Despite the blow out loss, Bobby Portis was named the player of the game

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 01: Bobby Portis
CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 01: Bobby Portis /

The Chicago Bulls got ran off the floor against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday night, but one player stood out to salvage an otherwise terrible performance.

Whether you’re rooting for the Chicago Bulls to lose so they can secure a higher draft pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, or rooting for them to win because losing kind of stinks, there’s no denying that close, competitive games are so much more fun to watch. Saturday night’s 125-86 loss to the Indiana Pacers was neither close, competitive, or fun.

So in a game where there weren’t really many highlights, it becomes particularly difficult to select a player of the game. Despite that, I’ll settle on Bobby Portis, as he seemed to do the least to harm the Bulls.

This is supported by his team leading plus/minus of -11 (ha!). Portis led the Bulls with 15 points off the bench. He shot 4-7 from the floor, 1-2 from deep, and 6-7 from the free throw line. He grabbed 4 rebounds, and dished 2 assists. What’s particularly interesting, though, is that he blocked a career high 3 shots.

Portis, despite being 6’11”, has never really been much of a shot-blocker. At least in the NBA; he averaged 1.5 blocks per game in his two seasons at Arkansas. The Razorbacks were also at their best defensively when Portis was on the floor.

In the NBA, none of that has translated. While I think Portis has the tools to ultimately be a switchy center, he has been awful as a rim-protector, and the Bulls have consistently bled points with him on the floor. He had blocked just 40 shots in his 156 NBA games coming into Saturday’s game.

In 12 November games this season, that was the case. With Portis on the floor, the Bulls gave up over 116 points per 100 possessions, per, a remarkably awful number. In the 20 games since, the Bulls have given up 106.9 points per 100 possessions. That number becomes 101.6 with Portis on the floor, a team-best mark.

Plus/minus can be a dangerous statistic when given without context. Portis plays almost all of his minutes with David Nwaba, who might be the Bulls’ best defensive player. However, the rest of the players around Portis, Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, and Nikola Mirotic, are all probably minus defenders, save Grant. So Portis might deserve some credit here.

He’s been great on the offensive end all season. He scores efficiently from everywhere, and his versatility makes him a difficult guard for most opposing centers. Just look at this euro-step from Saturday’s game:

The Bulls also grab over 22 percent of their misses with Portis on the floor, another team-best mark. He’s contributed consistently in many ways.

I don’t think Portis has suddenly become some kind of defensive mastermind. But he’s making progress, and if he can become just average on that side of the court, he becomes an extremely useful player. I’m picturing a more versatile, more playable Greg Monroe.

That might not excite some people, and that’s fine. Keep in mind, though, that some people were willing to trade Portis for a bag of baseballs after he punched Niko Mirotic in the face. At least now we can label him with the elusive NBA adjective: interesting.