After that bombshell of a trade dropped on Wednesday, many fans and followers around the league wondered what the Bulls organization would do as an encore performance in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
And if you followed along on Twitter throughout the night, it seemed to get very close to a 1-2 punch of losing Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler on consecutive days to officially start the tear down. Depending on who you listen to, it was either GarPax listening to offers but taking none too seriously, or Tom Thibodeau getting revenge on his former employers by making it seem like they were shopping their now franchise player.
Alas, none of this came to pass, as all that was left was two reasonable picks made by the front office. We’re breaking them down for you here.
The Bulls drafted Denzel Valentine out of Michigan St. with the 14th overall selection in the first round on Thursday night. Valentine stands at 6’5” and 220 lbs, with a large 6’10” wingspan. He is a 22-year-old out of Lansing, Michigan and progressed tremendously each year in college under the tutelage of the legendary Tom Izzo.
For those Big Ten fans out there, they remember Valentine as the do-it-all senior leader who drove the Spartans to a 29-6 record and a #2 seed in the tournament, even after missing a couple weeks in the middle of the season.
In his Senior campaign, his best by far in East Lansing, Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game, shooting a staggering 44.4% from deep on 7.5 attempts per game. These numbers are indicative of what Valentine can do on the court, namely, everything. This will be a nice change of pace from a front office who have drafted some one-dimensional players in the first round over the past few years, like Doug McDermott.
What makes Valentine tick is his court vision, passing ability, and general high basketball IQ. These are all attributes that successful NBA wings tend to have. On top of that, as illustrated by his 44% from deep, Valentine is a plus-shooter from the outside. However, with Nikola Mirotic and McDermott already in the fold, his court vision and passing ability will probably be called upon more.
Valentine also possesses quality ball-handling abilities as he was the de facto point guard for the Spartans last year. This will help replace Rose in that facet of the game and his overall versatility on offense will be a sight for sore eyes for many Bulls fans who have seen too many one tool players recently.
However, as with every prospect, there are certainly some weaknesses in the Bulls shiny new first round toy. For starters, let’s point out what Gar Forman said after trading Derrick Rose. Forman exclaimed that the Bulls were looking to get younger and more athletic following along with the recent trend in the league. His first chance to do that didn’t exactly follow along those guidelines.
Valentine is 22 years old, or to put it another way, four years older than #2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. While Valentine is obviously still younger than almost every Bull, GarPax have recently selected some of the oldest players possible in McDermott and Valentine.
As for the athletic portion of Forman’s proclamation, Valentine doesn’t exactly check off that box either. He ran an underwhelming 3.46 3/4 court sprint at the draft combine. To give you an idea of that statistic, it is equivalent to what the 7’1” center Zhou Qi out of China ran in his combine effort. That’s not who you want to be compared to in terms of speed if you are hoping to be a successful wing in the Association.
Another issue with Valentine is his below-average defensive abilities. While he does posses a strong ability on the boards, especially as a wing, the rest of his defensive game is not up to the same standards. Given Valentine’s relative lack of quickness, he often struggles to stay in front of quicker guards, meaning it will be tough for him to stick at the 2 position on the court. This also means it will be tough to keep both him and McDermott on the court at the same time as there may be too little quickness and defensive ability to compensate for.
One final small issue is one that Bulls fans do not want to hear. Potentially troublesome knees. Valentine has never had a serious knee injury but did miss a couple weeks last season after needing arthroscopic surgery in one of his knees. Bulls medical staff don’t see it as a pressing issue but it will definitely be something to keep an eye on.
Overall, this was a solid selection from the duo of Forman and Paxson. A relatively low-risk pick with a well-known prospect. Valentine will help spread the floor and become a solid playmaker that can play just as well off the ball as on, which may be his most important attribute given he will be sharing a court with Butler.
With the 48th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft the Bulls selected 6’8” Paul Zipser. I know that anytime someone hears a tall, lanky, German guy was selected, they immediately want to compare him to Dirk–but that’s not the case here. However, Zipser is a very nice compliment to the Bulls first round selection, Valentine.
The German native is considered one of the most NBA-ready foreign prospects given his age (22) and experience with the German national team and Euroleague. Zipser is expected to join the Bulls this season. Many of his strengths align with needs of most NBA teams: most notably, shooting and defense.
Zipser is regarded as a small forward with the possibility of playing power forward in a small ball lineup. Zipser has a nice shot, shooting 49.5% from the field this past year in what is regarded as the second best league in the world in Germany. He also contains a surprising quickness for a forward. Combined with his length, these assets make him an above-average defender for multiple positions.
Overall, I like this pick. Going with an experienced overseas prospect who can shoot and play well off of the ball as well as defend is what you are looking for in a role player. And any serviceable rotation player you can pick up in the second round is a added bonus to a solid draft night for this front office.