Continuing with my series of Chicago Bulls player grades for the 2017-18 season, next up: Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine.
Bobby Portis: B+
Portis missed the first eight games after an altercation involving then-teammate, Nikola Mirotic. But he followed up that suspension with the best season of his short career.
He served as the sixth-man for almost the entire season but he averaged a career-high in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and three-point percentage. He also gave the Bulls something off the bench that can’t be measured in a box score: energy. Portis was that bench grinder that every team needs. David Nwaba also can be that guy, but we’ll talk about him a different day.
Portis averaged 13 points and 7 rebounds in only 23 minutes per game. The biggest improvement we saw in his game this season was the extended range on his jump shot. Each season he’s been in the league, he’s doubled the number of three-pointers he takes per game. And this season, he shot a very respectable 36 percent from downtown.
If Portis can continue to extend his range and become a knock-down shooter, he’ll be an extremely valuable piece going forward as the Bulls try and get back to their winning ways.
Denzel Valentine: B-
This was a tough one for me, Like Portis, Valentine posted career-highs in nearly every major statistical category this season. This was largely due to his increased role (went from 17 minutes per game last season to 27 minutes per game this season), but he also just seemed to settle into his role and gain confidence as the season went on.
Valentine on the season averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists per game. That’s pretty good considering what his numbers were as a rookie.
I wanted to give him a better grade but I can’t for the simple reason that I still expect more from him.
I like him, I think he’ll be a quality rotation guy going forward – but I really think he’s got more in him as a playmaker.
Remember the Michigan State version of Denzel Valentine? His senior year he averaged 19/8/8. Obviously, I don’t expect those same numbers out of him at the NBA level, but I think he can be more of a playmaker than he has been. This would be an incredible addition to his game because it would take a lot of the pressure off of Cameron Payne when it comes to playmaking off the bench.
I don’t want to take anything away from Valentine’s nice year, though. He shot the three at a nice 39 percent clip (I would love to see him get that into the 40s but I’m getting too picky).
His improved confidence this season showed in the loss to the Cavs on March 17th:
Again, I don’t expect this sort of performance every night from Valentine. I just feel like he has a lot of untapped potential that is waiting to bust out. Maybe next season we’ll see even more from Valentine.
Portis and Valentine both gave the Bulls nice boosts off the bench this season. If this continues, they should be key pieces moving forward.