Bulls

Options if the Bulls trade down: Indiana guard Romeo Langford

Options if the Bulls trade down: Indiana guard Romeo Langford

If the Bulls look to move down in the 2019 NBA Draft, they will be looking to grab a prospect who slips further than they should based off of injury, poor performance, poor coaching or a combination of all three. But more important than the perception that the player slipped, is that they fit with the Bulls core and long-term vision. Indiana’s Romeo Langford is the exact type of player who fits this mold.

In any trade down move, the Bulls would be receiving an additional asset or two. With these additional assets in tow, the Bulls would be able to invest in a prospect with higher upside, even if the fit isn’t immediately apparent. Fortunately for the Bulls in regards to Langford, he would mesh with their lineup whether they decided to bring him off the bench or try to integrate him as a long term starter.

Romeo Langford stats per Hoop-Math.com

64.1 percent at the rim

40.0 percent on 2-point jumpers

27.2  percent on 3-point shots

72.2 percent on free throws

The place to start with Langford is the fact that he played the final 26 games of the 2018-19 IU basketball season with a torn ligament in his right thumb. This injury likely played a factor in his awful 3-point shooting numbers. But even going back to high school, you see the potential for Langford to be a solid 3-point shooter. He flashed the proper footwork in high school to create clean 3-point looks off the dribble or coming off of screens.

Langford hit 72.2 percent of his 194 free throws in college and has shot better than 70 percent from the charity stripe throughout various high school and FIBA events.None of these free throw shooting marks indicate a knockdown 3-point shooter at the NBA level, but they do forecast a player who can at least develop into a sufficient threat from deep.

That idea lines up with his projected 3-point percentage via Tankathon, which is a modest 33.8 percent.

Even if the 3-point shot doesn’t come along, Langford would serve a useful purpose on the Bulls. For starters, he is a player whose offensive strengths start with his ability to get to the rim and finish through contact at an above average level. At IU he took 36.7 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim and converted at a 64.1 percent rate once he got there, which would rank near the 70th percentile for an NBA wing per Cleaning the Glass ($).

The Bulls led the NBA in FGA on drives per game (24.6) and Langford would fit right in with the mindset of getting to the basket as a first line of attack. He gets great extension on his drives and utilizes his 6-foot-11 wingspan to finish with soft touch around the rim, even in big moments.

You can’t help but to imagine Jim Boylen being a fan of Langford when you see quotes like this:

Tough, IU coaches are telling NBA scouts who ask for a word to describe Romeo. Also: Unselfish.

If the Bulls wanted to go the route of the Phoenix Suns and Devin Booker and try out Zach LaVine as the lead ball handler for a full season, Langford would be a great option to play the 2-guard spot next to him. His fit next to LaVine starts with his ability to play high-level defense.

Langford will play tough defense on-ball when he is locked-in, though his focus does wane at times. When it comes to off-ball defense, Langford really shines. His steal percentage (1.3) was not great but he was quite proficient when it came to generating offense once he got a steal.

https://twitter.com/marchmadness/status/1094663939735076866

In the event that the Bulls pick up Langford with a pick later in the lottery, the more likely scenario is that he becomes a central piece of a revamped bench unit. Chicago's best bench scorer in the 2018-19 season was Jabari Parker with 14.3 points per game over in 22 games off the bench. After Parker, Bobby Portis was the best bench scorer of the bunch and as I’m sure you all know, neither is still on the roster now.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, Langford and any combination of solid veteran free agency acquisitions would give Jim Boylen and his new-look staff a functional bunch that could actually hold on to leads. Picking Romeo Langford at No. 7 would be somewhat of a reach based off of pre-draft rankings. But selecting Langford anywhere in the No. 8-to-14 range is a move that doesn’t have much downside in terms of opportunity cost

Bulls player preview: What can a healthy Denzel Valentine provide?

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USA TODAY

Bulls player preview: What can a healthy Denzel Valentine provide?

NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.

Previous reviews: Lauri Markkanen | Ryan Arcidiacono | Antonio Blakeney | Coby White | Daniel Gafford | Wendell Carter Jr. | Luke Kornet | Cristiano Felicio | Tomas Satoransky | Chandler Hutchison | Otto Porter

How last year went

Well, Valentine didn't play. Instead, he underwent ankle stabilization surgery that kept him on the sidelines the entire season. What was initially ruled a day-to-day injury wound up costing Valentine upwards of 8 months. It was an obvious setback to a player who would have logged minutes in a backcourt that allowed Antonio Blakeney 14.5 minutes per game.

The last time we saw Valentine healthy, he averaged a modest 10.2 points on 42% shooting and 38.6% from deep for a tanking Bulls team. He added 5.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists, solid counting numbers for the former first-round pick. He's expected to be ready for training camp.

Expectations for this year's role

Whatever he can give the Bulls. The front office addressed the point guard and power forward depth this summer but did very little on the wing. Perhaps it was because they couldn't improve every aspect of the roster, or perhaps they're expecting to get production from Valentine after he missed all of last season. With Chandler Hutchison nursing a hamstring injury, Valentine could have a path to early minutes behind Otto Porter at small forward. More realistic is Valentine seeing minutes at shooting guard, where he'll be taxed less defensively and can focus as a perimeter shooter. In that regard, he should fight with Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison for minutes behind Zach LaVine. His expectations are tough to peg because we just don't know how healthy he is or how he'll respond to missing so much time. He hasn't played an NBA game since April 1, 2018.

Where he excels

Assuming he's healthy, Valentine is the Bulls' second best 3-point shooter behind Otto Porter. Consider that in his last 20 healthy games after the 2018 All-Star break, Valentine shot 43.0% on 5.0 3-point attempts, seventh best in the NBA among players who attempted that many per game. Included in that stretch were 3-point shooting nights in which he went 4-for-6, 5-for-7, 8-for-11, 4-for-7 and 4-for-7. He certainly had the green light on a Bulls team playing for Lottery balls and a chance at Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic or Marvin Bagley, but the numbers were nonetheless impressive. Valentine also shot 39.1% on above-the-break 3-pointers. Why is that important? The Bulls were 26th in FG% on those triples last season, and Valentine's mark would have ranked second behind Porter (Markkanen and LaVine were both 36% on above-the-break 3-pointers).

He's also got sneaky playmaking skills. The belief that Valentine could play point guard in the NBA was nixed quickly, but he's been an above-average passer on the wing. In 2017-18, Valentine averaged 3.2 assists on just 27.9 passes per game. Even if he can simply keep the ball moving on the second unit, he'll give the Bulls something they lacked a season ago off the bench. An offense can never have enough good passers, and Valentine is a good one on the wing.

Where he struggles

Valentine isn't going to provide much defensively. It wasn't his calling card at Michigan State and hasn't been his calling card in the NBA, especially not after ankle reconstruction surgery.

And maybe he'll continue getting that floater to go down, but Valentine isn't going to provide much inside the 3-point line. He'll turn 26 during the season's first month, so there's not much optimism he'll improve in either facet of the game. His value will come from beyond the arc, as both a shooter and passer.

Best case/worst case

It all comes down to health. Valentine missed 25 games his rookie season and all 82 last season. Ankle reconstruction is a major surgery and, while there's precedent of players coming back stronger, Valentine is the roster's biggest unknown. His best-case scenario is he's able to give the Bulls 70+ games as a second unit sharpshooter. He probably isn't going to give the Bulls much on the defensive end, but perhaps he'll play minutes with Shaq Harrison or Chandler Hutchison to help cover some of his deficiencies. Any playmaking on the wing would be a bonus, and it'd be a major positive if he can get anywhere close to the 3.2 assists he averaged on the tanking Bulls in 2018.

Worst case is pretty simple: Valentine, who wasn't athletic to begin with, is really hampered by the ankle. It'll be apparent early in the preseason and regular season what Valentine is going to provide. Sure, he'll be rusty, but you'll be able to see his limitations if he has any.

One key stat

Over the last three Bulls seasons, just four players have an individual Game Score, per Basketball Reference, of 31 or better. Jimmy Butler accomplished the feat on 10 different occasions. Lauri Markkanen accomplished it against the Celtics last year. Otto Porter did it against the Grizzlies a week into his Bulls career. The fourth Game Score of 31? Denzel Valentine, when he scored 34 points on 13 of 20 shooting, and added 7 rebounds and 6 assists in 39 minutes against the Cavs in March 2018. The performances are few and far between, but he's capable of really going off. He made 8 3-pointers in that game, which is still the most Nikola Mirotic had nine triples against the Knicks in March 2016.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine gets no respect

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NBC Sports Chicago

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine gets no respect

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, Dave Watson, and John Sabine react to the week in the NBA and ‘list’ season.

1:45 - On Sports Illustrated top 100 NBA players list and the Bulls players, LaVine disrespect

13:10 - Which recent draft class would have the best starting five?

22:30 - Would Iman Shumpert be a good fit for the Bulls?

32:55 - Matt Peck goes on a rant that involves Wade+Melo

34:45 - Dave gives his top 5 PG’s of all-time

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: