For Bulls fans, last season was the definition of lethargic.
Throughout all of the drama, missed expectations and play that lacked feeling, Bobby Portis gave Bulls fans a little crazy. There are two types of crazy; In some cases a person can be defined as good crazy or they can be labeled as a little too, well, nutty. The rookie forward gave us a little of both last campaign. As a first year player it takes time to get into the rhythm of the NBA so there is so leniency when you are too overzealous, but in Portis’ case, you can’t change crazy.
Coming into his second season with the Bulls, Chicago fans will all be watching to see if the second year forward takes the next step in his development. It's refreshing to watch Portis, someone who played with energy, especially after Joakim Noah was lost for the year. As a team, the Bulls struggled with identity under new coach Fred Holberg. The former Arkansas Razorback however looks like someone who is very comfortable in his own skin.
As a rookie in the NBA, confidence can be hard to muster - just look at Tony Snell. Confidence is usually the problem for young players trying to find their niche in the league. Some rookies think too much and don’t just let the game come to them. Others play out of control and try to do too much. Portis, however, showed all of the basketball world how confident he was and how out of control he could be. He made plenty of mistakes, but they were made aggressive mistakes. In most cases, you would rather have a rookie make an aggressive mistake than being too afraid to fail.
The Bulls got a steal in Portis with he 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft. Coming off a very impressive stretch that saw Portis named where SEC player of the year, the big man was originally projected as a lottery pick. Somehow, he fell to the Bulls and provided them with a player that could produce Joakim Noah type energy. Expectations were high but playing time was not guaranteed since Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic were all ahead of the rookie in the rotation. The Little Rock native only played in 5 of the first 25 games last season. After December 19th, however, Portis showed signs of what he is capable, playing in every single remaining game with averages of 7.0 point and 5.4 rebounds in 17.8 minutes.
Having an extremely high motor is something you cannot teach. Playing every minute with maximum effort and running the floor well is a skill only few players can execute for an entire season. Portis possess all of these intangibles. Strong, quick and versatile, defenders have to respect the fact that he will not hesitate to shoot from midrange jumper, with 25 percent of the his shot attempts came from midrange. From three-point line, Portis made 30 percent of his attempts. Work is needed if he's to become a legitmate deep-ball threat, but with good mechanics and a strong work ethic, the likelihood of Portis' three-point percentage rising is high. And that's welcome news for the Bulls.
Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo, and Jimmy Butler, otherwise known as the "Three Alpha's", according to them, are not reliable outside shooters. The Bulls offense will need to be inverted, meaning their big men will need to provide the majority of attempts from behind the three-point line. Portis will not be the Bulls number one three point option, but he will get some looks. It will be critical for the team that he makes them, particularly in pick-and-roll schemes with Rondo.
With the departure of Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, Portis has an opportunity for regular minutes within the rotation. All of the focus is on how Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade, and Rajon Rondo will coexist, but another storyline to keep an eye on is the progression of Bobby Portis under Fred Hoiberg. The role players on the Bulls roster and how they play together will have a huge impact on the trajectory of this team.
Portis has something to prove. He'll be out to show that he deserves minutes for the Bulls, and to those who doubted him in the draft, they may just look a little crazy if the forward meets his lofty projections.