Bulls

Bulls select Denzel Valentine with No. 14 overall pick

Bulls select Denzel Valentine with No. 14 overall pick

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.

Bulls take tunnel vision approach to Charlotte for opener vs. Hornets

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USA Today

Bulls take tunnel vision approach to Charlotte for opener vs. Hornets

The significance of his first opening night as head coach? Jim Boylen wasn’t biting.

Opening with four of five games against teams that didn’t make last season’s playoffs, including Wednesday night in Charlotte, N.C.? Boylen steered clear of that.

Addressing the goal stated on media day to make the playoffs? Lauri Markkanen added a qualifier.

“No promises,” he said. “But that’s the goal, for sure.”

The Bulls officially closed training camp Tuesday with a one-game-at-a-time and bunker mentality that would make any fan of clichés proud. They’re focused on the Hornets---and nothing of greater significance for now.

“We don’t talk about playoff team, non-playoff team. We’re talking about Charlotte,” Boylen said. “We’re going to play as hard as we can against Charlotte. That’s what we can control. And then we’ll move on.”

Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are scheduled to start. Chandler Hutchison, who increased his on-court work but has yet to practice because of a hamstring issue, is the only injured player. Boylen said he’d announce his other inactive player besides Hutchison Wednesday.

“I just want to help the team,” Boylen said, elaborating on the significance of his first opening night as head coach. “As a head coach, sometimes you help them and sometimes you let them help themselves. I want to be there for them, support them. Hopefully we honor our principles. We do our basics better, the best we can, and see what happens.”

Boylen wouldn’t touch the subject. But even with all four games against last season’s non-playoff teams coming on the road, getting off to a fast start is essential.

Beyond the fact it will continue the good vibes that began with a widely praised offseason and through voluntary September workouts, the Bulls are relatively healthy. And the close to their schedule offers some brutal tests, so building a cushion early would bolster playoff talk.

“That’s what we’re trying to do---start off strong,” Markkanen said. “That sets the pace for the rest of the year. We’re going one game at a time, but it’s really important for us to get these.”

The Bulls visit Memphis to face a rebuilding Grizzlies team and No. 2 overall pick Ja Morant on Friday. They will navigate the two-game trip following a preseason in which they played at a faster pace than last season and averaged 39.4 3-pointers per game. That ranked ninth in the league after finishing 27th with just 25.9 attempts last season.

“I think we get a ton of open looks,” Markkanen said. “I’ve had good looks and my teammates have as well. We’re playing unselfish basketball, sharing the ball, making the extra pass. I think it’s going to help us.”

Despite all the optimism and addition of 12-year veteran Thad Young, the Bulls remain young, the league’s second-youngest team behind the Suns. Questions about depth and defensive efficiency are legitimate.

The tests start for real Wednesday.

“I’ve seen a group of guys that want to do the right things,” Boylen said. “It’s a high character group. It’s a willing group. Our care factor is high and I expect for us to care for each other, play for each other, sacrifice for each other. I think we’ll do that well.” 

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Bulls sign guard Max Strus to a two-way contract

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USA Today

Bulls sign guard Max Strus to a two-way contract

The Bulls announced today they have signed guard Max Strus to a two-way contract. Strus went undrafted during the 2019 NBA Draft before being signed by the Boston Celtics during preseason. He played in four preseason games for the Celtics, averaging 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.

The Celtics waived Strus to make way with athletic wing Javonte Green on the final roster.

Max Strus is a Chicagoland native, growing in Hickory Hills and attending Amos Alonzo Stagg High School. Strus played college basketball at Lewis University in Romeoville before playing for the DePaul Blue Demons.

Standing at six-foot-five and 215 pounds, Strus was named to the All Big-East Second Team after averaging 20.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 35 games during his senior 2018-19 season. As a senior he played 29-straight games with double-figure scoring and set DePaul season records with 113 3-pointers and 311 3-point attempts. His career scoring average of 18.6 points per game with the fourth best in DePaul history.

We’re excited to have Strus back in Chicago and ready to see what he brings to the Bulls when their season starts tomorrow against Charlotte.

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