Otto Porter has played his best basketball as a member of the Chicago Bulls, and that’s not talked about enough.
The forward was certainly a high-quality player during his time in D.C. – after all, he got his hands on a four-year $106.5 million contract, and that doesn’t just happen (unless your name is Cristiano Felicio).
As an NBA basketball player, he is probably worth that kind of money, but as a member of the Washington Wizards, he just wasn’t doing it much good. He was outshined by the All-Star Bradley Beal and he would even be mentioned behind the injury-plagued John Wall. A change of scenery can do a player good, and that’s exactly what happened when Porter put on a Chicago Bulls uniform.
During his SIX years in D.C., he never averaged above 14.7 points per game, and he only ever had two games where he scored 30 or more points. Once he flew to Chicago, Porter matched his number of 30-point performances and averaged 17.5 points per game over a 15-game span. One of those performances saw Porter’s a career-high, 37 points.
Speaking of career-highs, Porter also had his best three-point shooting performance, going 48.8 percentage from behind the arc. The guy was dishing out assists, grabbing rebounds and sinking baskets in one of his best stretches of NBA basketball thus far, and that’s worth being excited about.
Heading into the regular season, I’d argue, the Bulls top-5 storylines are centered around:
- (1) Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine stepping up
- (2) Coby White’s potential upside
- (3) Jim Boylen and his coaching staff
- (4) The additions of Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young
- (5) What the Bulls will do with Kris Dunn
You can probably re-organize those in whichever order you like, but those seem to pretty firmly be the talking points. With that in mind, let me pose one question, why aren’t we talking about Porter more?
In some ways, we may be taking his production, albeit brief, for granted. Porter is clearly the most polished player on this Bulls roster, and, yes, I would put him in front of a 31-year-old Thaddeus Young. Like Young, Porter has a similar size and also tends to play bigger than he actually is. Although, what really makes him stand out is his confident and smooth shot-making ability from nearly anywhere on the court.
If we know one thing about the Bulls, it’s that they need legitimate shooting threats, and Porter checks that box. He has the ability to create his own shot, but more impressively, he can work off-the-ball to set himself up for a solid catch and release. His performance against the Atlanta Hawks last season where he posted 31 points in the quadruple overtime game is probably the best example of this.
To make things easier for you, his first six three-pointers (he knocked down seven total) can be found at 32 seconds, 56 seconds, 1:09, 1:23 and 2:00. If you need to, rewind a bit so you can see how practically all of these shots are set up by his ability to find open space off-the-ball. When Porter starts heading toward his mark, you know he’s planning to shoot the ball.
The Bulls desperately need this sort of creativity. Relying on Lauri Markkanen to stand in the corner for a kick-out is only going to get you so far. The team was dead last in the league in three-pointers made last season and took the fourth-least amount of three-point shots. I’m sure part of the reasoning is Jim Boylen’s heavy emphasis on getting the ball into the paint, but it’s also, probably because the Bulls current players weren’t able to create offense along the perimeter.
This is only one area of his game that we’re talking about but, in general, the Bulls offense looked better when Porter was on the court. In the 15 game-stretch before Porter’s arrival, the Bulls were 19th in field-goal percent across the league and 11th in three-point percentage, add Porter and those numbers went up to 3rd and 8th respectively. Keep in mind, Markkanen also went off during that stretch, but, nevertheless, it does show a starting rotation that has Porter, Markkanen and LaVine could shoot the ball pretty well.
The real takeaway here is that, simply put, Porter could really help the Bulls out. I’m not saying he will or should be the best player on this team, but I can’t say I’d be surprised if he’s No. 2 in several games this season. He has proven he can come up in the clutch, and he has proven to be a true veteran leader for this young squad.
Just listen to the guy:
“What I’ve been in however many games since the trade, what I’ve done in that stretch, that small amount of time, that’s what I’ll continue to do next season,” Porter told Bulls.com reporter Sam Smith. “Being a leader, that’s pretty much it, and whatever I have to do. It is going to depend on a given night whether it’s scoring or passing the ball, defending; it’s going to vary every night.
Oh, and it’s also, technically, a contract year. He has a player option for the 2020-2021 season, but if he has a strong enough year, he could opt out to go for a larger contract. Think similar to what Harrison Barnes did this offseason.
The stars are aligning for Porter to have his best season as a pro, and I’m so down.