No need to beware of Razorbacks bearing gifts, except perhaps if you’re the Bulls opposition.
Wearing a dark suit with a red bow tie, a red Bulls baseball cap and delivering three boxes of doughnuts (the traditional morning duty for rookies), Bulls first round draft pick Bobby Portis Monday announced his arrival in Chicago, both symbolic and hopeful.
“I’ve always been a guy who plays with a lot of passion because I feel as a kid I wasn’t the most talented and I didn’t have some of the skills other players had,” the U. of Arkansas’ Portis said. “So I had to find something that would make me a good basketball player. I channeled that into me trying to play as hard as I can and have that passion on the court, and I feel my passion uplifts my teammates. I make my teammates play hard like I do. I think that is something I can bring instantly, me playing hard and making everyone else play hard. I really got that from my mom (who was a star junior college basketball player), be that garbage man; even if I don’t get the ball, go get it off the offensive glass and put it back in.
“I feel like I don’t have a position,” said the 6-11, 245 pounder. “I feel like I’m a basketball player. I do the things the coach asks me to do, whether playing power forward or center. I bring a lot of different things to a basketball team whether blocking shots or rebounding, defending or scoring. I’m a combo power forward/center. I just try to do the things I am capable of. It’s going to be cool to be here for the next 12, 13 years.”
And so Portis was lucky—the Bulls hope—No. 13, the 22nd pick in the NBA draft, though perhaps the 13th player on the Bulls roster for this season. The Bulls Monday also announced guard Kirk Hinrich had picked up his player option for next season at about $2.9 million.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman, accompanying Portis to meet reporters along with coach Fred Hoiberg, indicated the Bulls would try to bring back free agent small forward Mike Dunleavy and will have Jimmy Butler for at least one more season.
The Bulls Monday as required before the July 1 free agency date extended Butler a qualifying offer to retain his rights and a maximum qualifying offer to guarantee at least a three-year deal if Butler were to pursue a restricted free agency offer sheet from another team.
Once free agency officially begins later this week, Butler and the Bulls can agree to a contract up to five years. Butler can sign the qualifying offer for one year and then become an unrestricted free agent after next season, free to choose any team. He can solicit an offer sheet, which by the Bulls making a maximum qualifying offer would be a minimum of three years for about $50 million. There would be no player opt out. So if Butler were to pursue an offer sheet from another team, the Bulls have given every indication that would match (there are no circumstances in which a front loaded or back loaded deal would preclude the Bulls from matching) and Butler then would have a minimum three-year deal with the Bulls. Butler can also sign a maximum deal with the Bulls up to five years for about $90 million to $100 million.
The question for now is not likely whether Butler will return to the Bulls, but for how long. The Bulls are not believed to be entertaining any sign and trade plans regarding Butler.
It’s possible for now, like with any free agent, Butler could prefer to play elsewhere. That’s his right under bargaining agreed to by the players and the NBA and he deserves to explore than option if he would prefer. The players earned those rights. Some of the other top free agents this summer include LaMarcus Aldridge, DeAndre Jordan, Arron Afflalo, Brook Lopez, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, David West, Goran Dragic, Kevin Love, Dwyane Wade, Greg Monroe and even LeBron James. There are restricted free agents like Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Draymond Green, Tristan Thompson and Khris Middleton, who are expected to either resign or have offers matched as with Butler. The Spurs also are expected to deliver a maximum offer sheet to Leonard. The aforementioned are among dozens of free agents, though the biggest name, James, is expected to resign with the Cavaliers.
James’ decision seems financial based on future salary cap increases. Many expect James to sign one year deals each summer for the next few years. The early speculation among the big name free agents is that many of the top players, like Love, Wade and Gasol, will resign with their teams. Monroe seems certain to move along with Afflalo and perhaps Aldridge, who hasn’t committed to free agency yet.
For the Bulls, it apparently will be a free agency period without substantial drama except for the length of Butler’s commitment. Only if Butler has a desire to remain a free agent next summer would that limit him to one year with the Bulls. But it would be another substantial risk for Butler to play for less than $5 million when he could have signed for close to $100 million. Last fall, Butler rejected a Bulls offer estimated at $44 million. He played for $2 million for the right to be a free agent and became an All-Star and league Most Improved. Butler has said before he likes betting on himself.
Butler’s role is likely to change somewhat with the Bulls this season under new coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg has talked about extending the playing rotation and reducing playing time throughout the regular season, which could produce decreased scoring totals. Also, former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau last season decided to change his offense to run more through Butler and Pau Gasol because of playing time limitations for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Some scouts who regularly followed the Bulls say Thibodeau called up the majority of the team’s plays for Butler.
If the Bulls are able to resign Dunleavy, who has indicated he wants to return, that would give them 13 players on the roster with E’Twaun Moore and Cameron Bairstow. Both are expected to return since they have small guarantees for next season. Plus, Moore can play point guard, which is the team’s greatest need for a backup. The Bulls if they sign Dunleavy probably will add one free agent from a pool of dozens of free agent players. The player the Bulls add likely will be a low salaried veteran like Aaron Brooks and Nate Robinson from previous seasons.
Would Rajon Rondo take $2 million? Nah. But you could make a list with the likes of players like Jeremy Lin, Will Bynum, J.J. Berea, Patrick Beverley, Leandro Barbosa, Ronnie Price, Kyle Singler, Willie Green, Cory Joseph, C.J. Watson, Jameer Nelson, Mo Williams, Gary Neal and Andre Miller.
“We’re happy Kirk picked up his option,” said Forman. “We feel he’s a very valuable piece to our team. In general, we have talked that we don’t have the same type of flexibility (as in previous years for free agents). A lot of our improvement will have to be internal.
The most important pieces of our summer are retaining some of the guys we had, obviously Jimmy Butler. We’re going to talk to Mike Dunleavy and would like to bring him back. Bring Bobby into the fold. After that there won’t be a lot of flexibility; we’ll have another spot or two to fill, but not a lot of money to do anything on a major scale.”
A team can always use talent, but the Bulls are in a relatively formidable position heading into next season. So much so that a talented rookie like Portis likely will not be needed much with Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Nikola Mirotic in the front court. But that’s an advantage for the Bulls as it’s difficult to find talented, young big men, especially without high draft picks. Obtaining Portis with the No. 22 pick is viewed by most around the NBA as one of the early wins in the draft.
Portis Monday, accompanied by his mother and college coach Mike Anderson, was awash in “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” in answer to questions. The 20-year-old from Little Rock, Ark. demonstrated a confidence that should serve him well in his NBA apprenticeship.
Bringing doughnuts didn’t hurt, either.
“I’m still in a shock I’m a Chicago Bull,” Portis admitted after acknowledging he stopped working out for teams with picks lower than Washington at 19.
“Being Bobby Portis and the guy I am, being a blue collar guy, that glue guy that does all the hard things, whether rebound or dive on the floor and doing small things, I’m a guy who (prospers) on hard work,” Portis said. “I’ve never been the guy that goes outside my boundaries and does the things I can’t do. I do the things Bobby Portis does well and that’s what I am going to continue to do.
“I feel if I come in and do the things I do well and work as hard as I can day by day and progress I will get the minutes I deserve,” Portis said. “I’ve always been a guy who has outworked everyone.”
Noah with a jump shot?
“Hard work has gotten me here,” Portis said.
Though there’s a backup at the forward and center positions, injuries occur as we know with the Bulls. And talent rises. Hoiberg said he will keep an open mind as to playing time and anyone can earn minutes.
Hoiberg noted Arkansas played a lot of switching defenses with Portis defending guards in pick and roll, which has been a strength of the Bulls defenses under Thibodeau. Anderson said it wasn’t uncommon for Portis, who started playing as a guard before a growth spurt, to grab a rebound Noah style, dribble full court and drop the ball off for a dunk.
Portis shot 53 percent in his two seasons overall and 47 percent last season on threes with about one per game. He hit 74 percent on free throws.
“He shoots at a high rate, good going to the glass,” said Hoiberg. “He does so many things and that’s what we were so excited about; he is a basketball player. And those are the kinds of guys we like in our system.”
Plus, Portis wasn’t the least bit concerned about waiting his turn. He said it’s been his life story, rarely being the guy everyone wanted in even the pickup games but eventually exceeding everyone’s expectations.
“Most players don’t get this opportunity to learn from veterans,” noted Portis. “They are thrown into the fire right off. I’m glad I’m not thrown into the fire and can learn a little bit and grow as a player. As a kid, I wanted to be that kid others could look up to, my brothers could look up to. Now I have to run with it and make myself a better basketball player so kids back home can look up to someone.”
Portis showed values in many respects other than the gift of sweets.
“I don’t have any individual goals,” he said. “I’m always a team guy. I’m not spender. If I spend $10 on a sandwich, I’m going to go back in my bank account and see how much money I’ve got left. But I will give my mom something special because she deserves it. She worked hard to provide for me and my three little brothers. She got off from work and took me to practice, after high school to another practice. So I owe her a lot.”
The Bulls believe they got themselves a good one.