Denzel Valentine missed just four games in college, but those four games came this past season due to a cartilage injury in his left knee.
Valentine responded by winning multiple national player of the year awards.
NBA teams may or may not have been scared off by Valentine’s injury history, if you can call it that, as the former Michigan State standout fell to 14th in the NBA Draft last Thursday. But that’s fine. When Valentine heard his name called, the world was a beautiful place.
“It was good,” Valentine said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “It was great. It was very exciting for me. It’s (in) Big Ten country. I played in Chicago. I played at the United Center multiple times every year. I’m just very excited to be in a program like the Chicago Bulls. Winning tradition, greatest player of all time played here – you can’t get no better than that, so I’m very excited.”
Valentine will wear No. 45 – the same number that Michael Jordan wore when he returned to the NBA in 1995.
“That’s what I wore in college,” Valentine said. “It’s not like I’m trying to disrespect anybody. That’s what I wore. That’s my number. I know that he wore it for a couple games.”
Valentine averaged 19.2 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.8 assists and 1.0 steal per game last season. He also shot 44.4 percent from three and 85.3 percent from the foul line. At 6-6, he’s been compared to two other dynamic former Spartans: Magic Johnson and Draymond Green.
“Those two are a good comparison,” Valentine said. “Being a big guard like Magic, being able to make plays for others and being a playmaker, being a winner. Draymond, being versatile, playing multiple positions, defending multiple positions, bringing toughness and affecting the game in multiple ways just like him – those two are really good comparisons.”
The Bulls drafted Valentine just days after trading Derrick Rose to the Knicks, meaning Valentine could start at point guard as a rookie.
“It could be that,” Valentine said. “I could come in and start right away, or I could come in and be a role player. I’m just going to work my hardest and try to affect the team as much as I can.”