Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis is making the most in his new role as a starter.
Life in the NBA hasn’t been all that easy for Chicago Bulls second-year forward Bobby Portis, whom the team selected with the 22nd overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft.
During his first year in the league, Portis worked his way into the rotation and posted averages of 7.0 points and 5.4 rebounds in 18 minutes per contest. Along with that, Portis played at least 10 minutes per contest in 36 of Chicago’s final 38 games of the 2015-16 season.
Based on that production, it would have reasonable to presume that the Bulls would make a concerted effort to give him more opportunities during his sophomore season.
But thanks to the logjam of big men on the roster, Portis became the forgotten man more or less in the eyes of the coaching staff.
Not only did his playing time decrease (12.8 minutes per outing), but Fred Hoiberg kept him out of rotation for 18 of the 60 games the Bulls have played this season. Needless to say, this is not what Portis was expecting on the heels of a solid rookie campaign.
Although such a reduced role had to be frustrating for a young player who is trying to prove that he belongs, Portis refused to let the naysayers affect his demeanor.
”I don’t care about nobody judging me,” Portis said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. ”At the end of the day, I’m going to play basketball. That’s my job. I’m going to go out there and do the things I do well.”
Initially, it looked as if Portis’ positive outlook would not serve him well. Then, as fate would have it, there were a few unexpected changes.
For starters, Nikola Mirotic was forced to sit out a few games due to back spasms, which opened the door for Portis to get more playing time as the backup power forward.
Additionally, the Bulls traded away their longest-tenured player in Taj Gibson to the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to last week’s trade deadline, thus essentially paving the way for Portis to become a starter.
Of course, the aforementioned opportunity is of little value if a player fails to make the most of it. But as far as Portis is concerned that is certainly not the case.
Playing at the backup four spot, Portis reached double figures in two of the three games heading into the All-Star break. In a 117-89 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 12, Portis finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
He would follow that up with a solid 19-point, eight-rebound performance against the Boston Celtics a few nights later.
For those of us who may be tempted to think that those two outings were an accidental fluke, the numbers over a broader sample of games tells a much different story.
Over the past six contests — including three as a starter — Portis is averaging 11.5 points and 5.7 rebounds per game on a respectable 48 percent shooting from the field. Furthermore, Portis is converting 37 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.
It is also worth noting that Portis is averaging 21.8 minutes per outing over the span. And now that he is in the starting lineup, his minutes should be more consistent compared to earlier in the season.
Like his former teammate, Gibson, Portis has a high motor and always maintains a positive perspective regardless of the circumstances — something that is not lost on his head coach.
“I think Bobby has done a real nice job,” Hoiberg said, via CSNChicago.com. “He was a huge part of our win against Boston in our game right before the break. He just goes out and plays with so much energy. What I really like about him right now is he has no hesitation on his shot. He’s stepping into his 3 with good rhythm.”
Whether Portis can continue to produce at a high level in his new role remains to be seen.
However, he has recently shown that he can be effective coming off the bench and as a starter, which will make him a valuable member of the rotation going forward as the Bulls hope to continue developing their younger players.