Portis a jack of all trades; can his passion allow him to become a master of any?

(Editor's note: Pistons.com continues its NBA draft preview series with a look at one of the candidates to be taken with their lottery pick at No. 8, Bobby Portis of Arkansas. Coming Monday: A look at Kentucky's Trey Lyles.)

By Keith Langlois

There's a lot to like about Bobby Portis. Is there anything to love? That might ultimately determine whether the Arkansas sophomore power forward becomes a serious candidate to be taken with the eighth pick by the Pistons.

Portis has prototypical size for an NBA power forward, measuring 6-foot-10½ and weighing 246 pounds at the draft combine held earlier this month in Chicago. He has a sturdy frame that any NBA strength coach will envision refining as the 20-year-old Portis matures. He has nimble feet that allow him to guard in the backcourt and from sideline to sideline. His shot isn't a thing of beauty, but it's effective out to the college 3-point line already.

Name: Bobby Portis Position: Power forward Size: 6-10½, 246 Born: Feb. 10, 1995 NBA Player Comp: David West before he developed a sophisticated post scoring array; Patrick Patterson before he extended his shooting range to the NBA 3-point arc Draft rank: 18 on DraftExpress.com; 16 on ESPN.com; 5 at power forward on NBA.com

And as much as Stan Van Gundy surely will appreciate all of those things, what he'll unquestionably find among Portis' best attributes is his motor. The kid plays hard, everybody says, whistle to whistle. Some players find their way into the lottery by virtue of their sheer raw ability. Portis might work his way into the lottery by virtue of his raw passion for the game. If he fails, it isn't likely to be because he didn't put enough into it.

"I bring a physicality to the game that I don't think most players bring," he said. "I bring a passion and I bring intensity to my teammates and make them better."

Portis put up All-American level numbers as an Arkansas sophomore, averaging 17.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots a game. Portis was the No. 15 ranked prospect nationally coming out of his Little Rock high school in 2013 as a McDonald's All-American. He played to that billing, too, stepping immediately into the starting lineup and averaging nearly 30 minutes a game as a Razorbacks freshman.

Stan Van Gundy and Jeff Bower haven't left any doubt that they're fixated on getting the best player at No. 8 and not on plugging any holes they perceive in the roster. So even though Greg Monroe's pending free agency leaves the Pistons with a potentially gaping hole at power forward, Portis only becomes a viable candidate to be their lottery pick if he convinces them he's the best player, not merely the best Monroe plug-in.

But Portis – compared by some to a young Monroe – feels he'd fit well next to Andre Drummond, he said in Chicago. And he turns around the rap that he doesn't exceed at anything in particular by contending that his versatility will allow him to be an asset in any number of lineup configurations.

"I believe I can play with anyone," he said. "I can complement players well. I can make my teammates better."

And Portis said he heard plenty of that in his round of interviews with teams while at the combine.

"They said they liked my versatility," Portis said. "I'm not just a power forward – I'm a basketball player. They like that. Once I step on the court, I'm not consumed by just posting up or I'm not consumed by just shooting jumpers. They like other things out there on the basketball court."

Portis doesn't have nearly the sophisticated back-to-the-basket game Monroe developed over five NBA seasons, but his first-step quickness and nimble footwork give him the foundation to develop one. He's not an explosive leaper, but that quickness combined with his powerful frame gave him more than enough on the college level to carve out the space to get shots around the rim. Just as Monroe needed to figure out how to do that at the NBA level, Portis, too, will have to adjust to the greater size and reach of NBA defenders to continue to be an effective scorer near the rim.

On the other hand, he'll come to the NBA with a greater comfort level as a mid-range scorer than Monroe – or most college big men, for that matter. Portis shot well from outside the paint at Arkansas and even from the 3-point line – 46.7 percent as a sophomore – in limited chances, taking about one a game.

Portis would continue to give the Pistons very good offensive rebounding, as Monroe has done, and combine with Drummond – the NBA's very best offensive rebounder – to provide more second scoring chances than the vast majority of opponents.

He also projects as a good pick-and-roll defender, an area Van Gundy said as his first Pistons season ended must improve in his second. That footwork, the speed and the effort Portis pours into every possession would make him a candidate to win significant minutes as an NBA rookie, perhaps even challenge for a starting spot.

The question Van Gundy, Bower and their scouting staff will ponder is how high Portis' ceiling projects to be. It might not be completely accurate to say Portis' versatility works against him on that point, but the lack of a calling card might. If scouts saw one shining trait in Portis – a devastating low-post move, for instance, or dominant defensive rebounding – then the passing grades across the board would make him a fool-proof pick.

Put another way, it might not be enough for Portis to push his way into the top 10 if the best he can offer is a player who doesn't put his team in regular matchup disadvantages. At some point, a lottery pick is supposed to create matching advantages for his team – at one end of the floor or the other.

But there's a long list of players who, armed with Portis' passion for the game, developed their calling card once they arrived in the NBA, where the luxury of devoting full attention to basketball under the direction of coaches without recruiting duties and a fully outfitted training staff allow potential to flower.

In at least one person's mind, that's Bobby Portis' future.

"In 18, 19 years, when you look at the players in this draft," Portis said in Chicago, "They're going to say that Bobby Portis was the best player in the draft."