Boisterous Bobby Portis quietly putting together career year; is he part of the Bulls' future?


Boisterous Bobby Portis quietly putting together career year; is he part of the Bulls' future?

Before the season began Bobby Portis made headlines for all the wrong reasons. His seven-game suspension for punching Nikola Mirotic in the face during a preseason practice stuck with him well into the regular season. Lauri Markkanen's emergence then captured headlines, and Mirotic's return in December coincided with a seven-game winning streak. Portis became somewhat of the forgotten man as far as the crowded power forward position was concerned.

Mirotic continued his hot shooting and eventually improved his stock enough for the Bulls to deal him to the Boogie-less Pelicans for a first-round pick. Markkanen struggled in November and December, turned in a red-hot January (.478/.432/.906 shooting splits) before turning in an ugly February that coincided with the birth of his first child. The Bulls made a minor move at the trade deadline, taking on impending free agent Noah Vonleh to add to the power forward mix.

Through the merry-go-round there's been one constant, and that's Portis. He's missed just one game since returning from that suspension, he leads the team in net rating and is doing all this in a limited role behind Markkanen. That role has expanded some since Mirotic was dealt on Feb. 1, and his numbers are improving right along with it. And he just might be giving the Bulls something to consider as they determine which role players will be part of the team's rebuilding future.

Portis is averaging 13.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.0 3-pointers per game this year, one of 20 players to reach those thresholds. But consider that Portis has reached those per-game averages in just 21.3 minutes per game; that's by far the fewest minutes of any player on that list by nearly six minutes (Nikola Mirotic's 27.1 minutes).

So it isn't surprising that Portis' per-36 minutes numbers are gaudy. His averages of 22.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 1.7 3-pointers per 36 minutes put him in a category with three others: Joel Embiid, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love. That's not to say Portis is on the level of those All-Stars, or that a player like Kristaps Porzingis or Karl-Anthony Towns isn't more valuable. Portis' per-36 numbers naturally would decrease with extended playing time, and there's a reason he isn't logging 30+ minutes per night. But he's a busy man when he's on the floor.

And while the Bulls made the sensible play in dealing Nikola Mirotic to obtain an additional first-round pick, the opportunity to get an extended look at Portis had to have played a role. And Portis has flourished in that extended role: In 10 games since Mirotic left, Portis is averaging 16.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 3-pointers in 24.8 minutes. In per-36 numbers, that's 24.1 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.3 3-pointers. No one in the league has done that this season, with Kevin Durant (27.1 points per 36, 2.7 3-pointers per 36) coming closest. Small sample size on Portis to be sure, but impressive nonetheless.

But standalone numbers won't justify his worth (looking at you, Pau Gasol on the Bulls). The bigger question, as always, is how he fits in with the future core. More specifically, the Bulls want to know if Portis can pair with Markkanen like he did with Mirotic, when that two-man lineup had a +14.9 net rating, the best on the team. Well, since Mirotic was traded the Portis/Markkanen lineup has a net rating of +2.6 in 72 minutes. It's a small sample size, but consider that before the Mirotic trade the Portis/Markkanen lineup was -10.9 in 129 minutes. It's clear the two are learning to play off each other, most recently with Markkanen in the post and Portis at the top of the key.

So then the (multi-)million dollar question becomes: What to do with Portis? He's still just 23 years old, younger than Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser and David Nwaba. He's a stretch forward who has improved his 3-point shooting each year, a stout defender and, cliches aside, the heart and soul of a Bulls team lacking a lot of fire. Portis' fifth-year option was picked up days after the Mirotic practice incident, so he'll play next season at $3.6 million before hitting restricted free agency.

Last offseason Mirotic received a two-year, $27 million deal, while 27-year-old Grizzlies forward JaMychal Green received two years and $17 million in restricted free agency. While it all depends on what Portis does the next 1.25 years, he could command significantly more than that from the Bulls in the summer of 2019 (there are far too many factors to consider what he might command in 16 months).

The Bulls have three first-round picks the next two years, and stretch forwards like Portis are entering the league at a high rate. Portis is a steady player, as the numbers above show, but the Bulls won't pass on a potential superstar (Marvin Bagley, Jaren Jackson) because of him. But at the very least Portis is giving the Bulls something to think about as they go through this evaluation process over the course of the last 20 games. He's been the most consistent player on a team lacking that in the worst way, and he's becoming a perfect fit for a Bulls team wanting to push pace, shoot 3s and play with an edge. So while Dunn, LaVine and Markkanen make headlines, don't forget about those Crazy Eyes.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?


Bulls Talk Podcast: Would Jordan's Bulls have won 8 straight titles?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Vincent Goodwill look past the Bulls loss to the Knicks and debate if free agents Isaiah Thomas or Jabari Parker be a good fit on the Bulls. Plus why Fred Hoiberg is in the midst of his best coaching in his Bulls tenure. Kendall also explains why he’s not convinced that Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine can coexist on the court together. And is Collin Sexton the right or wrong player for the team come draft time? Plus the debate between KG and Vincent on IF the Bulls would have won 8 straight titles had Jordan not retired.

Listen to the full episode at this link (iOS users can go here) or in the embedded player below. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.

Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks


Bulls make history for 3-point futility in loss to Knicks

It was a bad night for the Bulls from beyond the arc. That's putting it lightly, seeing as it was perhaps their worst 3-point performance under Hoiberg and, for volume's sake, one of the worst in NBA history.

Let's try to break it down with the numbers, beginning with the raw ones: The Bulls shot 3 of 30 (10%) from 3-point range in their 110-92 loss to the Knicks. Those three makes all came from bench players (Bobby Portis, Noah Vonleh, Antonio Blakeney). Their starters were an incredible 0-for-19 from beyond the arc. The reserves looked like the Rockets in comparison, going a blistering 3-for-11.

The Bulls began the game missing their first eight 3-point attempts in the first quarter, then another to begin the second quarter. Vonleh broke the skid with a triple, making the Bulls 1-for-10. The Bulls missed their next two triples before Portis splashed home his only deep make of the night. The Bulls were then 2-for-13. They finished the second quarter 2-for-12, and the first half 2-for-20.

They somehow managed to attempt just two 3-pointers in the third quarter, both misses. Then they missed their first two attempts of the fourth quarter before Blakeney's triple with 8:00 left in the fourth quarter. It'd be the last triple the Bulls made - they missed their final five attempts.

OK, got that all? It wasn't pretty. Here's how not pretty it was, dating back to 1983-84 (major shoutout to Basketball Reference for having these stats available):

-- Prior to tonight, only three teams in NBA history had attempted 30 or more 3-pointers and made less than 10 percent of them. The Bulls are now the fourth.

1. 2016 Rockets: 3 of 35 (8.6%)
2. 2017 Nets: 3 of 33 (9.1%)
3. 2018 Suns: 3 of 32 (9.4%)
4. 2018 Bulls: 3 of 30 (10.0%)

-- The 10% shooting from 3 was the second worst performance from deep under Hoiberg.

1. 2016 vs. Warriors: 1 of 20 (5%)
2. 2018 at Knicks: 3 of 30 (10%)
3. 2016 vs. Heat: 1 of 8 (12.5%)
4. 2016 at Pistons: 2 of 15 (13.3%)

And to put it all in perspective, the Bulls' 3 of 30 shooting from deep was nearly twice as bad as Pistons center Andre Drummond's career 3-point field goal percentage: 5 of 26 (19.2%).

Not great, Bob. But for the tanking crowd, it was a helluva night.