NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Otto Porter Jr.
11.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 SPG | 44.3% FG, 38.7% 3P, 70.4% FT | 20.1% USG (14 G)
July 2017: Signed 4-year, $106.5 million with Washington Wizards (player option on fourth year; ext. eligible Oct. 18)
2020-21: $28,489,238 (player option)* | 2021-22: UFA
*Player option deadline Oct. 17
Porter remains, on paper, just about the optimal player to slot into the Bulls’ current core starting lineup. A versatile wing defender capable of checking 1-4, marksman of an outside shooter and effective slasher, the theoretical vision of him is the ideal low-usage, high-efficiency, dirty-work small forward to run alongside Zach LaVine, Coby White and Lauri Markkanen.
Just how good a shooter is Porter? Since 2016-17, he’s one of eight NBA players to break 40% from 3-point range (min. four attempts per game), 50% from 2-point range and 80% from the foul line while appearing in at least 200 games. And he's an assassin from the corners: In that same timespan, Porter has made a gaudy 43.1% of 290 corner 3-point looks. The Bulls' long-ball-heavy system (which ranked 11th in the NBA in corner 3 frequency, garbage time excluded, per Cleaning the Glass) would have undoubtedly looked better — maybe not pristine, but better — had their most proven outside shooter been available, especially considering Kris Dunn and Chandler Hutchison were his primary replacements.
That’s not to say Porter is the answer to all of the Bulls ails. He stumbled out of the gate this year as much as anyone, and the team was just 3-6 when he went down on Nov. 6 with a foot injury that caused him to miss 52 straight contests. And all of the above is, of course, still theoretical. But a return to form for him in 2020-21 could mean elite-level floor spacing and a defensive linchpin at the Bulls’ thinnest position.
Areas to Improve
But the question burns, after nearly missing all of 2019-20: How closely will Porter resemble the above player when the Bulls next suit up — that is, assuming he picks up his roughly $28.5 million player option for 2020-21 (we’ll call that a safe assumption). Remember: Porter's 2018-19 campaign was also cut short by a shoulder ailment, meaning he’s appeared in just 29 of a possible 93 games for the Bulls since being acquired from the Wizards at last season's trade deadline. He's flashed impactfulness in those 29 games, but availability is an ability, and his Bulls tenure has been a disappointment in that department.
You could also knit pick his playmaking — Porter’s never averaged more than two assists per game over a full season — but, ideally, he’d never need to be more than a secondary or tertiary creator given the team's construction. It feels odd to list it as an area for improvement, but the best way Porter can go about helping the Bulls next season is by simply staying on the floor, and proving his time sidelined didn’t dull the strengths of his game.
It’s not outlandish to say the best version of Porter is the Bulls’ missing piece. No, not to championship contention — or even second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs contention — but certainly towards playing more put-together basketball and making some noise in the lower range of the Eastern Conference playoff picture. He should still be capable of being a complementary starter, the quintessential 3-and-D wing, on any number of good-to-great teams in the league if/when he's healthy.