Expect Bobby Portis to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Chicago Bulls‘ revamped roster. Going into his third season with the Bulls, how Bobby Portis furthers his development will define the rest of his career. Portis’ game must continue to expand. That expansion will include spending time at center and a chance to be a leader on the Bulls.
The Chicago Bulls’ draft day trade (courtesy of ESPN) of Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves has opened up an opportunity for someone to step up. That somebody could be Bobby Portis.
Portis flashed some promise in his second NBA season. His ability to score in the post went overlooked oftentimes this past season. On most teams who are armed with a decent post player, the plan is to push the basketball inside, then out. The Chicago Bulls preferred for Bobby Portis to use his face-up game, in an effort to make him a stretch-four.
Watching the Bulls last season it is hard not to wonder why they would not punish teams on the inside. Instead, the Bulls were a team who looked to get their offense going along the perimeter. There were times when the Bulls would be stagnant on that side of the basketball. Players who were not Jimmy Butler or Dwyane Wade would stand around and watch as the basketball seldom came their way.
As for building the necessary chemistry on offense, the Bulls were becoming a two-man show. No one may publicly admit this, but there were players who would work hard doing what they are supposed to do without seeing the basketball.
Bobby Portis was not immune to this. His touches on offense were sporadic at best. Once touted as a rare inside-outside threat, Bulls’ fans began to doubt Portis’ skill-set.
If Bobby Portis made a mistake on the basketball court, the groans would come out. Minutes later he would be seated on the bench. There was no time to learn from his miscues. The pressures of winning games forced the Bulls to have Portis watch from the sidelines, instead of working on his ability during in-game situations.
It took until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Playoffs for Bulls’ fans to see what Bobby Portis could do. Against the Boston Celtics, Portis scored 19 points, to go along with nine rebounds and two blocked shots. He would play 29 minutes for the Bulls.
Conversely, in Game 2 Portis had three points and three rebounds. The big difference is that he only played nine minutes. In the rest of the six-game series versus the Celtics, Portis only more than 25 minutes once and had no more than seven shots. Meanwhile, power forward Nikola Mirotic was given every opportunity to play and succeed, despite never scoring more than 13 points or grabbing seven boards.
In the wake of trading away Jimmy Butler, the Chicago Bulls have come out saying they will look to re-sign Mirotic (courtesy of CSN Chicago).
Mirotic has never lived up to his promise when he joined the Bulls, yet his potential is the reason why he has received the benefit of the doubt. The Bulls have not made it possible for both Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic to coexist on the floor.
If the Bulls are able to retain Mirotic, the best way to develop Portis is to give him some consistent playing time at center.
Robin Lopez is currently the Chicago Bulls starting center, but there is an expectation they could trade him. Even if he stays with the Bulls, Bobby Portis should be given some ample minutes at the five.
Portis can outrun most guys playing center. His shooting range was beginning to extend beyond the three-point line last season, but he never saw playing time with regularity. There are some areas in Portis’ game that he can improve.
Becoming a better passer is high on the list of things Bobby Portis can do to improve his game. There has to be a thought that Portis will the basketball return to him. Now that Jimmy Butler is no longer with the Bulls, ball-movement should be better.
That may have a trickle down effect for Bobby Portis and the rest of the Chicago Bulls. Absent will be the need to force shots. Taking better shots in the flow of the offense will improve Portis. Doing this from the center position would make Portis a mismatch for opposing players.
Playing in the playoffs was invaluable to Bobby Portis, for his development. And his best moments were at the five. Now he needs a regular role in the rotation. If Mirotic is back, the minutes at power forward will be scarce.
Having Nikola Mirotic around will stunt things for a bit. And instead of the Chicago Bulls doing whatever it takes to see what they have in Bobby Portis, much of their focus could go into force-feeding fans a player who had four years to distinguish themselves. Meanwhile, a void in leadership will become larger. Bobby Portis is looking to do what he can to fill the hole. That is as long as the Chicago Bulls give him the opportunity to. His best chance is at center.
[Featured Image by Jonathan Daniels/Getty Images]