Things never quite worked out the way they should for former Bulls forward Denzel Valentine in the NBA, but at least he’s getting one more shot. Valentine is part of a group training “mini camp” hosted by the Utah Jazz this week in hopes of earning a spot on the team for next season.
Valentine last played for the Jazz in January when he signed on for two games after signing a 10-day contract with the team. He was not brought back after the 10-day contract expired.
It’s the fourth organization Valentine has been with in the last year and dates back to the end of his time in Chicago, where he was a Bull for four seasons. Valentine signed as a free agent with the Cavaliers to start last season, but Cleveland sent him to New York as part of the three-team Rajon Rondo trade.
He appeared in 22 games for the Cavs, but the Knicks waived him immediately after the trade.
Valentine came to Chicago with quite a lot of promise after starring at Michigan State for four seasons. He averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists as a senior, the kind of versatility that earned him comparisons to former Michigan State star Draymond Green.
As he told me before the 2016 NBA draft, “[Green] shows people that it doesn’t matter how tall you are, how tall you are, how high you can jump,” Valentine said. “Your heart matters. Once you have heart and determination, you can do just about anything. He proved it every night. It definitely paves the way for guys like me and players in my mode.”
The comparison benefited Valentine in this year’s draft when he was chosen 14thth total. It was a back half of the draft, but the Bulls let players like Pascal Siakam (27th), Dejount Murray (30th), Ivica Zubac (32nd) and Malcolm Brogdon (36th) this year.
However, Valentine’s career with the Bulls never really took off. As a rookie, he averaged 5.1 points in 17.1 minutes and in his sophomore season, he averaged 10.2 points in 77 games, including 37 starts, making his biggest jump of the season for Chicago. But injuries to his hamstring and ankle held him back and he couldn’t build on the progress he’d made for Chicago.
Overall, Valentine averaged just under 7.4 points over four Bulls seasons, shooting 39.4% from the field and 35.7% from the 3-point line.
Before last season, he had hoped to be an important part of the Cavaliers’ resurgence.
As he told reporters: “To come here and be part of a young, hungry group that wants to win and get better and compete, I’m just happy to be here and to be a part of it. Individually, just doing what I can. Come on in, play my minutes, make shots, split the ball, play defense, be versatile, be the player I know I can be. Do all the little things and seize the moment. i like the group I like everything we have. I like our direction. It’s really different from Chicago, but it’s well different.”
The Cavs went up, but Valentine didn’t play along much. But he doesn’t give up.