NBC Sports Chicago will preview a different Bulls player every weekday leading up to the start of training camp in late September.
How last year went
Otto Porter was a part of the Washington Wizards’ struggles during the first part of the 2018-19 season. With John Wall on the mend and the offense in dysfunction, Porter’s efficiency dipped to 46.5% from the field (after two straight seasons above 50%) and just 36.9% from beyond the arc (after shooting 43.4% and 44.1% the two previous seasons). Even Porter’s free throw percentage had dipped down to 76.6% after two seasons above 82%.
But the 25-year-old Porter resumed his elite shooting following the Feb. 6 trade to the Bulls. In 15 games, he shot 48.3% from the field, made a whopping 48.8% of his 80 3-point attempts and shot better than 90% from the free throw line. Like the rest of the Bulls’ core, Porter’s season was cut short with injury, but he showed enough in those 15 games to instill confidence in him as a core piece of the Year 3 rebuild.
Expectations for this year's role
Porter’s role is pretty much locked in. He’ll take on a No. 3 scoring role behind Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen similar to the one he had in Washington behind John Wall and Bradley Beal. Even in just a 15-game span, it was obvious how much better the Bulls offense was spaced with Porter in the lineup. He may run some pick-and-roll action with Markkanen or Wendell Carter, but the majority of his offense will come from spot-up shooting, off-the-dribble pull-up jumpers and cuts to the basket. He’s not overly versatile as an offensive player, but what he’s good at, he does very well.
Defensively, Porter will be tasked with defending the opposition’s best wing player each night. It’s a tall order but Porter is far and away the Bulls’ best perimeter defender and has the length and quickness to defend multiple positions. Given the Bulls won’t have the best defensive starting lineup in the NBA (only Wendell Carter is a true positive among the other four), Porter’s ability on that end of the floor becomes even more critical. Plenty will be asked of Porter, but the Bulls want to get their $27.2 million’s worth.
Where he excels
Porter has been one of the NBA’s most accurate 3-point shooters over the last three seasons. He’s one of six players since 2017 to shoot better than 42% from deep on more than 4 attempts per game, and he’s in good company there: Steph Curry, Joe Ingles, Joe Harris, Kyle Korver and Seth Curry. Porter’s distinction there, of course, is that he’s not a 3-point specialist like Harris, Korver and Seth Curry. Porter has also made 54% of his 2-point attempts in that span.
All that leads to Porter being an efficiency dream. He has never turned the ball over more than 75 times in s season, and for his career is averaging 0.8 turnovers per game in nearly 27 minutes. His turnover rate has ranked 24th, sixth and first the last three seasons. Few turnovers and made 3-pointers is a recipe for success in today’s NBA, and the fact that he provides stability on the defensive end makes him all the more valuable.
6-foot-8 wing defenders are hard to come by, but the Bulls certainly have one in Porter. In 2018, Porter was ranked fourth in Defensive RPM among small forwards (2.05), with only Robert Covington, Kyle Anderson and Andre Iguodala ahead of him. In 2017, Porter ranked 21st in the category, and last season he was 35th (though his Washington and Chicago teams were terrible as a whole, which certainly didn’t help his cause). The hope is that Porter will return to his elite defensive ways in a Boylen-led scheme and an entire offseason to mesh with his new teammates.
Where he struggles
Porter surprised many by his passing in Chicago. In a small 15-game sample size, he averaged 2.7 assists per game. His career-high for an entire season is 1.6, and he averages 1.5 for his career. He reached his career high with eight assists in an early March game against the Pistons.
But Porter isn’t much of a playmaker, even if he does more of it in Chicago than he did in Washington. That’s not to say he needs to be one, but it was much easier to sit back and shoot when your offense had John Wall and Bradley Beal. Even if Porter can flirt with three assists per game, it’d go a long way to taking some of the burden off guys like Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine and others in the backcourt.
Best case/worst case
In a best-case scenario, Porter returns to his 2017 and 2018 form with the Wizards. He was one of the league’s most efficient shooters. More importantly, he did it for teams ranked 15th and 8th in offensive efficiency. Porter himself is a fine player, but when his teammates are feeding him and taking advantage of defenses keying in on the sharpshooting wing, the offense as a whole gets better. That’s the goal. Defensively, he continues to hound wings on the perimeter and begins the transition – along with Carter – of the Bulls creating a defensive identity.
In a worst-case scenario, Porter doesn’t receive enough looks and isn’t able to make an impact, as was the case in Washington last season after Wall went down. He’s always going to be a plus individual defender, but if his efforts don’t translate to better team defense then he suddenly becomes a very expensive 3-point shooter. Porter will be at his best (or worst) based on what the Bulls do as a whole.
One key stat
Porter played 15 games with the Bulls last season, from Feb. 8 to Mar. 17. In that span, the Bulls ranked ninth in offensive efficiency, 11th in effective field goal percentage and ninth in true shooting percentage. The Bulls won’t be that good over the court of an 82-game season, but it was a small peak into what could be unlocked with a player like Porter roaming the perimeter.
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