The Chicago Bulls made a substantive move ahead of the trade deadline that actually may have made this team better immediately. Preserve this one in amber and frame it on the wall because who knows when this will happen again.
Late Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Bulls swapped Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker, and a protected 2023 second-round pick for 25-year-old 3-and-D forward Otto Porter Jr. With Portis out of the Windy City, Cristiano Felicio takes sole possession of the longest tenured player on the team title (he’s in his fourth season in red and black).
Is Porter the right fit for the Bulls? Well, how could we know when we don’t know what the Bulls are trying to accomplish? There have been some vague yet impassioned declarations about winning from John Paxson, but it feels like a smokescreen given the team that was put together this year and the ensuing results — injuries or not.
What do other analysts think?
Zach Lowe provided a lede for this work by colleague Kevin Pelton : Porter is useful as a complementary piece on a good team, but isn’t good enough to lift a bad team into relevance.
Here’s Pelton elaborating....
As for the right situation, I don’t think that’s Chicago. Porter is a solid complementary piece, a capable defender who scores with high efficiency in a limited role. He’s a career 39 percent 3-point shooter who made better than 43percent of his attempts each of the previous two seasons before dipping to 37 percent so far in 2018-19. There’s little question, it’s true, that the Bulls could use a player such as that alongside Zach LaVine on the wing. Porter is a vastly superior fit to Parker.
The issue is that Porter isn’t good enough to lift a bad team such as Chicago into competitiveness. Acquiring him will work out only if the Bulls’ young talent develops enough over the next two seasons to put him in the right context. In particular, Chicago needs to find a point guard of the future, with Kris Dunn failing to seize that mantle this season.
Finding a solid 3-and-D guy who complements the skills of your two best players has to count for something, right?
Porter’s lack of ball dominance and defensive versatility will be very helpful when squeezed between the shot-happy duo of Zach LaVine and Lauri Markannen. With such a dismal collection of talent, Chicago was not prepared to compete for first-tier or second-tier free agents this summer. Porter’s arrival, then, counts as an early “signing” that didn’t cost them a blue-chip draft pick or a player of consequence.
Golliver overtly acknowledges that the Bulls weren’t confident enough they could land an impact free agent this summer, so they proactively pursued one via trade. Even if this trade turns out to be a great one down the line, the factors that prompted the timing are damning to the organization and should upset fans to no end to be honest.
That means nearly 45 percent of the Bulls’ salary cap next season is locked up in LaVine and Porter. That sounds like an awful lot of confidence in LaVine continuing to progress and Porter bouncing back.
Well if you put it like that...
In addition to all that money the Bulls now have invested into two non-elite wing players, Harper questions whether the change in scenery will lead to a more efficient version of Otto Porter Jr. who has experienced a reduction in both efficiency and production this season compared to his last two.
But there also isn’t reason to believe that a change of scenery to Chicago, sans a real point guard to run the system (whatever Jim Boylen’s system is), will bring about a return to high efficiency for Porter. Even if it’s just a short-term investment of two years for the Bulls at big money, I don’t fully see Chicago being in a better position on the court with a higher commitment to paying big money to both wings.
Over at the Ringer, Chau examines the trade under the lens of whether the player the Bulls received in the trade is an upgrade to the player(s) they had to give up.
What Porter does represent, however, is a functional puzzle piece that the Bulls can count on as they begin the process of establishing their core. He is already everything the Bulls had gotten out of Parker this season—but without the delusions of grandeur. Given Parker’s short but exorbitant contract, the Bulls essentially paid an extra $6 million this season to find a long-term upgrade over Parker, whose lousy defense and anti-spacing created more roadblocks for a young Chicago team in desperate need of structure. Porter may not be living up to his contract, but he’s exactly the type of player every team needs. He’ll be the glue guy in waiting should the Bulls finally find a star to build around.
Porter has over $53 million owed to him over the next two seasons.
That’s more than Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Giannis Antetokounmpo, With great money comes great responsibility and if Porter Jr. is even half as valuable as his contract says he is, the Bulls may have been able to do better in this trade.
Porter doesn’t have to be perfect in Chicago. He just needs to live up to his contract, a not-so-easy ask for a role player joining a Bulls team stuck in rebuilding mode.
What the Bulls did Wednesday night was add a complementary piece at a centerpiece price. Worst of all, they got used by the Wizards for a salary dump while not only failing to get any sort of draft-pick compensation, but they also sent out a pick — to an Eastern Conference rival that historically gets fleeced in the trade market.
Porter is the best player in the deal, which in and of itself is a coup for the Bulls. But they had all the leverage in talks with the Wizards, who desperately needed to shed money to save face and coin on their tax bill in what’s become a lost season, and walked away with only one questionable asset.