Chicago Bulls: Rookie Denzel Valentine Needs To Play
The Chicago Bulls seemingly need all the help they can get in 2016-17, so why are they barely playing rookie Denzel Valentine?
Another day, another Chicago Bulls conundrum.
Could there be a more perfect tagline to go along with Chicago’s 2016-17 season so far?
Between assembling the Alpha Three, head coach Fred Hoiberg having no control over his guys, Rajon Rondo being benched, Dwyane Wade scolding his teammates, Jimmy Butler reportedly being on the trading block and more … it seems no one even cares what is happening with the Bulls on the court, lately.
The front office included.
While they are basking in their job security, the organization is struggling at 26-27 and has fallen to seventh in the Eastern Conference.
Of course, there is plenty that could be done.
Unfortunately neither general manager Gar Forman nor vice president John Paxson seem to be going anywhere, but that does not necessarily rule out movement with Hoiberg.
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In the midst of his second year, Hoiberg is clearly not respected by his squad and still insists on sticking to his failed offensive strategy of Hoiball. However, a prior personal relationship with the front office and his tendencies to play the part of a yes-man make Hoiberg less likely to be let go.
The second step then is to investigate changes that can be made with the roster itself. The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching, making it the perfect time to try and shop players around.
Although there have been multiple reports denying that Butler is up for discussion, Chicago still has plenty of other pieces that could be dealt, assuming the denials are true. Take, for example, Rondo, who is clearly unhappy with the role the Bulls have put him in.
Or perhaps a guy like Taj Gibson, who is indeed a valuable asset, but may not fit in line with what Chicago has in mind for its future.
Even more obvious yet however, is for the Bulls to figure out what they could do with what they already have.
Say, like actually using Denzel Valentine?
Yes, some were skeptical about the 23-year-old when he was first drafted by the organization in 2016, having caught wind of Valentine undergoing knee surgery during his senior year at Michigan State. However, numbers do not lie: the No. 14 overall pick was a stud in college.
Averaging 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists during his final year, he earned titles such as Associated Press National Player of the Year and Big Ten Player of the Year.
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And he only further proved himself worthy during Summer League play, hitting a clutch buzzer-beater over the Minnesota Timberwolves during a championship game in Las Vegas.
But for one reason or another, the rookie has been quite limited in his minutes so far this season.
Having played in only 28 games for an average of 12.3 minutes a night, the guard has recorded merely 3.4 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.7 assists per game.
And sure, he may not be up to Rookie of the Year standards, but the talent is there when given the proper chance.
For example, Valentine totaled 19 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 30 minutes of play against the Washington Wizards on Jan. 10.
However, instead of figuring out a way to best use the young buck, Chicago sent him to the NBA Developmental League.
Where, you guessed it, he flourished.
On Feb. 4, Valentine finished the evening with 34 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists in leading the Windy City Bulls past the Westchester Knicks.
So what happened when he was recalled by the Bulls?
Nothing, even when Butler was out and the team needed all hands on deck.
“You go from being the man and doing everything to getting DNPs. It hurts you mentally.”
It seems like no matter what Valentine does to try and prove his worth, the organization just keeps on overlooking him. Even Paul Zipster, a guy whose name no one knew just a week ago, is getting more shine.
Being the guy that he is though, Valentine is still staying positive.
“I keep working every day, listening to the right people. I feel like I’m ready to be an NBA point guard. My time is coming. It’s been the same story my whole life. Guys were ranked ahead of me (in recruiting), but I will keep grinding until I get to where I need to.”
It is true that Chicago has had plenty on its plate as of late. But there seems to be no excuse for a guy like Valentine to be left on the bench, especially given the Bulls’ recent inconsistent play.
If the organization wants to stop its already-in-motion decline to the bottom of the conference, it needs to re-evaluate how to better utilize its own players … and fast.