Bulls Season Rewind 17-18: Denzel Valentine

Denzel Valentine Season Averages:

Guard Denzel Valentine, the 14th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, showed exponential improvement in his second season with the team. After an up and down first season in which he missed 25 games due to injury (including most of training camp with a sprained ankle), Valentine stayed healthy almost all season and doubled his averages in nearly every major statistical category. He continued to show a knack for the long ball (improving his 3PT percentage to 38.6% from last season’s 35%) but showcased his other skillsets: a good feel for the game, a dangerous floater in the lane and solid positioning on the boards for a guard.

Valentine showed Bulls fans this season a lot of the skills that made him the 2016 AP Player of the Year at Michigan State and may have cemented himself as a rotation player and potential starter for the team moving forward. Let’s take a look at some of his top performances this year:

March 17, VS Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavs 114, Bulls 109)

This St. Patrick’s Day matchup wasn’t supposed to be close. Going up against LeBron James and a Cavs team gearing up for a playoff run, the Bulls played this game without Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, and Robin Lopez, trotting out a starting lineup of Felicio/Zipser/Holiday/Valentine/Payne. But here’s what happened: the Bulls were in this one until the final minute and gave Cleveland all they could handle. The biggest reason for that? Denzel Valentine.

Valentine exploded for what is hands down his best game as a pro, dropping 34 points. He was seemingly unable to miss – hitting an incredible 8 of his 11 three point attempts. Not just an impressive scoring night, Valentine added 7 rebounds and 6 dimes on top of it all on this memorable Saturday night, leading the banged-up and shorthanded Bulls to a near win against one of the NBA's best teams.

Valentine Stat line: 34 points (13-20 FG), 8-11 3PT, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 block

January 10, AT New York Knicks (Bulls 122, Knicks 119 2OT)

In this barnburner matchup that went into double overtime (and with the players’ mothers in attendance), Valentine was a key piece to the Bulls pulling out a thrilling win at Madison Square Garden. He hit four threes en route to 20 points, and grabbed 9 rebounds to boot, as the Bulls pulled off one of their most exciting wins of the season.

Valentine Stat Line: 20 points (8-14 FG), 4-8 3PT, 9 rebounds, 4 assists

December 20, VS Orlando Magic (Bulls 112, Magic 94)

Valentine had bigger stat lines this season than this game, but this game showcased the potential of the Bulls. They had won seven straight games after a 3-20 start, and they put forth a total team effort to just take apart the visiting Magic. Valentine was at the head of a balanced attack, leading the team in scoring with 16 and adding 10 rebounds for a double-double. He was efficient from the field, kept the ball moving side to side and was a catalyst to the team looking great, putting up a team-high plus/minus of +24.

Valentine Stat Line: 16 points (6-9 FG), 3-4 3PT, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal