Bobby Portis being ready for minutes presents a wonderful problem

Bobby Portis being ready for minutes presents a wonderful problem

While Bobby Portis has yet to have an efficient scoring night in the preseason, there are a myriad of elements to be excited about regarding the 20-year old big man. In fact, Portis has already produced at a level where Fred Hoiberg will now have to actively seek out opportunities to put him on the floor.

Portis's strongest skill at this point, is his rebounding. He's grabbing 12.7 of those bad boys in just 24 minutes, and doing so by out-hustling, out-working, out-fighting, and boxing out everyone in the vicinity of him. Some have fallen right into his lab, sure, but this is the exception and not the rule. Portis is trying to claw his way into the regular season rotation, and is frankly doing a wonderful job at that.

Additionally, the big man isn't afraid to launch three's. He's made just one-of-five, so his accuracy needs improving, but it's a small sample size of games, and his misses haven't been wildly off. What's impressive of his willingness to take these shots, is that he's taken them with confidence. He doesn't dally around, but instead receives and shoots in one fluid motion, which isn't just limited to the three-ball. His off-ball movement is similar to that of David West, in particular as a trailer who lets the ball handler attack, only to throw the ball back out to him. So in terms of shooting the basketball, Portis is looking for open mid-range shots and three's, which aren't bad choices, especially as he can combine those with buckets on the inside, as he's shown a post move here and there, while also picking up points off broken players and offensive rebounds.

Does Portis need refinement? Absolutely. But what 20-year old doesn't?

And what about his supposed biggest weakness, passing? Portis has averaged near two assists over these first three games, and shows a perfectly acceptable court vision for someone who plays at a big position. He will never be Chris Webber, but he won't be Hassan Whiteside either. His quick pass to a cutting Cameron Bairstow against Minnesota showed, maybe more importantly, a willingness to give up the rock, which is pretty impressive considering the amount of pressure that's on him to perform well to crack the rotation. Most youngsters would instead force up bad shots, but Portis seems to understand the big picture.

So where does he struggle?

Despite averaging 10 points a night, he's struggling in simply making shots. His confidence is there, he doesn't take a lot of bad shots either, but they haven't dropped so far. He gets 30% of his points from the free throw line (which he's gotten to a fair amount), but the remaining 70% has come on just 29.4% shooting. For Portis to really establish himself, he'll need to see that ball go through the net some more. The good news is that he's close. There's solid rotation on his shots, they're on line, and the height on his jumper is good. With just three games to his name, one could chalk it up to yet another case of a small sample size.

Also, Portis is fouling too much. This is a typical problem for rookie big men, but Portis is nevertheless going through it. Four fouls a game in 24 minutes. The frustrating bit is how he picks them up. It's by being overzealous and wanting to do everything at once. He reaches in, jumps over the back of people, and doing all the NBA no-no's that veterans know not to do. So again, there's a silver lining in these struggles as they don't, necessarily, represent long-term concerns.

Energy-wise however, Portis is looking like the new Joakim Noah. In his debut against Milwaukee, Portis was screaming and hollering, pointing out patterns and plays, while throwing his body around. The last Bull who were as vocal as a rookie was actually Noah, and that's probably not a coincidence given the relationship the two have developed in such a short period of time.

Portis has also played a fair amount of his minutes at the center spot in these games, and he looks comfortable moving around with the big men. While he never tested well athletically, Portis is quick and agile enough to follow just about everyone he's matched up against, and his 245-frame is far from being a push-over, though it couldn't hurt him to add some muscle to fill it out.

Offensively, he's still a question mark, but by playing behind Gasol and Mirotic, here's hoping he'll pick up a few things. In fact, Portis couldn't ask for better on-court teachers, as he has two defenders to learn from, as well as two scorers. If he learns, adapts to his new surroundings, and remains confident, there's honestly no telling just far he could go on that end.

Portis's ceiling is at this point a pretty large unknown. Unlike the present frontline, Portis isn't likely to pick up many blocks, and will such have to work for everything on defense, whereas shot-blockers at least reap the benefit of reputation. With some experience, Portis may become an acceptable shot-blocker down the line, but he'll never be a game-changer in that category. Rebounding however appears to be an area where Portis will be able to be consistent, given his motor and ability to position himself accurately.

In totality, Portis would be ready to receive rotation minutes on just about any NBA team who doesn't posses an overcrowded frontcourt. So therein lies the problem. Fred Hoiberg will have to carve out minutes for the rook, and could do so by sitting the veterans against the league's worst teams, even though that will probably not provide Portis with a true test of what the NBA is all about. Still, such a plan would be far superior to the alternative, which is sitting him and letting his rookie season be had from the bench.

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    I've been really impressed with rookie Bobby Portis, and I think he'll get plenty of playing time in the Bulls lineup as Noah, and Pau will play limited mins and have games off this season and Taj will quite possibly be traded.

    The Kid has to play or risk rusting on the bench. It's one thing to learn behind some great teammates, but it's another to learn through on the job experience. The latter is what BP has to go through early and often during the regular season.

  • I like the idea of playing Portis more against weaker teams - because this should help to keep Noah and Gasol rested!

    Portis looks like he should become a starter if he shoots better and if he eliminates the rookie mistakes. It make take a season or two, but one day he could start or be a 6th man.

  • I saw one person mention trading Portis and another said no way we can trade him.

    If you really want the Bulls to go all-in this year, Portis might be the best trade asset that the Bulls have, and his presence probably doesn't get the Bulls a championship this year. The Bulls would miss Taj more than Portis, but another team would probably value Portis over Taj, with Bobby's young age and cheap contract.

    If you want to keep Portis, then you're not going all-in this year but rather reloading for the future. I would go this route and trade Taj and/or Pau for future considerations, because I don't think there's any iteration of this current Bulls team that beats the Cavs unless all-star Rose is returning, which I've given up on.

  • Portis looks good but he keeps blowing dunks. The only negative I see with Portis is his limited jumping ability. Though he does have good speed for a big. He can be our version of Tristian Thompson, an energy big that annoys the daylights out of the opposing team with his relentless hustle. I also like Felicio, he's strong, can defend and is showing passing ability. I would keep Felicio as end of bench big instead of Bairstow. Jimmy Butler hasn't looked too good to me despite the rave reviews he's had in training camp. I hope he can step it up along with Snell. The D+R has looked pretty solid but can be much better. The Offense is clicking right now but I don't want to see the Bulls as a one dimensional jumpshooting team. They need to mix it up, attack the rim/post ups and get to the line.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    interesting about the dunks, he blew an uncontested 2 hander against the Pelli's Monday night. Kind of weird for a young big(especially a non white stiff), small hands, lack of athleticism?

  • In reply to BigWay:

    however, he did shoot the ball well otherwise, even hitting a couple of 3's, he actually looked like he knew what he was doing out there.

    He looks good so far, but you really can't get a true read on him until we see him against regular season competition. At at minimum he looks like the long term replacement for Taj, and a better small ball center candidate.

  • I've really liked his passing so far, he's been more than serviceable at the top hitting cutters and such. It'll be by no means a liability.

    I have no doubt in my mind that his %'s will go up soon, he takes largely good shots and shots within his skill-set, and he just generally looks really comfortable out there. When he gets out on to the floor, I don't get the 'excited to see what he can do but preparing myself for cringe rookie mistakes' vibe I do with most guys. This guy is NBA ready.

    It begs the question again, do we keep all the bigs? At some point I feel like Portis is going to show enough that it will be clear that Taj has to go for a wing, as much as I don't want to see Taj go.

  • I like what I see so far of Portis. But I don't see him cracking the main rotation with the other 4 bigs around including Noah, Pao, Mirotic, and Taj. And I am not sure what the rush is unless Noah is not healthy. Out of the four big men, the focus ought to be on seeing how much Mirotic can develop this year. I also don't think Portis will have that much value as a trade unless he is getting significant playing time to show what he can do.

    If there is an injury of one or two of the four (quite possible given history of Taj, Noah, and Pao), then spending a couple of weeks with Portis and Niko starting could open up some hearts and minds as it did last year when Niko got his chance to play regularly for a brief time when others were hurt. Otherwise, I think Portis should work on hustling and rebounding and getting better this year and being a prime piece next year when the Bulls decide what they have with Noah's contract and if they have decided to trade Taj for other assets.

  • If you don't think the Bulls can contend for a championship this year regardless then you're right, there's no rush. Let Bobby spend a year learning on the bench with virtually no minutes behind 4 superior players. Hopefully Taj doesn't decrease his value this year.

    For the Bulls can contend, however, they're going to need to upgrade the wing position, and they can deal from their overloaded front court to do it. You have a player in Portis that I haven't seen play but by all accounts is ready for a 4th big man role, say 10-12 minutes per night. We agree on Niko getting minutes -- say 35-40 -- so essentially, you're going to make Portis wait a year to play backup PF because of Taj? My fear is that Taj is not going to be happy playing backup minutes to Niko and will reduce his value over the course of the year just due to his age. And Taj doesn't play center so Noah's health has nothing to do with it. Trade Taj while he still has value, give his minutes to Niko and Bobby, get an upgrade at wing.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Not sure I want, or we need Niko playing 35-40 minutes per night. Actually, I hope that no one does under Hoiberg.

    It will be interesting to see how Taj looks after his surgery and how much he plays.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Hell no, I don't see any reason for anyone to play more than 30 minutes, except maybe Jimmy 32-34 if he wants I guess. Or Rose, if Major Nelson's jeannie gives him his athleticism back.

    Niko 28
    Pau 24
    Noah 20
    Taj 20
    Jimmy 32
    Rose 30
    Doug 20
    Snell 18
    Brooks 18
    Moore 10
    MDJ 20

    Or something like that, with Noah or Taj gone for a 3/4 like BigWay's man Gay, and finding some minutes for Portis.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    totally agree, nobody should play more than 30 minutes, with Butler and Rose being the only 2 possible exceptions and even then it should be low to mid 30's, not Thib's minutes.

  • Is Pao the Brazilian(or Asian as in Kung Pao) version of Pau, hopefully, he plays a more physical brand of ball alla Nene.

    By the way, just trying to make a good natured joke. Had to clarify that just in case the typing/spelling gestapo is lurking. We all know how humorless they can be.

  • Show Taj is healthy and then ship him off.

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  • Of all the bigs, Noah and Gasol are the two who should have their minutes reduced for health reasons and to have them rested for the playoffs. If either of these guys have to pull heavy minutes (36+) to get wins, the Bulls aren't coming out of the East anyway.

    If the FO knows what it is doing - which is by no means a given - they will probably have to trade a big for the SF. It's hard to see Snell or McD winning the starting SF position except by default due to injury.

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