When the Bulls selected Bobby Portis with the No. 22 overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, I pleaded for patience. The Bulls had an obvious need in the backcourt and could also have used another wing, but the selection of Portis was never about the present.
With Joakim Noah, Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic already entrenched in the front court and fighting for playing time, it didn't seem like there would be much of an opportunity for the 6'11 Portis in his rookie season. But while it's dangerous to draw too many conclusions from preseason games, the initial returns on Portis have already been so impressive that he may be forcing his way into a role this season after all.
In his fourth preseason game against the Pelicans on Monday night, Portis played his best game yet. He dropped 20 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots. His per-36 minute numbers right now: 17.5 points, 17.1 rebounds, 6.6 offensive rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game.
The first thing that really stands out for Portis is his energy. He runs the floor hard every play, he's been tenacious on the offensive glass and he doesn't seem to share any of the same rookie jitters that plagued Doug McDermott throughout last season.
His jump-shooting has left an even bigger impression. Anyone who watched Portis as he won SEC Player of the Year last season at Arkansas knew he had a nice stroke, but the NBA line has intimidated more accomplished shooters. Yes, Portis hit 46.7 percent of his threes last year in college, but he only attempted 30 all season. That's why the ability he's shown thus far to take and make NBA threes from anywhere on the court has been so impressive.
Portis hit both of his three-pointers on Monday, with each coming above the break. He's now made 3-of-7 attempts from downtown through four games.
There's still no need to rush Portis. He's 20 years old, and his time will come eventually. Noah, Gasol and Gibson won't end up playing all 82 games. Portis will get on the court one way or another, and he's already shown he has the size and skill set to be a contributor.
Portis was never supposed to be around at No. 22, and the Bulls should consider themselves extremely fortunate that he was. This very well could be your center of the future, and the next in the long line of late Bulls draft picks to come in and make an impact. It's obviously early, but Bobby Portis has been that good already.