Bobby Portis has been one of the Bulls’ best players this preseason, putting up 18.8 points per game on a scorching 56.4 percent shooting. Thanks to his consistent production and Jabari Parker’s awfulness, Portis has even already taken Parker’s spot in the starting lineup.
It’s unclear if Portis will start the regular season as a starter, but he knows he’ll be heading back to the bench when Lauri Markkanen returns from his elbow injury. Portis has embraced the sixth-man role and told 670 The Score Thursday he’s gunning for Sixth Man of the Year.
Adding another layer to Portis’ situation is his potential contract extension. Bulls GM Gar Forman noted at media day that there have been discussions, and Portis discussed the matter Thursday ahead of the Oct. 15 deadline:
Bobby Portis characterizes contract extension talks with the #Bulls as "good talks" and expects that those will continue up until Monday's deadline. If they don't reach a deal, he'll become a restricted free agent next summer.— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) October 11, 2018
Portis is an interesting extension case. He’s coming off a career year and based on his preseason looks ready to take another step. Markkanen’s injury is giving him a bit more time to shine and will continue to until the Bulls’ prized youngster comes back.
However, the Bulls appear to have their starting frontcourt of the future in Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. And while Portis clearly has value, his role on a good team is likely that of sixth man. The Bulls view Portis as a member of the core, but they may not want to lock in an extension for a sixth man at the price he wants, especially with a huge free-agency period approaching in 2019.
Portis’ cap hold for next summer is $7.48 million, and I recently wrote over at Forbes that I’d be totally comfortable with a long-term extension with an annual rate in the vicinity of that number. I’d be fine with something in the $10-12 million range, and maybe slightly higher, though that’s starting to push it.
But given Portis’ improvements and the available money next summer, I have a hunch that won’t do it. So, how much is too much?
Bulls Confidential’s Ryan Borja did a deep dive on the situation, keeping in mind what the Bulls could offer while also keeping open cap space for a max contract. According to Borja’s projection, the Bulls could give Portis a long-term extension worth around $16 million a year and still have max space for any free agent not named Kevin Durant. To make a run at KD, the extension would have to be around $10 million a year.
Borja agrees with me that the Bulls don’t have to rush into an extension with Portis. It’s not the worst thing in the world if he hits restricted free agency with the lower cap hold given the Bulls can match any offer. It will give the team more time to evaluate the situation this season, and there could also be trade possibilities that open up between now and next summer.
Borja settles at a three-year, $30.3 million deal as his hypothetical offer to Portis, an amount that would give them space for a run at Durant. As I said, I would be willing to offer a little higher (partially because I don’t think KD is coming to Chicago), and either way there’s no real rush. If the Bulls want to have true max cap space, they can wait this out and decide on Portis’ future down the road.