Bobby Portis: Ever heard of him?

“Bobby Portis may have dropped 10 spots, but he also went to the place where he will best be able to haunt every team that passed on him.”

Andrew Sharp

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“With the 22nd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select Bobby Portis from the University of Arkansas”

Bulls Fan: “Have you heard of him?”

Me: *pulls out phone and shows*

0878869001435341351_filepickerThe 6’11”, 230 pound Bobby Portis was a highly decorated player both in high school and college, despite his not being a name universally familiar with the rest of the basketball world, including in Chicago – a central hub and breeding ground for the next NBA star.  It makes sense that fans from the Chicago area wouldn’t necessarily catch the hype on the 2013 Arkansas Mr. Basketball; In 2013, The All-American forward wasn’t getting much recognition at all from fans outside his state. Fast forward a year, and Portis was the SEC Freshman of the Year in 2014; again, not many fans watched SEC basketball – unless that basketball involved the guys in blue (Kentucky).  In his last year with Arkansas, he was SEC Player of the Year, but still, he was the player that Bulls fans didn’t realize they wanted.

A humble kid who chose to stay in his home state, Portis become the best player at home. This kind of story hasn’t resonated since the humble kid from Englewood.

When the Portis selection was made, Bulls fans didn’t understand the catch their team landed with this guy. He was projected in the top 15 picks on multiple draft boards, but the Bulls selected Portis with 22nd pick. It was a match made in heaven, and still people don’t realize what’s happening.

Portis’ development has been strong, as always he brings his unique passion to play and desire to win.  Now that Chicago has traded away their hometown kid in Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, many Bulls fans – including myself – believe their team needs a new leader.  

Could Bobby Portis become the leader of this new, and sort of renovated, Bulls squad?  Bulls fans will react with “It will be Jimmy Butler, he is the true leader!”, but don’t be so certain Portis is far off.  He plays with swift skill and the ability to use his size with aggressiveness.  He is a multi-versatile power forward who has the range to knock down the three like Chris Bosh, but has the post-up skills and rebounding talent to dominate down low like Kevin Garnett.

While you may think I am crazy to compare Bobby Portis to two of the greatest players of all time, but trust me: take a look at Bobby Portis in High School/College along side Kevin Garnett in High School.

While Kevin Garnett has the length, Bobby Portis makes up for that length with his ability to shoot.  In Kevin Garnett’s first season, he averaged 13.1 PPG/7.9 RPG/2.3 APG per 36 minutes, and meanwhile Portis averaged 14.2 PPG/11.0 RPG/1.7 APG per 36 minutes.  Could Portis develop the same skills and success that Kevin Garnett saw for over a decade?  This type of thinking might be a reach for most Bulls hopefuls, but don’t neglect the possibility of Portis developing into the Bulls’ next superstar. Portis even told us himself on Twitter – multiple times:

The fans of Chicago were even calling for him, with a trend on social media platforms using #FreeBobbyPortis.

Turning a new leaf in Chicago doesn’t necessarily mean a full blown rebuild.  Gar Foreman and John Paxon pleaded to the fans that they were going to get “Younger, More Athletic,” but it looks like they did the exact opposite: they signed 30 year-old point guard Rajon Rondo, and added 36 year-old Dwyane Wade for a monstrous amount of dough.  Still, the Bulls went undefeated in the 2016 NBA Summer League, and it was due in large part to the role Bobby Portis played. While Denzel Valentine may have hit the two buzzer beaters to win the championship, it was Portis’ consistently stellar play which demonstrated tremendous upside. He was named to First Team All Summer League finishing with 17.3 PPG and 9.4 RPG.  By the start of this season, Bobby Portis will start alongside an awkward, and only sort of relevant Chicago Bulls team, but the only other person who had a higher Player Impact Estimate in Summer League (Portis +20.43), was Kris Dunn (+23.00) from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  In fact, Tyus Jones, who won the Summer League MVP, had a lower Player Impact Estimate for his team.  The advanced stats show the type of all around impact that Bobby Portis could have on the success of the Bulls.  The personality, loyalty, confidence, and energy which Portis shows are all qualities that this team needs in a leader in order to be successful. Chicago loves their high energy players: Portis can be that guy and much, much more.

Just remember he was the first to tell you – and that I was the second.

By Jordan Maly