Bobby Portis is taking the preseason by storm. Actually, storm might be too strong a word. The Chicago Bull is taking the preseason by inclement weather, and the rookie is making enough of an impression that it’s worth contemplating shopping around Taj Gibson to see what’s available.
Through five preseason contests, Portis is averaging 12.2 points, 10.4 boards and 1.0 blocks in 24.9 minutes per game. The only player with more total rebounds than Portis’s 52 is the Detroit Pistons’ mega-boarder, Andre Drummond.
And the only Bull who’s outscored Portis is Doug McDermott. Based on stats at NBA.com, the Bulls’ offense has scored 2.5 more points per 100 possessions with Portis on the court, and their defensive rating is 4.1 points better as well.
Yeah, sure, “it’s just preseason,” but Portis is also just a rookie getting his first exposure to NBA action, and it’s hard to deny that the 20-year-old, No. 22 pick is exceeding expectations. He’s playing well enough to continue getting minutes into the regular season.
And head coach Fred Hoiberg is fully aware, per K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Hoiberg on Portis' play making rotation decisions difficult: "He is making it hard."
— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) October 13, 2015
And that’s a problem because the Bulls’ frontcourt is stacked. Future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol and former Defensive Player of the Year and First Team All-NBA center Joakim Noah are both ahead of him on the depth chart.
One of the more promising up-and-coming European players in Nikola Mirotic also stands to be gaining a ton of minutes. And Taj Gibson, who nearly won the Sixth Man of the Year award in 2014-15, is also ahead of Portis in the pecking order.
So how do you find minutes for a guy who so clearly has earned them? The best answer is to trade one of the aforementioned players. As thick as the Bulls are at the 4 and the 5, they need a certified 3-and-D guy to help on the wings, with their only proven two-way commodity there being Jimmy Butler.
Tony Snell can defend. McDermott can shoot the rock, as demonstrated by the 16 triples he’s netted this preseason — an NBA high. And he’s knocked them down at an impressive 43.2 percent. Though, while McDermott’s defense doesn’t lack for effort, it does for impact. And while he’s shown improvement in at least understanding where he is and what he’s doing, he still has a ways to go before he’s even hideable on that end of the court.
So why not shop around from a position of strength to fill in a position of weakness? Gibson is probably the most attractive trade bait they have. His contract is quite reasonable, he contributes on both ends, and he’d bring leadership to a young team.
The problem is that the Bulls aren’t the only team looking for two-way swingmen. With the elevation of small ball to the big stage, the price is going up, up, up on such players.
So Gibson’s return might not be what it would be if they’d traded him only a year ago. It’s a capitalism thing. There are, however, some buy-low candidates who might be interested in a Gibson swap.
Rumors are that the Orlando Magic are shopping stretch 4 Channing Frye. The Bulls could take him and Evan Fournier back. The defensive-minded Scott Skiles wouldn’t mind having a proven defender in the fold, and Gibson would be able to serve as a capable mentor for future star, Aaron Gordon.
Frye wouldn’t exactly help alleviate the clogging in the frontcourt, but his 38.6 percent three-point shooting fits Fred Hoiberg’s style better than Gibson’s. He’s not great by any means, but as a stretch 4 in a fast-paced system he might not be completely vomit-inducing. And while he’s owed another $23 million-plus over the next three years, once the new TV deal kicks in, that’s not an egregious amount of money.
And yes, the defense is a concern, but it’s not like Frye is the big return in the trade. He’s the ballast to make it work.
Fournier, a 6’7” shooting guard who has Manu Ginobili characteristics, would fit very well alongside Jimmy Butler. He’s not elite on either end, but he’s a better offensive player than Snell and a superior defender to McDermott.
Sadly, that might be about the best type of deal the Bulls can find. Wings who can be traded for are about as rare as teams looking to acquire power forwards with limited range. Finding a trading partner might be more difficult than it sounds.
Be that as it may, at the very least, Portis is giving the Bulls reason to make some phone calls. If you have your own fake trade proposal, feel free to drop it in the comments section.