On a night where the Bulls have been rumored to be involved in some of the bigger blockbuster moves, they took the safer route with their first-round draft pick by selecting guard-forward Denzel Valentine from Michigan State.
The Bulls have been engaged in talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves about a trade for Jimmy Butler, according to multiple reports, but until that situation is resolved, they selected Valentine with the 14th pick, the last in the draft lottery.
Valentine was the national player of the year, beating out Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, for a Michigan State team ranked in the top five all season. Valentine has the capability to play all three perimeter positions and was arguably the best all-around player in college basketball, averaging nearly eight rebounds and eight assists in addition to scoring nearly 20 points a night.
His ability to run the offense and shoot from long range (45 percent from 3) was probably a strong selling point for a Bulls team that needs perimeter help. Valentine isn’t a natural point guard but is a facilitator who can initiate offense, qualities that had the Bulls linked with Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson and Vanderbilt’s Wade Baldwin IV.
“I was getting nervous there, pick after pick and you’re wondering,” Valentine said to ESPN after being selected. “I’m so glad I’m going to the Bulls and I’m gonna give it my all. Gonna get this process going.”
Valentine was nervous in part due to his knees being red-flagged after taking physicals with prospective teams, dropping him from being a pick right outside the top-10 to perhaps sliding out the lottery altogether. Valentine had knee surgery seven years ago as a high-schooler and after an awkward fall in December, had minor knee surgery on his left knee, causing him to miss a few games. In his four-year career at Michigan State, he played in 144 of a possible 148 games.
Valentine was the third senior taken in the draft, a rarity so many taken so early in the first round.
His ability to adapt on the offensive end, especially his court vision, has been attractive to teams.