The Bulls selected Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine with the No. 14 pick of the 2016 NBA draft on Thursday night at the Barclays Center.
Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.8 assists and 7.5 rebounds during his senior season with the Spartans. He helped lead Michigan State to a Big Ten tournament title before the Spartans were upset in the first round of the 2016 NCAA tournament.
Valentine was one of the Big Ten’s standout players over his college career. In 2015, he led Michigan State to the Final Four and picked up All–Big Ten honors, but his stock skyrocketed during his senior season.
Though he’s already 23, Valentine’s college record is impeccable. He earned AP Player of the Year honors this past season.
Strengths: There’s very little Denzel Valentine doesn’t do well on the basketball court. He nearly averaged a triple double last season, en route to AP Player of the Year honors. Valentine has incredible vision and possess a point guard’s playmaking ability in a shooting guard’s body. His skill set is malleable tool chest that can fit many teams’ schemes. A career 40.8% shooter from three-point land, Valentine can provide wing shooting that so many teams desperately crave in today’s NBA. His tremendous length, boasting a 6’10.75 inch wingspan will do wonders as he transitions to defending NBA wings.
Weaknesses: Valentine will turn 23 in November, making him a dinosaur by NBA draft standards. His athleticism is a question mark. While Valentine is not lumbering by any means, he certainly is not an explosive athlete. He has the tools to get by, but his athleticism won’t jump off the charters. Valentine, though a tremendous floor general, does have the tendency to force fancy and ill-advised passes in search of highlight assists. While he can make plays out of the pick and roll, he lacks the dribbling ability to score one-on-one off the bounce. He’s also susceptible to getting burned on one-on-one situations defending wings. Continuing to improve his frame will help on that end of the floor.
Grade: B. It’s been an unpredictable 48 hours for the Bulls, but here they make a classic Chicago move and take a solid, accomplished college player. There were real concerns among some teams about the condition of Valentine’s knees long-term. The Bulls felt good enough to take the risk. Valentine’s well-rounded offensive game should allow him to play early on — he’s one of those players who just knows how to play. His defense is the weak point. With the state of the franchise totally up in the air, it’s tricky to evaluate this with total confidence. — Jeremy Woo