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Denzel Valentine: 'Would Love To Play For The Bulls'

By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As of Friday afternoon, Michigan State shooting guard Denzel Valentine had conducted interviews with 13 teams during the NBA Draft Combine.

The Bulls weren't yet one of them, though Valentine expected more meetings were ahead in the coming days and weeks. What's certain is that Valentine has envisioned playing for Chicago.

"I would love to play for the Bulls," Valentine said. "Coach (Fred) Hoiberg is a young coach, he's been in the college game. He knows me. I know him. The Bulls, in Chicago, three hours away from home, my family would be able to come to every game pretty much."

To be clear, Valentine also he'd love to play for the Boston Celtics. And through two days at the combine, there were no reports of prospects saying they wouldn't want to play for insert-franchise-here.

Valentine's a name worth watching, though. The Bulls wanted to draft a guard last season before big man Bobby Portis fell to them at No. 22, and they're again closely monitoring the guard crop in this draft class.

The catch is that the point guard market is somewhat thin. Providence's Kris Dunn and Kentucky's Jamal Murray are near locks to be taken in the top 10, and if the likes of Kentucky's Tyler Ulis, Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson and Vanderbilt's Wade Baldwin are gone too or not to Chicago's tastes in the spot it's picking, Valentine could still fill some of that need.

In most mock drafts, he's projected by pundits to go anywhere from late in the top 10 to the late teens. The Bulls are in line for the No. 14 pick, pending the results of next Tuesday's lottery, where they have a 1.8 percent chance of nabbing a top-three pick.

What the 22-year-old Valentine brings is a versatile skill set. Measuring at 6 feet, 5 3/4 inches on Thursday, he played multiple positions at Michigan State, including point guard during a senior season in which he averaged 19.8 points, 7.5 rebounds and 7.8 assists while shooting 44.4 percent on 3-pointers. Valentine became the first player to put up that 19-7-7 line since the NCAA began tracking assists in 1984. Just as importantly, he can defend multiple positions.

Valentine has no preference on what position he'd play.

"They ask me what I see myself as, and I just give them general feedback, which is I don't see myself as a certain position," Valentine said.

"I kind of just see myself as a basketball player. You put me out there and want me to play point guard, make plays for other people, run your team, I can. If you need me to be on the wing, make decisions off the pass without bringing the ball up the court, I'll do that. And if you want me to catch and shoot in the corner, I can do that as well. I just try to find a way to get it done."

Valentine admitted he's not a top-tier athlete, which is a knock on him, but he's received plenty of encouragement from another Michigan State product who left college with less acclaim and more question marks before becoming an NBA star. That would be 6-foot-7 Warriors big man Draymond Green, who has redefined the center position with his all-around talents and defensive tenacity.

"He's making it easier for me," Valentine said of Green, who's a good friend. "He's paving the way. He says that all the time -- 'I'll pave the way.' And he really does. He works and was pick 35 and had to do it the hard way.

"He's paving the way for guys like me and other people that fit my mold.

"With the things he brings to the table, the winning mentality, being versatile, toughness, a leadership role, high basketball IQ, doing a lot of different things on the court, I definitely compare myself to him."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.

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