Denzel Valentine

Denzel Valentine: Injury and surgery could be 'blessing in disguise'

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Denzel Valentine: Injury and surgery could be 'blessing in disguise'

The Bulls are dealing with a lot of injuries to their core players, including Denzel Valentine who will likely miss the season after he gets surgery on his ankle. On Tuesday, Valentine opened up about the surgery at practice.

1. Be Thankful for Health

As you Bulls fans carve up your Thanksgiving turkey, use that as a reminder to say an extra prayer for Denzel Valentine who goes under the knife again later this week. This will be Valentine’s third surgery in three seasons. He had work done on the same left ankle following his rookie season in which he sprained the ankle twice and then the knee procedure at the end of last year. But after listening to the third-year guard speak at the Advocate Center on Tuesday, you sensed relief and optimism beyond the disappointment.

“It’s going to take 4-6 months to get back right, but when I come back it’s going to be a brand new ankle," Valentine said. "I’ve been pretty much having ankle issues ever since my rookie year. I think I’m going to be fine. I think I’m going to feel better.

"I think I’m going to take my game to another level because now I’m going to be more stable in my ankle. I’ll have a whole year to recover and get my body right, which I haven’t gotten to do since college, really. I’ve just been on the go, on the go, on the go... Could be a blessing in disguise, that’s how I’ve got to look at it.”

2. Decision Made  

Valentine admitted he could have come back and played this year, but evaluating how things were going he felt like he didn’t want to get on the court with nagging pain. Dr. Bob Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist based in Green Bay, Wisconsin, was the one to make the latest diagnosis “ongoing ankle instability” that requires surgery.

The Bulls said a full recovery is expected and believe Valentine will participate in normal offseason training, likely meaning the season is lost but Valentine is looking at the positives.  

“I know it’s going to suck, but it is what it is. I’ve jut got to attack rehab and try to come back the best that I can," Valentine said. "I’m fully confident that I will come back and be 100 percent. Who knows if I’ve ever been 100 percent this whole time in my NBA career. I’m really excited about coming back and being 100 percent.

3. Moving Forward

Not that it makes the process any easier, but Valentine has been able to talk to people and players that have been through this surgery and come back full strength. For reference, Dr. Bob Anderson is the same surgeon who performed Steph Curry’s ankle surgery in May, 2011, another guard who had been battling ankle injuries his entire career. Maybe this is why Valentine remains confident about the road ahead.

“I talked to a couple players and they’ve told me that they’ve got the surgery and came back better. So, they were glad I was getting it,” Valentine said.

And once he’s able to return to the sidelines, that’s where the 14th pick of the 2016 draft said he’ll be.

“Definitely, as much as I can I plan to be around the team. Still trying to lead, talk to the guys and be a part of the team. I don’t want to alienate myself," Valentine said. "I still want to feel part of the team and try to be positive and encourage the guys.”  

Denzel Valentine will undergo surgery on left ankle, will miss 4-6 months

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Denzel Valentine will undergo surgery on left ankle, will miss 4-6 months

Denzel Valentine was originally expected to miss one to two weeks after suffering a sprained ankle on the second day of training camp. One setback led to another, and on Monday the Bulls announced that the third year guard will undergo surgical reconstruction on that left ankle. He'll miss four to six months, the team announced, effectively ending his season.

The surgery stems from what the team is calling "ongoing ankle instability." Valentine was evaluated by Dr. Bob Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist in Green Bay, Wis., and will undergo surgery next week. The team said in a press release that Valentine is expected to make a full recovery and will not have any limitations in the offseason or the following training camp.

That is, if he can remain healthy. Valentine's ankle has given him trouble ever since the Bulls made him the 14th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. As a rookie he missed a large portion of the season with two separate sprained ankles, and he had surgery on that ankle the following offseason.

When Valentine suffered the initial sprain on Sept. 28, there was belief that he could potentially return for the season opener on Oct. 17. That never happened, and a few days later a scan revealed a bone bruise in the ankle that shut him down indefinitely. Valentine only got as far as straight-line running in his rehabilitation.

The Bulls picked up his fourth-year team option on Oct. 30, so he's still part of the Bulls' plans for 2019-20. But at this point it remains to be seen if he can be a contributor. Though he shot well from beyond the arc last season, Valentine hasn't been able to replicate the playmaking skills he showed at Michigan State and has struggled defensively. Valentine just turned 25 and will have missed more than a year of game action when he returns to training camp next September.

Since Valentine hasn't played this season the Bulls' rotation shouldn't look all that different going forward. Ryan Arcidiacono will continue to log major minutes, moving to the second unit when Kris Dunn (knee) returns to the lineup. Past that, Chandler Hutchison may find himself a bigger role on the second unit without Valentine's floor spacing. Rawle Alkins, a G-Leaguer for Windy City who is practicing with the Bulls on Monday and Tuesday, could potentially see minutes depending on how he plays in Hoffman Estates and how long Dunn is out.

Breaking down what Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine will bring to '18-'19 Bulls

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Breaking down what Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine will bring to '18-'19 Bulls

On Tuesday, the Chicago Bulls exercised the third-year option on Lauri Markkanen, and fourth-year options on Kris Dunn and Denzel Valentine. This means that all three players will be on the Bulls through the 2019-20 season. The Bulls picking up the options on these three players is hardly news, as all three have long been expected to be a part of the Bulls long-term plans. But with Markkanen, Valentine and Dunn all due to be back around the same time, we look at exactly what each of these players will bring to the Bulls when they return.

Lauri Markkanen: An alternate option to LaVine on offense

To even the most casual of Bulls fans, it should be obvious that Lauri Markkanen’s return is the No. 1 thing that can help this year’s team get back on track. In his rookie season he put up 15.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and shot 36 percent from the 3-point line. He did all of this while only taking 12.7 shots per game with a 21.9 percent usage rate. The biggest storyline for this year’s Bulls squad was how big of a step forward Markkanen was going to take after his stellar rookie season, and his aggressiveness on offense was going to be a huge indicator, and still will be.

Obviously, the Bulls have gotten use to Zach LaVine controlling the ball--as they should--and he has actually managed to become a more efficient scorer while taking on an astronomical share of the offense (34.3 percent usage rate would’ve ranked second to only James Harden in terms of starters), but the team would no doubt benefit by Markkanen taking some responsibility off of his plate.

Markkanen will probably work his way back into shape slowly, but LaVine’s play style suits Markkanen’s skill set almost too well, and should be able to push Chicago to at least a few surprising victories. Last season Markkanen scored 6.5 points per game from catch-and-shoot opportunities and along with Nikola Mirotic, they were far and away better than any Bulls player in this category. Now with Mirotic out of the picture completely, he will be free to feast on catch-and-shoot opportunities.

LaVine has turned himself to one of the league’s more dominant players in terms of driving to the basket, but his drive-and-kick game leaves much to be desired. With Markkanen’s 7-foot frame (and added muscle) allowing him to shoot over even solid closeouts, he will provide LaVine with an easy escape valve during his more reckless forays to the rim. And the inverse is true as well, as Markkanen’s (likely) improved inside scoring will provide LaVine the opportunity to take less difficult shots from the perimeter.

It seems like LaVine may have plateaued as a passer, capable of racking of 3 assists per game and not much more, but Markkanen is one of the most talented players he has played with in his career, and his presence will open up the floor even further for LaVine, who is averaging a career-high 28.1 ppg.

Denzel Valentine: Secondary rebounding from the wing

Valentine has stated before that he believes he should be a starter in the NBA, and with how poorly the short-handed 2018-19 Bulls are playing, it is hard to say that he shouldn’t be given a fair shot. He had 37 starts last season and shot 38.6 percent from 3-point range, a mark that would make him one of the four best shooters on this year’s team. But there was another area where he stood out last season: defensive rebounding.

Chicago was second in the league last season in terms of defensive rebounding percentage (at 80.6 percent) and it was perhaps the only thing they did well on the defensive side of the ball. And Valentine played a big part in their defensive rebounding prowess.

In 2016-17, Valentine grabbed 2.6 rebounds per game in 17 minutes a night. The following season, he increased that mark to 5.1 rebounds per game (4.5 of them defensive boards) in 27 minutes a night. Even without being a starter, let’s assume Valentine will get north of 27 minutes a night this season. If his numbers continue to progress, you could see a world in which he averages 7 rebounds per game, further aiding the Bulls already potent grab-and-go ability, which they don’t take advantage of enough now.

The Bulls currently sit at 22nd in the league in fastbreak points per game, so far a disappointment considering their 15th rank in fastbreak buckets last season. But you can’t initiate the fastbreak if you can’t secure the rebound. Valentine may never develop the foot speed to be a positive on defense. But he collects defensive rebounds at a higher rate than Jabari Parker despite giving up approximately two inches and 40 lbs to him. The Bulls could use Valentine back, as his specific skill set helps make others better, something that could be a boon for this current roster.

Kris Dunn: The ability to fight through screens

This clip is from Dunn’s rookie year with Minnesota, but it illustrates his defensive prowess perfectly:

He tries to spin around the screen to meet his man and then he tries hard as he can to stop his man from receiving the handoff, resulting in Joel Embiid taking a 3-point shot, which is definitely preferable to giving up middle penetration to a guard. Dunn always gives effort like this on defense, even when his aggressiveness can get him into trouble--he fouled out in the one game he played in this season--like his short performance this season has shown.

When he returns to the lineup, the hope is that Dunn will lead the defense through his actions, though being vocal will help as well.

Obviously the team was upset that Klay Thompson used their horrible defensive effort to set an NBA-record, but again it was their effort. At some point you have to refuse to be embarrassed and if you rewatch Thompson’s 14 -3-pointers, it is clear that Chicago was not making adjustments.

Stopping, or at least slowing down Thompson means that the defender does his work before the catch. On Monday night, the Bulls were simply running at Thompson as hard as they can. With the speed of his shooting release, if you have let Thompson catch the ball comfortably in his shooting pocket, you are too late. This is all to say that the Bulls played like they didn’t know their personnel and/or gameplan, and whether this is on the coaching or the inexperience of the players, it is clear Dunn will help when he returns.