When I was younger, my parents bought me a fancy-schmancy toothpaste dispenser. A fresh tube of toothpaste would screw into a nozzle and hang on the wall. I could then place my toothbrush on a tiny platform, push back, and receive the perfect amount of toothpaste. Every kids dream.
When they set up the dispenser, I had no problem with it. To be honest, I thought it was kind of cool. Something about this new appliance made brushing my teeth feel kind of bougie – regal, if you will. But after a couple of weeks … it broke. The lever was wonky and the toothpaste came out weird. I mean, it still did its job, but it proved to be far less reliable than initially expected. So much so that, in fact, that not before long, I turned back to squeezing my toothpaste onto my toothbrush like a peasant.
I mention this story not to discourage you from buying useless products, but to compare it to the Bulls’ journey with Otto Porter. When Chicago traded for him two seasons ago, we all pretty much felt fine. The move may not have strongly changed anything, but 15 games of Bulls basketball felt a little more exciting. Then, Porter was banged up at the end of the 2018-19 season, only to get banged up again nine games into the 2019-20 season. Considering the guy has suited up for ONLY a total of 24 games, Bulls fans have gotten used to life without him.
One major difference between the two stories, though, is that the toothpaste dispenser didn’t cost $28.5 million a year. Porter, once he picks up his player option for next season, will be the highest-paid talent on the roster yet again. Thanks to that fact, a lot of Bulls fans have grown bitter toward him, and it’s hard to blame those folks. However, I think it’s important to note that there is still time for this whole Porter thing to work out, at least in one way or another.
If Porter can stay healthy this season – and that’s a big if – the Bulls could be staring at a win-win situation. Why? Because Porter is a good player. When he is on his game, he is not only one of the most efficient scorers in the NBA (shot 40+ percent from the field and downtown in each of the last three seasons), but he’s also a very capable defender, especially along the perimeter. He still has all the potential in the world to be considered of the game’s more reliable 3-and-D wings, and that’s great news for a Bulls team with a new front office. So first of all, a healthy Porter means a better team, which is win (and priority) No. 1.
How much better is a fair question, but we can guarantee that if he can stay on the court for a full season, this team will look and play better. For what it’s worth, General Manager Marc Eversley sounds pretty confident that Porter is in store for a nice bounce-back campaign, and be believes that will help this team out in more ways than one:
With respect to where he’s going to play on the roster, positionally, I’m going to leave that up to Billy. That’s going to be Billy’s call in terms of where he plays, whether it’s the wing or swing. Physically, he looks great. He’s been a full participant in the camp thus far. I think last year when he came in, he was very bulky and heavy. That may have contributed a little bit to some of the injuries he suffered. But I can tell you at camp he’s been a fully participant. I’m familiar with Otto from my days with him in Washington, when he was in Washington he was a little sleeker. I thought even though he wasn’t a high-level athlete, he moved a lot better. I think he’s kind of getting back to that in terms of how he looked and how he’s moving.
And, of course, a player like Otto brings a lot of different things to the table, especially defensively. I think he’s a switchable player. He can play small forward, he can guard small fours. I think if we can get him back to that level, he’ll help this team win games.
If Porter can get back to the level he was at before joining the Bulls, then Chicago could very well have an answer at small forward moving forward. There is no question Porter’s price has dropped over the last couple of seasons, so the Bulls might have a leg up in negotiations come 2021 free agency. I don’t see this as the most likely outcome by any means, but if he plays well enough this season and stays healthy, why not consider trying to re-sign him on a team-friendly deal?
Of course, if the Bulls have no interest in keeping Porter around, they can also hit the trade market (aka potential win No. 2). In what feels like the most probable outcome, the Bulls could move Porter at the deadline next season. While his contract may be a bit hefty, it’s an expiring deal that several contenders would probably feel more than comfortable taking over if he were healthy. What’s even better about this situation is that Porter probably doesn’t even need to be playing that well for the Bulls to get a decent return. Chicago will have all the leverage in these negotiations, and we know how valuable well-rounded, multi-dimensional players can be in the mid-season market (think Robert Covington this past season).
Not to mention, we should be excited about the idea of Arturas Karnisovas having a piece like Porter to play with. Whether it be through a multi-team deal like the Nuggets did this past season or a draft night two-for-one deal, the Bulls new front-office leader has shown that he can get creative and grab assets.
Again, all of this hinges on whether or not Porter can stay on the floor, which we’ve come to learn isn’t a bankable feat. The good news, though, is that if he can finally do that this season, it feels almost impossible that the Bulls don’t come out on top. Either adding wins or adding assets, Porter is in store to help this organization more than he ever has before.