So the Chicago Bulls drafted former Michigan State Spartan Denzel Valentine. But where does such a versatile player fit on a team trying to turn itself back into a contender?
Valentine is a winner. After all, his record at Michigan State during his four seasons of 112-36 speaks for itself. He grew as a player under Tom Izzo and was eventually able to develop into the 2016 NCAA AP Player of the Year by his senior season, despite not being rated in the top 125 players nationally by 247Sports coming out of high school.
Of course, he's also seen the worst playing under Izzo and has likely taken the bulk of yelling and screaming from coaches already. Concerns about Valentine's knee surrounded him pre-draft, but obviously did not scare off the Bulls. Valentine underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in late December causing him to sit out the only four games he would miss in his Spartan career. While Valentine was durable throughout his years as a college player, many scouts had concerns his knees will only get worse over time.
Versatility: Valentine played all three back court positions at Michigan State. While he projects to be a combo guard in the NBA, Valentine was able to hold his own at the small forward position. Valentine can play inside and keeps larger defenders honest with his passing ability. He also had his best three point shooting season in 2015-2016, shooting 44 percent.
Aggressive Rebounder: Valentine was a great rebounding guard in college and can continue to be at the next level. He average 7.5 rebounds per game in his senior season and 5.9 during his four years in East Lansing. Valentine's rebounding abilities could have as much to do with his size as it does his versatility. Although his 8-foot-6 standing reach does help him, Valentine's experience playing small forward for the Spartans forced him to become more aggressive as a rebounder.
Size: For a team that just traded away their former MVP and starting point guard, Valentine will fit right in. Although it was previously mentioned Valentine can play either guard positions or the small forward spot, he fits best as an NBA guard. Valentine was measured to be 6-foot-5 and 210 lbs at the draft combine. What is impressive is his 6-foot-10 wingspan. His length certainly helps him on the boards and his height will allow him to get his shot off against almost all other NBA guards.
Off Ball Game: Valentine's off the ball presence is perfect for the NBA. His ability to set screens and make things happen without the ball in his hands will make him an asset for the Bulls. Head coach Fred Hoiberg should use Valentine in the pick-and-pop game a lot. His athletic abilities mixed with his length will allow him to drag the baseline and create opportunities for second chance buckets.
Defensive Ability: Arguably, the weakest part of Valentine's game comes on the defensive side of the floor. He did improve later in his career, but he struggled with lateral movements against elite wings and regularly got sucked inside, leaving shooters open on the perimeter. This will be his most important area for growth.
Isolation: Valentine may have been able to create his own looks in college, but things are going to be much more difficult at the next level. Without elite athleticism, he's going to have to work on creating space in these situations and getting by defenders inside.
Finishing: For as aggressive of a rebounder Valentine is, he does not finish at the rim well. He relies on touch and finesse shots such as the floater when at the rim. Much like his dribbling abilities, he is also very right hand dominant when finishing.
Valentine was a lock to be selected in the first round and fell right into the Bulls lap at No. 14 overall. After Chicago traded away Derrick Rose, they will be able to sell their fans some hope with a national name like Valentine. If his knees hold up, Valentine should contribute right away for the Bulls.
Unfortunately, there could be some growing pains with Jimmy Butler and Denzel Valentine as they figure out how to play together. However, if the Bulls can limit turnovers, their young nucleolus of players should put them on the right track in 2016.