Sometimes, being a first-round draft pick can be both a blessing and a curse. For Denzel Valentine, getting selected at No. 14 by the Chicago Bulls back in 2016 has helped keep teams interested in him, but his inability to make much of an impact in the NBA has left him with the reputation of a draft disappointment. Valentine, however, could be in the right place to reinvent himself if he makes the most of his latest opportunity with the Boston Celtics.
Valentine has bounced around the league since 2016. He spent five years with the Bulls, eventually starting just 45 games while missing the entire 2018-19 season. After his contract ran out there, he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers before being traded to—and promptly cut by—the New York Knicks, after that he played briefly with the Utah Jazz and then hooked up with the G League Maine Celtics. He did well enough in his time with Maine that the parent club signed him to a training camp deal last week.
Valentine is a question mark: he has injury concerns has an iffy reputation as a defender. However he also has shown that he can at least contribute offensively: his 36% career three-point shooting percentage makes him a worthwhile candidate to mold into a sniper off the bench.
This, presumably, is what the Celtics have in mind with the 28-year-old Valentine, who no longer offers the same potential that some younger G League standouts might flash. While it’s been a long while since his glory days at Michigan State, he was talented enough for the Bulls to select him in the middle of the first round of NBA Draft just a little over six years ago and there’s a premium for three-point shooting in the modern game. While Valentine might not be particularly thrilled about the idea, his likelihood to remain in the NBA will rely on how reliable he can still be from long-distance.
It might be difficult for a player with such a pedigree to adjust to the lie of a situational player, but the Celtics—having just appeared in the NBA Finals—happen to be in the position of strength here. If he can pull of the transition, in fact, this might be the best possible landing spot for him to revitalize his once promising career.
Valentine, first, will have to earn a spot on the team and probably needs to put together an encouraging training camp appearance. He won’t be the only player with NBA experience there as Noah Vonleh, Justin Jackson and Bruno Caboclo are among those who will be competing for the remaining roster slots.
Unlike during some training camps, these veterans aren’t just there as warm bodies, by all accounts the Celtics are looking for the established players to cheaply fill out their opening day roster. This is a team above the luxury tax line trying to manage its budget and Valentine has the chance to use this to his advantage: he doesn’t have to live up to perceived potential to return to the NBA, he just has to outplay the competition .