Athleticism could be question for Chicago Bulls' pick

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • FILE -- In this Dec. 19, 2015, file photo, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine brings the ball upcourt during an NCAA college basketball game against Northeastern in Boston. Valentine worked out for the Utah Jazz just under two weeks ago and that was the first of four scheduled workouts, along with the Bulls, Bucks and Magic. The Michigan State guard explained that his agent had identified the Jazz as a potential landing spot. He's expected to go anywhere from late lottery to the late 20s.

    FILE -- In this Dec. 19, 2015, file photo, Michigan State's Denzel Valentine brings the ball upcourt during an NCAA college basketball game against Northeastern in Boston. Valentine worked out for the Utah Jazz just under two weeks ago and that was the first of four scheduled workouts, along with the Bulls, Bucks and Magic. The Michigan State guard explained that his agent had identified the Jazz as a potential landing spot. He's expected to go anywhere from late lottery to the late 20s.

 
 
Updated 6/24/2016 10:11 PM

Listening to Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman talk about first-round pick Denzel Valentine late Thursday night, it was clear this draft chase was sort of Doug McDermott 2.0.

Forman talked about watching Valentine in practice, in road games. He made two mentions of how Michigan State coach Tom Izzo had so many glowing things to say about his senior swingman.

 

Two years ago when the Bulls traded up to land McDermott, there was a story about how John Paxson got stranded by a snowstorm in Omaha, Nebraska, and did nothing but watch McDermott practice for the next several days.

So the Bulls know what they're getting with Valentine, the No. 14 pick. One set of numbers tells an impressive story. Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists and shot 44 percent from 3-point range.

Few players in college basketball have ever filled the stat sheet the way Valentine did last winter. He split the national player of the year awards with Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and his Spartans spent most of the season ranked in the top five.

The set of numbers that aren't so impressive are his draft-combine tests. Valentine's vertical leap was measured at 32 inches and his three-quarter court sprint at 3.46 seconds. Both are below average for an NBA perimeter player.

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Here's some perspective: A max vertical in the high 30s is good; 40 and above is elite. In the sprint, Kirk Hinrich's 2003 standard of 3.10 seconds is top notch. A few guys have broken the three-second mark.

You can find these numbers going back to around 2000 at draftexpress.com.

As a comparison, here are the draft-combine numbers for two Bulls teammates: McDermott did much better, with 36.5 and 3.29. Jimmy Butler, not surprisingly, is in elite territory with 39.0 and 3.15.

If Valentine were 6-feet-8, this wouldn't be much of a concern. But he stood 6-4 in bare feet, 6-5¾ in shoes. It's enough to make you wonder if Valentine will ever be able to create his own shot or play competent defense in the NBA.

"I certainly think he's a good enough athlete at the position he plays, and that's something we study quite a bit and we do athletic testing when we have guys come in," Forman said. "His game is built more on skill and basketball IQ than it is on athleticism."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Looking through the Draft Express file, I did find a few comparable athletes: Kyle Korver (31.5, 3.47), Luol Deng (31.5, 3.34), Khris Middleton (31.0, 3.47), Evan Fournier (31.5, 3.42), Caron Butler (31.0, 3.33) and Michael Redd (31.0, 3.34).

Granted, most of these guys are at least 2 inches taller than Valentine. Redd is the same height.

So maybe things will work out for Valentine in the NBA. He has a good handle, which allows him to grab rebounds and push the ball immediately.

His role with the Bulls might be similar to the way Joakim Noah used to play on offense, taking turns at point guard. In this case, though, Valentine can hit an outside shot.

Then again, most every perimeter player in the NBA is a world-class athlete. So we'll have to see how it goes when the competition begins.

"Anybody that's watched him play, he moves well, he has good mobility," Forman said. "Obviously, he plays very hard. We don't think that's a concern. We think his skill and IQ are going to carry him through his career."

Truth about Butler?

It's not easy to sort out the truth when it comes to trade rumors. Often times, where there's smoke, there's fire.

But I've also had NBA insiders tell me when a rumor becomes public, it's usually old and expired.

On Thursday night, there was a ridiculous amount of Twitter chatter about the Bulls being engaged in talks with Boston and Minnesota. The rumored deals had the Bulls sending Jimmy Butler for a high draft pick, which would bring Providence point guard Kris Dunn, who landed with the Timberwolves at No. 5.

Forman said later there were never any trade talks involving Butler. Minnesota management gave the standard "the phone always rings" explanation.

Personally, I don't think the Bulls are looking to move Butler. They don't want to do a ground-up rebuild and certainly noticed Butler's stats last season in the 11 games when he played and Derrick Rose didn't: 27.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, 7.0 assists.

My guess is reports that talks become "intense" between the Bulls and those other teams were overblown. I don't think the Bulls would trade Butler for the No. 5 pick and Zach LaVine.

Bulls zip up second-rounder:

This year's draft show really dragged, so it was late at night when the Bulls made their second-round pick, 6-8 forward Paul Zipser from Germany.

He's an athletic small forward, 22 years old, who didn't produce significant numbers for Bayern Munich last season. Based on video, my NBA comparison would be Chase Budinger. There are reports of Zipser enduring foot and knee injuries in recent years.

Forman said he expects to have Zipser in training camp this fall, but he will miss summer league due to national-team obligations.

• Get the latest Bulls news via Twitter by following @McGrawDHBulls.

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