Bulls Pistons Basketball

Bulls forward Denzel Valentine leads the Bulls in games played (77) and 3-point shooting (.386), while averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

The Bulls will end their rebuilding season looking more like a mid-major college basketball team.

Guards Zach LaVine (knee), Kris Dunn (toe) and Denzel Valentine (knee) have all been shut down with four games remaining after Tuesday night's home date with Charlotte.

Two of those final games are on the road, where they are 10-29. And if you're like most Bulls' fans, you can't wait for the merciful end.

We've been spoon fed the entire season that Lauri Markkanen, Dunn and restricted free agent LaVine are the Bulls' future, though they didn't get much from LaVine, who missed 58 games and is certain to want a max contract.

Dunn missed 30 games with assorted ailments.

Bobby Portis, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez all had minutes reduced during the rebuild, but have resurfaced because of their fallen teammates.

They are likely to return next season while the roster is being overhauled, which leads us to Valentine. I think he's a "keeper." His game has some snap, crackle and pop to it, and he's versatile.

Few have a quicker release on their 3-point shot.

He has scary range from the neighbor's backyard.

His showboat passes leave you rubbing your eyes in disbelief, while the occasional sloppy ones make you curse a blue streak.

If Bulls' executives John Paxson and Gar Forman were interviewing personnel for next season, Valentine's resume' would lead with his March 17 career night against LeBron James' Cavaliers.

It might even be underlined in red a few times.

Valentine scored 34 points in 39 minutes on 13-of-20 shooting, including 8 of 11 beyond the arc.

He had 16 of Chicago's 29 third-quarter points.

"It just shows what I'm capable of," Valentine told us afterward.

The Bulls lost 114-109 without Dunn, LaVine, Markkanen and Lopez.

"It's good to go out there and play well and have a career night. But the end of the day, you play to win, not to have a career game," Valentine said, sounding like a true T-E-A-M guy.

At 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds, he can play guard or forward, and leads the Bulls in games played (77) and 3-point shooting (.386), while averaging 10.2 points and 5.1 rebounds.

"I believe in myself, even when I'm out there playing bad or whatever," Valentine said. "I put the work in, no matter what happens.

"Over the course of the year, I've gotten smarter in taking care of my body, getting rest, knowing when to push myself and when to back off on practice days."

If you think Denzel Valentine was born to be a reserve player, a scrub, a bench jockey, you'll get an argument from him.

"I believe I'm a starter in this league," he said. "I believe I can be an important piece of an NBA team.

"But whatever my role on the team is, whatever the organization wants me to do, I'll do -- but personally, I believe I'm a starter and can contribute in major ways."

Last year as a rookie on a veteran-laden team, Valentine barely saw the court, averaging 17 minutes in 57 games, often as an after thought by coach Fred Hoiberg.

This season, Hoiberg had to call number 45 regularly, once the rebuild officially kicked in.

"It's a process in becoming a great player and I'm just enjoying the ride," Valentine said.

I now believe the Bulls need him. It took me a while.

Unfortunately, I don't sign the checks.

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com.