With all the moves the Chicago Bulls have been making, it’s clear they want something different for their team. It seems they are heading into a rebuilding mode as they shipped off Jimmy Butler on draft night. While they got a good return of young players in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, it was a move that showed they were looking for players to build around in the future as opposed to winning now with Butler.
There are many takes on this deal and what it means for the Bulls, but Spartan faithful haven’t heard much on the ramifications for Denzel Valentine. What does it mean for his career?
While Valentine most likely won’t be playing on a playoff team this year, he should see more extended minutes on the floor. While he can be a ball-handler on the floor, his primary position is shooting guard. Last season, he was stuck behind arguably the best shooting guard in the league in Butler and couldn’t find minutes over veteran Dwyane Wade. At the point guard position, where Valentine could have also seen minutes, there was no room behind Rajon Rondo and Michael Carter-Williams.
Now, Butler, Rondo, and Carter-Williams are gone. And it’s beginning to seem inevitable that Wade is going to take a contract buyout, most likely before the season even begins. While the Bulls got a wing and a point guard in return for Butler – LaVine and Dunn – the departure of a star player and multiple seasoned veterans automatically will open up more minutes for Valentine.
LaVine is coming off a nasty ACL tear and likely won’t be ready to go until January. While he’s primarily a small forward, he’s also going to see some minutes at shooting guard. Assuming Wade takes his buyout, shooting guard minutes are left to Justin Holiday, David Nwaba and Valentine. While Justin Holiday has proven himself as a capable NBA player (and we haven’t seen that from Valentine quite yet), he’s not going to be a lock for the starting role at the two guard. That means, for at least the first half of the season, Valentine will be at the very least garnering bench minutes at shooting guard. He will even have an opportunity to start for the first few months of the season. And who knows, he could hold on to that playing time once LaVine comes back if he performs well over the course of those months. Plus, we don’t know if LaVine is going to be the same player he was before his injury; Valentine could get major playing time if that’s the case.
Now, Valentine will see most of his minutes at shooting guard due to the newfound lack of depth at that position. As far as his point guard minutes go, he won’t see too many. While we know he can go blow for blow with Kris Dunn at the college level, Dunn’s athleticism sees him much more fit as an NBA point guard. Behind him are Jerian Grant and Cameron Payne, two young players vying for minutes. Valentine may be as good of a bet as them behind Dunn, but he will surely be working more towards becoming a two-guard in the NBA. Expect to see his point guard minutes limited.
Valentine hasn’t garnered much praise from coaches in light of the big-time moves the Bulls have been making, but his ability to be a secondary ball-handler on the court is a luxury most teams don’t have. He may be a liability on defense and a work in progress offensively, but he brings a skill set that is very desirable to a young team like the Chicago Bulls. If he can capitalize on last season’s minor successes – he scored in double digits nine times after the All-Star break last season and shot 36% from beyond the arc – and continue to show improvement, he will be a key piece to the Bulls for the near future.
So, at first look, the moves the Bulls made seemed to show that they were losing faith in Valentine. Usually when you acquire a young talent at the same position as another young player it’s a show of a lack of faith in the player that was already there, but this is a different situation. Aside from the Bulls’ front office being a complete disaster, the player they acquired has an extensive injury history and was signed in lieu of a superstar player at the same position. If anything, this new-look Bulls roster shows that the coaches do indeed have faith in Denzel Valentine and are expecting him to be a true role player this season.