trouble. At the end of the day, though, we’re here to talk about basketball … and that was some bad basketball.

•   In other not great news …

•   What concerns me most about this is that I’m not sure how it’s going to be fixed in the future. Zach LaVine has done a good job getting to the rim this season, but it has yet to come with the free-throw line visits he probably deserves (averaging 5.2 per game). Meanwhile, Nikola Vucevic has never been known for drawing many fouls, with 2.9 per game being his career-high (2014-15). Considering those will be the two players with the highest usage rating moving forward, it’s a bit concerning neither have been able to draw better contact on a consistent basis.

•   For the sake of curiosity, I also looked at how often Lonzo Ball (a potential free-agent point guard option for the Bulls) has gotten to the free-throw line in his career … it’s an uninspiring 1.2 free throw attempts per game. Ugh.

•   Once again, Coby White continues to be a bright spot. After a very rough start to the game (4 TOVs in the first half), he was pivotal in the team’s comeback effort. White scored 21 points in the 2nd half on a 7-11 performance from the field and a 6-6 performance from the free-throw line. Games like these (and his previous five) are why I don’t expect the organization to give up on White any time soon. While he may not be the point guard they need, he does offer an explosive scoring ability that is special for a 21-year-old.

•   Oh, Vooch is still really good too.

•   Better luck next time …

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Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.