Otto Porter Jr. Smoothly Fitting In With Bulls

Porter had a career-high 37 points in Chicago's win Wednesday.

Cody Westerlund
February 13, 2019 - 10:54 pm
Bulls forward Otto Porter Jr.

Kamil Krzaczynski/USA Today Sports

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CHICAGO (670 The Score) – Leaning back in his swivel chair at his locker, Lauri Markkanen smiled and glanced to his left, where new Bulls teammate Otto Porter Jr. sat, going through his postgame cool-down and recovery session.

“He’s pretty easy to play with,” Markkanen said before deadpanning. “Can’t complain.”

Markkanen has discovered that in short order since Porter was acquired by Chicago from Washington the eve before the trade deadline passed last week. Porter’s fit has been smooth and was highlighted by a career-high 37-point, 10-rebound performance in the Bulls’ 122-110 win against the Grizzlies at the United Center on Wednesday night, a victory that snapped Chicago’s franchise-record 11-game home losing streak.

Porter shot a sparkling 16-of-20 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from 3-point range.

“He’s a winner,” coach Jim Boylen said.

Porter is also the Bulls’ starting small forward, but his versatility has already been on display often. He has logged time as the Bulls’ de facto center in small lineups and also initiated the offense in called sets. He can guard multiple positions as well.

In other words, Porter is quickly embodying what the Bulls envisioned – a 6-foot-8 player who’s a high-efficiency shooter and who understands how to pick his spots and feel the moment offensively while serving as a quality team defender.

“He plays so many different positions,” said Zach LaVine, who 15 points, six rebounds and seven assists. “He knows what he’s doing. He’s very smart, talks on defense, can flat out score, shoot the ball, space the floor. He’s doing a little bit of everything. Since he’s been here, I feel like I’ve been able to get some more driving lanes and just some easy catch-and-shoots.”

On Wednesday, Porter had his full arsenal humming as the Bulls shot 56 percent. He flashed his comfort with mid-range jump shots. He took dead aim from behind the 3-point line. He ran the floor in transition and converted a dunk on a nice pass from Markkanen.

Early on, Porter got some buckets in the flow of the Bulls’ offense. As he showcased his hot hand, Boylen made more of a point to call for sets in which he was the primary option.

“He let it come to him,” Boyle said. “I thought he took good shots, got in a nice rhythm, had the ball in his hands. He was off the ball some. His versatility, I thought, really showed.”

Porter is averaging 22.5 points and 5.8 rebounds while shooting 62.1 percent overall and 57.9 percent on 3-pointers in four games with the Bulls, who are 2-2 in that short span and 14-44 overall. He’s attempting 14.5 field goals in that span, a marked uptick over the 10.8 he was attempting for the Wizards, where he was the clear third option behind John Wall and Bradley Beal when everyone was healthy.

No Bulls player has such an established pedigree, which should open up more opportunity for Porter.

“Playing with two All-Stars, it was definitely different, because they get so much attention from defenses,” Porter said. “When I bring my talent here, I’m just trying to help as much as possible.

“I know guys that go get traded during the season, and it’s kind of tough to get going right away. But here, it was nothing like that. They welcomed me with open arms, this whole organization. I’m just blessed to be here.”

Beyond his on-court play, the 25-year-old Porter has earned quick respect from his teammates for how he conducts himself.

“He's definitely a leader on our team, even though it's been just a couple of days,” Markkanen said. “I mean, in our team, six-year players are almost like a vet. He's definitely seen a lot. He knows what he's talking about."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.