Bobby Portis’ New Role


Bobby Portis is seeing an increase in playing time post trade deadline. With the absence of Taj Gibson, he no longer has to worry about losing minutes, which should allow him to play with more comfort going forward.

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Before the Oklahoma City trade, Bobby Portis struggled to find consistent minutes. And when he did manage to step on the hardwood, he did his best to make the most of his situation. That worked against him most of the time.

Portis has offensive gifts, that’s clear. The problem was every time he was given a small window of opportunity he tried too hard to show off his abilities. Bobby would look to pass as much as a cat looks to jump into a pool. He was focused on getting his shots up because he possibly felt that’s the best way to show his value. He may have thought being a ball mover wasn’t going to earn him run. He was getting up a lot of mid-range shots, rather than stretching the defense by getting more 3-point attempts up. Which is understandable, it’s not a great situation to be in. Though now that he’s getting more consistent minutes, the when and where of his shot selection is improving.

Prior to the All-Star break, 23 percent of Portis’ shots were 3-point attempts. Four games into an extended role (averaging 11 more minutes a game) 35 percent of his shots have come from behind the 3-point line. If Portis can stretch the floor, the starting offense runs a lot better.

Post all-star break, the team is averaging 9.4 more points a game than before the break. The good thing about moving Taj Gibson is allowing Fred Hoiberg to use players that fit better in a modern offense. Portis has been stretching the floor so far in his new role, shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc since Gibson was traded. This should come down a bit, though it’s still a nice sign for the offense. And now that he doesn’t need to be as worried about keeping his minutes, he will achieve more while doing less.

Here’s an example of Bobby trying to do too much.

The second Portis receives the ball the only thing on his mind is getting his shot up. And it goes about as poorly as you can imagine. If Bobby’s focus is on something besides getting himself a look, he might notice an open Doug McDermott across the floor. Instead, Bobby decides to channel his inner Larry Bird. Didn’t work out. Portis is shooting 33.9 percent from the mid-range this season. Mid range shots are a dying art in the NBA, the more he eliminates those in exchange for 3-pointers the better.

In this clip, we see Portis gobble up an offensive board. If this is pre-trade I think Portis tries to go straight back up with the ball. He wouldn’t have been out there with guys like Wade or Butler, and it’d be a good time as any to prove his scoring prowess. Now that he finds himself in this situation while sharing the floor with the starters, he takes time to assess the scenario and smartly kicks the ball out with a fresh shot clock. Portis now has to worry less about producing flashy numbers, and more on not making simple mistakes.

Portis also seems to have the stamp of approval from Hoiberg, the head coach praised Bobby post game. It doesn’t seem like he needs to worry about losing minutes going forward, which should allow the second year big man to play with more comfort.

Portis, as a starter, has the luxury of being a spot up shooter, a better role for the 22-year-old as he eases himself into a more consistent role. On top of his shooting, he’s also been hitting the boards. He’s averaged 7.3 rebounds since the break and grabbed 13 on Thursday night against the Golden State Warriors.

He doesn’t have to worry about losing a big chunk of playing time with Gibson gone. Playing without that pressure is good for him, he will be happy to settle for open looks the starters carve out for him. If Portis settles into his new role more going forward, we should expect a lot more looks like this. Shout out to the soft rim.