Bobby Portis a 'unanimous selection' for Bulls' front office


Bobby Portis a 'unanimous selection' for Bulls' front office

In the days before Thursday's NBA Draft, Gar Forman and the Bulls front office didn't have much discussion about Bobby Portis.

The SEC Player of the Year who had averaged 17.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in his second season at Arkansas was projected to fall somewhere in the middle of the first round, perhaps as early as No. 15 to the Hawks and well before the Bulls were set to select at No. 22.

But as power forwards continued to fall off the Bulls' draft board — Frank Kaminsky to the Hornets, Myles Turner to the Pacers, Trey Lyles to the Jazz — and other teams went after shooters in Kelly Oubre, Sam Dekker and Justin Anderson, Portis' name remained.

So when the Bulls went on the clock just before 9 p.m., the entire war room was in agreement about who the selection would be.

"We were going to take the best player available," said Forman, who admitted the Bulls slotted Portis as a late lottery pick. "When Bobby was on the board at 22 there was no discussion; he was the guy we were going to take."

[MORE BULLS: Bulls take Arkansas' Bobby Portis with No. 22 pick in NBA Draft]

Forman said the Bulls did their scouting on Portis throughout the year but that the majority of their targets were guards heading into Thursday night because of the "reality of the situation." Looking to fill a critical backup point guard position and some injury insurance for Derrick Rose, as many as six players at the position were expected to be selected in the first 30 picks.

The expected run on point guards occurred in the teens, with Oklahoma City drafting Cameron Payne with the final lottery pick after D'Angelo Russell had gone No. 2 to Los Angeles and Emmanuel Mudiay No. 7 to Denver. Boston then opted for Louisville point guard Terry Rozier — who the Bulls had been linked to — Phil Jackson and the Knicks traded up to No. 19 to grab Notre Dame's Jerian Grant, and the Raptors replaced Greivis Vasquez by drafting Utah's Delon Wright one pick later.

That left the Bulls with one realistic option at point guard, Duke's Tyus Jones. The front office's affinity for Blue Devils might have had Jones near the top of their list as Dallas selected Virginia's Justin Anderson at No. 21 and put the Bulls on the clock, but with Portis still available the discussions were short and debates non-existent.

"Just being in the draft room tonight, it’s not very often when you get to your pick, especially in the 20s, and everyone, it’s a unanimous decision," head coach Fred Hoiberg, who previously worked in Minnesota's front office, said. "And that happened tonight with Bobby still on the board. So it’s exciting."

[SHOP BULLS: Get a Bulls draft hat right here]

Portis filled a need, too.

With Taj Gibson set to miss four months with ankle surgery and Joakim Noah's knee an ongoing issue, Portis will provide stability, depth and insurance for the future as the Bulls transition to a more uptempo offense under Hoiberg. The Razorbacks' leading scorer has range out to the 3-point line and was a stellar mid-range shooter and was one of college basketball's best offensive rebounders.

But Forman was insistent that the selection was simply following the draft board.

"When we address needs, a lot of time we feel it’s either via trade or free agency. And we’re going to draft the best player we feel is available, and we look at it that way not only for the near future but for down the road," Forman said. "And we felt 100 percent for sure when we were at 22 and he was on the board that he was the best player available to us."

Forman said he feels as though the Bulls are getting a mature player in Portis, despite his sophomore status. Forman had selected four upperclassmen with his seven first-round picks since taking over as Bulls' general manager, and the team's current win-now, contender status would have made selecting an NBA-ready player a viable option.

[SHOP BULLS: Buy a Bobby Portis jersey]

But Forman stayed true to his board, finding a value pick in the 6-foot-11 forward. And though it wasn't what he was expecting when the Timberwolves went on the clock to begin the night, it ended with the Bulls unanimously selecting a player they feel has lottery-caliber potential.

"As we saw him start to slip we got excited about him, and then we were surprised he was there," Forman said. "Really excited to get Bobby. I think he’s going to be a fit with our team, a fit in our locker room. I think he’s got a lot of potential for the future and is a guy that will really, really fit in with our team."

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night


Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

'Underdog' Tyler Ulis will fit in just fine with these Bulls

It's been a whirlwind of a summer for point guard Tyler Ulis, but he finally feels like he's found a home. Literally.

The 5-foot-9 point guard was cut by the Suns in late June, latched on with a training camp invite by the Warriors and was subsequently waived on Friday. It was then that Ulis, working out in California, received a call from his agent. He had been claimed on waivers by the Chicago Bulls. His hometown Bulls.

"I grew up watching (the Bulls)," he said after his first practice on Tuesday. "Growing up in this city, you always want to be a Bull and you’re always willing and hoping that you’ll be here one day...I'm home now. It's a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to it."

Ulis is back in Chicago for the first time since he was breaking records for Marian Catholic High School. Ulis became a five-star recruit for the Spartans and in 2014 signed on as the next point guard in the long line of successful floor generals under John Calipari and Kentucky.

Ulis backed up the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron, as a freshman but saw his role increase as a sophomore. He blossomed, earning Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors in the SEC. Only Anthony Davis had ever earned both honors in a single season.

He declared for the 2016 NBA Draft with hopes of becoming a first-round pick. But unlike the Calipari point guards before him, Ulis slipped all the way down to the second round before the Phoenix Suns scooped him up with the 34th pick.

"Honestly I really did think (the Bulls) were going to draft me," Ulis said on Tuesday when recalling the 2016 NBA Draft. The Bulls took Denzel Valentine with the 14th pick. "But I'm here now so that's all that matters."

In 132 games, Ulis averaged 7.6 points and 4.1 assists in 21.1 minutes. He started 58 of those games, and while his shooting left plenty to be desired he handled the offense well and brought that same pesky defense he showed off at Kentucky. It wasn't enough, even for the guard-deprived Suns. They released Ulis before free agency this summer - which ruffled the feathers of franchise guard Devin Booker - in a rather unexpected move.

"My Mom always taught me (to) never expect anything," Ulis said of his release from the Suns. "When you're on a losing team like that anything can happen. I feel like I showed I could play at this level but they went a different way."

The Suns' loss - they may resort to starting 38-year-old Jamal Crawford at point guard this year - could be the Bulls' gain. Expectations should be harnessed for Ulis, especially with him joining the roster this late in the preseason, but the Bulls, like Phoenix, have question marks at the point.

Kris Dunn is entrenched as the starter, but Cameron Payne struggled mightily in the preseason and Ryan Arcidiacono doesn't project as a contributor. That leaves an opening for Ulis to potentially fill on the second unit, and apparently he's making a statement early in practice.

"Tyler had a real good practice," Fred Hoiberg said. "I think I think he changes the pace when he’s out there on the floor. He picks up full-court, he gets up underneath you. He can make a shot. He’s got good vision and can make a play with the ball in his hand. So I was very impressed with his first workout."

Ulis is working on a 45-day two-way contract, so it's unknown how much he'll contribute. He could be shuttled back and forth between Chicago and the Windy City Bulls, but there's certainly an opportunity for him to stick. He'll be playing catch-up and learning on the go, but doing so in his hometown wth friends and family around him for support will work to his advantage.

"Being a smaller guard growing up in a big man’s sport, you get looked over. So I’m the underdog," he said. "And I feel like this team is an underdog, so we should all be excited to get the season started and prove people wrong."