Bulls go with experience, draft Michigan State's Denzel Valentine

  • The Bulls stuck with their traditional plan and skipped over the 19-year-old projects to take Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine with the No. 14 pick of Thursday's NBA Draft.

    The Bulls stuck with their traditional plan and skipped over the 19-year-old projects to take Michigan State senior Denzel Valentine with the No. 14 pick of Thursday's NBA Draft. Associated Press

Updated 6/24/2016 6:06 AM

Most NBA teams treat college seniors like casual conversations with reporters -- something to be avoided at all costs.

Not the Bulls, well at least with the first part of the previous sentence. They love college seniors and added Michigan State's Denzel Valentine to their list of older draft picks, joining Doug McDermott and Jimmy Butler.


The Bulls chose the 6-foot-5 Valentine with the No. 14 pick of Thursday's NBA Draft. He's a versatile player who showed vast improvement during his four years in East Lansing. Last season, he averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists, while shooting 44.4 percent from 3-point range.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman called Valentine a "winner" and said he has a great feel for the game.
"Really our night went as expected," Forman said. "We were optimistic he would be on the board. He was the guy we targeted."

The biggest knock on Valentine is his relative lack of NBA-caliber athleticism. His vertical leap was measured at 32 inches during the draft combine, which is below average for a prospect of his size.

There are also concerns about past knee injuries. He missed a four games last season due to arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. The same knee had cartilage repaired after a ninth-grade football injury and there has been talk that some NBA teams were concerned he might have a degenerative condition. But Valentine insists everything is fine and pointed out how he played in 144 of a possible 148 college games.

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Valentine considers Golden State Warriors all-star Draymond Green a mentor. Green told USA Today recently he considers Valentine "a guard version of me." We'll presume he means the versatile skills and not a propensity to find trouble on the court.

"I'm going to have a big chip on my shoulder because I feel like I'm in there with the top three players, if not the best player in the draft," Valentine told Yahoo sports recently. "I feel like I'm up there."

Valentine's agent is B.J. Armstrong, who also represented Derrick Rose. The Bulls have gone from Rose to Valentine, with the former MVP traded to New York on Wednesday.

Speaking of Butler, anyone who follows NBA national reporters on Twitter was distracted by a stream of trade rumors during the early moments of the draft. The Bulls were allegedly engaged in "intense" and "advanced" talks with Boston and Minnesota for high draft picks that would have been used to acquire Providence point guard Kris Dunn, who went to the Timberwolves with the No. 5 selection.


No trade was announced and Butler himself visited the Advocate Center before the draft was over, although Forman said later he didn't know Butler was in the building.

Rumors that Minnesota turned down the No. 5 pick and Zach LaVine for Butler seemed difficult to believe. And keep in mind, Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau is not exactly on cozy terms with Bulls management.

"We were in no talks with anybody," Forman said. "There was no discussion in the entire draft as far as Jimmy Butler is concerned."

Butler to Boston made a little more sense, but the Celtics had mostly role players available to add in a package for the No. 3 pick. The Bulls wanted more in exchange for a two-time all-star. Boston ended up taking Cal freshman forward Jaylen Brown.

As the Bulls roster stands now, Butler or Valentine could end up playing some point guard next season. Valentine is certainly a willing passer. Defense wasn't a strong point in college.

"During the (predraft) interviews, I'm being asked what position I thought best describes my game," Valentine told the Detroit Free Press. "And I told them that I don't think there's a single, set position that describes what I can bring. You might have to think up a different name for the position that I would play. Or maybe just think of me as a basketball player. That what Draymond calls himself."

The Associated Press College Player of the Year grew up in Lansing, Mich., and played for his father Carlton at Sexton High School. Valentine's dad played for Michigan State from 1985-88.

"I'm just so glad I'm going to the Bulls," Valentine said shortly after being selected.

In the second round, the Bulls selected 6-8 small forward Paul Zipser from Germany.


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