After six games in Las Vegas, the Bulls are going home to prepare for the regular season. For Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow, both of whom were unavailable last night due to foot issues, it was another chance to get some run in a league with fringe NBA-talent, and for Bobby Portis, it was about getting a taste of what's to come.
Portis was the first option in last night's loss to Phoenix, and with 25 points, 15 rebounds, two blocks, and a strong nine-for-nine from the free throw line, the rookie left Vegas on a high note. While he made just eight of his 18 shots, and missed all three of his attempts from downtown, Portis looked comfortable and willing to take on more responsibility, which comes as no surprise given his intense nature.
Taking anything away from Summer League has always been difficult given the quality - or lack thereof - generally on the floor. In the regular season shots will be contested better and quicker, defenses will be tighter and more fluid, offenses will have concrete pecking orders and schemes, and the talent will be dimensions ahead of what Vegas can offer.
But even so, Portis displayed a crucial NBA skill. He was constantly active. If he didn't have the ball, he'd move people around trying to get into proper position to receive it, or move out of the way to create space. As soon as a shot went up, he'd move near the basket to eye a rebounding opportunity, and would turn on his heel if he realized he wouldn't have a chance at it.
This sounds awfully simple, but for a lot of rookies, tendencies of standing still and ball-watching are common and frequent. Portis showed nothing of the sort, always putting himself in the middle of things, trying to be a part of the equation. Rarely did you see consecutive possessions where he wasn't involved if the ball moved, excluding of course possessions where some quick shots were launched by Fred Hoiberg's gathering of combo-guards.
Portis appears to be the exact opposite of Tony Snell for example, who still suffers a bit from passiveness and frequently goes several possessions without having any effect. While Portis will struggle initially against superior NBA big men, it's an interesting change to the dynamic of the Bulls. At no point during his six games in Vegas, did Portis have a game in which he shot under 10 times. Over a modest 28.2 minutes a night, Portis averaged 14.5 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and four free throw attempts. What the numbers don't reveal is the communication, the defensive rotations, the off-ball movement, the fight for positioning and the quickness in getting back down the floor.
Overall, Portis showed a lot of promise, even if he did struggle from the field (42.1% overall) and didn't always read the floor. His 0.3 assists per game is a bit misleading as he did make some nice passes out of the post that ultimately went nowhere, explaingin the lack in dimes, but it still flags a correct concern. Portis did at times have tunnel vision, and would force shots up when he had shooters open. This is the sort of thing that is likely to be ironed out when the season begins, but you'd rather see him understand the value in ball-movement now, as opposed to later.
At the very least, Portis remains a highly intriguing prospect who should benefit greatly from Hoiberg's open system and player development mentality.