Bobby Portis isn't a good NBA player yet. He struggles defending one-on-one and often looks lost in general on defense. He takes too many jumpers and at times appears to be working under the assumption that passing is forbidden.
That said, 21-year-old rookies aren't supposed to be good NBA players, especially not when drafted No. 22 overall. It's too easy to poke holes in a rookie's game. As the Chicago Bulls and all of us consider Portis' future, it's much more important to appreciate the hyper-aggression and reckless abandon with which Portis plays. The dude is simply trying to make something happen all the time. It doesn't always lead to the best or prettiest of results, but a rookie shouldn't be scared. Portis clearly isn't.
Sometimes, that maniacal effort manifests itself when hitting the offensive glass. Other times, it comes when he tries bullying a smaller defender in the post. He's constantly trying to go straight to the rim, where he's shown a deft touch this year (61 percent shooting in the restricted area, according to NBA.com)
Of course, insisting on making a play every single time the ball arrives is not always the best move for a team. Portis often appears comically allergic to passing and runs around like a headless chicken within the Bulls' offensive sets.
Bobby Portis looking for his shot. pic.twitter.com/NYmcfdGgZ2— jon greenberg (@jon_greenberg) March 3, 2016
Portis has assisted on just seven percent of the Bulls' made shots while he was on the floor, one of the lowest marks in the league. He rarely dishes the ball out of the post, a major reason why so many of his opportunities down low end with him forcing up contested shots in a crowd.
Almost every other big men would have shattered ankles after that play. Yet Portis was able to match Irving step for step, wall him off multiple times and eventually force a tough shot.
Those glimpses are why the Bulls have to be thrilled with the player that fell to them in the draft. Portis is the rare late first-round pick with both lottery skills and motor. He hasn't yet learned how to harness all that potential, but the variety of skills Portis has already shown are rarely seen in 6'11, 230-pound big men. They're also the kind of attributes that executives constantly covet as the NBA continues to evolve.
How many power forwards could jump a passing lane, create a deflection and then take the ball coast-to-coast and finish with a slam?
How many 21-year-old big men can consistently knock down three-pointers off pick-and-pops to help spread the floor?
Portis connected on 47 percent of his deep attempts last season at Arkansas and has already proven himself a capable NBA three-point shooter. He's 12-of-35 on the year, and a majority of those makes come from the top of the key, a gold mine for big men that run pick-and-pop.
Mold all this together, and the Bulls have a near-seven-footer who could one day provide consistent spacing on offense and allow the Bulls to switch every pick-and-roll, a strategy the Golden State Warriors rode to a title last season.
The Bulls entered the season hoping they could mold the tough, defensive-minded backbone of outgoing coach Tom Thibodeau with the fast-paced, open offense of new coach Fred Hoiberg. That hasn't worked out and has led to a frustrating season.
In Portis, though, the Bulls have a player with the skills to fit Hoiberg's scheme and the demeanor Thibodeau would have loved. He has the potential to grow into the exact player the Bulls need. Along with Jimmy Butler, Portis could keep Chicago in contention for years to come.
For now, though, Portis is a ball of energy that runs around the floor as if his shoes are on fire. Sometimes, the results are ugly. Sometimes, they make you shake your head. But they always catch your attention.