Otto Porter is like a good friend … who’s become nothing more than an acquaintance over time.
You used to like the guy, but as the days went on and you saw less and less of him, he kind of just became a forgotten soul. To Bulls fans, all Porter has become is a name on the injury report. And considering he’s on the verge of making $28.5 million this season (by far the most out of anyone on the roster), that doesn’t sit well.
However, it’s possible to rekindle an old flame. Porter’s name may invoke a hearty sigh right now, but all it might take is a stretch of fully healthy games to be reminded of why he’s one of the better two-way players in the NBA.
After all, Porter is a former No. 3-overall pick with 31 total playoff appearances under his belt (18 of which he started). When the Bulls sent a broken Jabari Parker along with Bobby Portis and a future second-round pick for Porter, it felt like a solid move. Many considered him a proven veteran who fits his role well, shooting 40 percent from both the field and behind the arc. Over his 41 games with the Wizards in 2018-19, he also averaged 5.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. All good stuff.
Porter’s first 15 games in a Bulls uniform lived up to that hype. He scored 17.5 points per game on 48 percent shooting from the field and the 3-point line. While it may have been a small sample size, his on/off differential was a +12.8, per Cleaning the Glass – good enough to put him in the 96th percentile.
During the 2019-20 campaign, Porter played one less game in a shortened season thanks to a foot fracture. But, once again, he finished with an extremely solid on/off differential of +9.2 (which put him in the 92nd percentile).
To be clear, if he played a full season, I’m not sure we’d see an on/off figure this strong. However, I’d bet good money the Bulls OFFRTG would be higher than 105.8 (which was the second-worst in the NBA). The Bulls suffered dramatically from their lack of wing depth, and when Porter went down, the team had to run several different three-guard lineups. And while this can work in some cases, I think we can safely say the Bulls don’t have the personnel to pull it off in a consistent manner. Rather, Porter is desperately needed for this team to operate even a mediocre offense.
While watching the team this season, it became evident how badly the squad needed a stabilizing two-way force. Games would go off the rail in the blink of an eye, and this young core wouldn’t know how to steer things back in the right direction. The hope would be a mature, starting-caliber player could take over in that situation. You know, slow things down and simply make the right play. Considering the overall positive impact Porter tends to have while on the floor, I still have faith he could be that guy for this team.
Sure, we can point to the fact this team started the season 3-6 against pretty crappy competition as the reason why this isn’t true. But I’d make the case that has more to do with early-season jitters and the coaching staff’s poor preparation. I mean, when he joined practically an identical team the season prior, the Bulls went 7-8 over 15 games. As for the 15 games before he showed up … the Bulls went 2-13 (Lauri Markkanen also started to go off in February when Porter joined, so that certainly helped). So I think the point remains, Porter can make the Bulls a better basketball team.
I’m not saying Bulls fans didn’t understand how important Porter was at the beginning of the season; I’m just reminding folks that he’ll continue to be important moving forward. I know the Bulls don’t have a lot of flexibility this upcoming offseason, and that’s in large part due to the money tied up in Porter’s player option, but if Porter can stay healthy, it might feel like the Bulls actually did add a valuable piece this fall (remember, free agency will now be in October).
Anyway, to try and get somewhat excited about Porter’s last season with the team (he’s going to pick up that fat stack option, so you might as well), relive his 37-point performance from last season.