The Bobby Portis-Nikola Mirotic Duo Could Be Great for Bulls in 2016

Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) looks for a teammate to pass to during an NBA Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Thomas & Mack Center. Chicago won the game 83-70. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis (5) looks for a teammate to pass to during an NBA Summer League game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Thomas & Mack Center. Chicago won the game 83-70. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports /

The talk of the summer for the Chicago Bulls has been the signings of Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. The key factors of the Bulls rotation this year could be a pair of draft picks — Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic — of previous summers.

Bringing in Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade to join forces with Jimmy Butler will help round out the Chicago Bulls back court for the 2016-17 season.

While two parts of the Bulls’ newest trio are neither athletic or young these days, the Bulls back court will be a group of savvy, slashing veteran guards with the ability finish at the rim. Baring injury, the Bulls know what they will get from their back court.

When you look at the big picture, there are two other players with the most pressure to succeed: sophomore forward Bobby Portis and third-year forward Nikola Mirotic. If we assume that Gibson will be the Bulls’ staring power forward next to Lopez, both Portis and Mirotic will be fighting for minutes as the Bulls’ sixth man.

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But, with the Bulls’ new back court, the team will need an offensive skill set that someone like Taj Gibson simply can’t provide: athleticism and shooting, which is where Portis and Mirotic can play a key role for the Bulls this season.

Portis is the definition of young and athletic. It didn’t take long for Portis to shine as a rookie in Chicago and if his Las Vegas Summer League performances is any indication of his progress as a player, then the Bulls could have their next franchise big man for years to come. Portis has been arguably the Bulls best player in this year’s summer session in Vegas. He averaged 14.3 points and 10 rebounds in the Bulls’ three wins so far.

As expected, he has looked quick and strong when finishing around the basket and maybe most importantly for the Bulls, he looks comfortable shooting the ball from the perimeter and has shown the ability to shoot the midrange jumper and the three-point shot this summer with some accuracy. It’s great to see Portis has continued to develop his range, but for now, his main strength is his energy and ability to run the floor.

The shooting that the Bulls will certainly need will need to come from Nikola Mirotic.

Sometimes, it’s hard to understand why Mirotic chooses to stand 3-5 feet behind the three-point arc before receiving passes and it’s even more frustrating watching him pump fake on wide open threes. All of that is usually followed by Mirotic shooting a more contested shot.

Nevertheless, when Mirotic is hot from distance, he is a tough cover. Mirotic is more of a versatile player than most people recognize. During his rookie year he played more in the post than he did last season under Hoiberg and that’s part of his game that the Bulls can hopefully tap into this upcoming season. His bread and butter in the NBA is still his ability to stretch the floor with his shooting ability from distance (along with his pump fake-and-lean in move to draw a foul from his defender that continues to fool NBA refs every night).

Last season, he averaged around five threes a game and he connected on roughly 40 percent of those shots. With Rondo’s on-court vision and the constant sagging defense that teams are likely to play against Rondo, Wade and Butler, Mirotic will likely have some good looks from the perimeter to hit shots.

If there ever was a chance for Mirotic to shine while playing with three potential All-Stars, this will be his time.

Whether you think Rondo is a chemistry-destroying, ticking time bomb or a NBA star ready to rejuvenate his career, Rondo will be good for a double-double and a few steals a night. The same goes for Wade. Wade doesn’t take the regular season as seriously as other younger and less proven players, but even at 34 years old, he will remain productive and close to his 2015-16 regular season productivity levels of 19 points, four rebounds and four assists a night.

Butler is a bit of a wild card since it is still to be seen if he can continue to improve and truly become an NBA superstar. He needs to add more range and consistency to his jump shot, but at the very least and without any offseason improvement, he can be penciled in for roughly 20 points, 4-6 rebounds and some lockdown defense on a nightly basis with some of the scoring load taken off his shoulders.

Also up front, the Bulls know what Taj Gibson and Robin Lopez will bring to the team.  Both players bring a tough defensive mentality and both have the ability to score when given the ball in the right position.

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Gibson has always been a consistent player for the Bulls and his minutes this season will likely remain close to the 26.5 per game that he played last season under Fred Hoiberg.

Players like Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Cristiano Felicio, and Denzel Valentine all could help play important minutes for the Bulls this season, but none of these players will be entering the season with same kind of pressure that Portis and Mirotic face to provide help to the previously mentioned trio of Rondo, Wade and Butler.

Until the Bulls hit the floor for their first preseason game in October, we won’t know how Hoiberg decides to split up the minutes between his front court players, but if all goes well, the Bulls should be able to surprise some teams with their youth up front.