Bobby Portis turned down the long-term security of a contract extension with the Bulls with the hopes of landing a more lucrative deal on the open market during the summer of 2019. While it may appear as if Portis made a bad bet, the former No. 22 overall pick believes he’s still in position to cash in.
“Obviously I’ve had some injuries up to this point, but I still feel like everything is lined up,’’ Portis said of his plan to become a restricted free agent this summer (via Joe Cowley of The Chicago Tribune). “It’s about me just staying healthy now and me doing my thing. The wins and losses obviously, come and go from game-to-game. You really can’t control that part all the time. We control our effort.”
The upcoming market should be much better than it was in 2018 due to the number of teams with available cap space. Many of the sour contracts from the 2016 offseason will come off the books, leaving teams the ability to make major additions. However, the competition for deals will be fierce with roughly 50% of NBA players eligible to hit the open market. Portis will likely be behind other power forwards, such as Tobias Harris, Julius Randle, Harrison Barnes, and former sparring partner Nikola Mirotic, when teams set their wish lists for a forward.
Portis has had opportunities to improve his stock, particularly during the stretch of games Lauri Markkanen missed to begin the season, but he hasn’t been able to capitalize them due to health problems. He suffered a knee injury near the start of the season and has since been sidelined during two separate stretches with ankle and elbow woes.
“I just need to stay healthy, be on the court, play as hard as I can when I can,” Portis said. “With the minutes that Coach Jim [Boylen] gives me, go out there and play with force. At the end of the day everybody wants to make as much money as they can in this game, but with me I’m just focused on my team, turning this around, and going out there and having fun. Enjoy the ride the rest of the year.’’
Entering Tuesday, Portis’ ride with the Bulls this season has only spanned 13 games. He’s been outspoken about his desire to remain with the Bulls past this season and he believes the feeling is mutual.
“Obviously I know that I really want to stay a Bull,’’ Portis said. “I can’t see myself in any other jersey. It would be weird to start the next season off in another uniform. I’ve been here for four seasons now, time flies fast, but I think I will be a Bull. It’s not only in my control, but honestly I’ve loved this opportunity to be a Bull and don’t see that changing.”
Portis will be a restricted free agent, meaning Chicago can match any offer sheet he receives. The franchise’s recent strategy has been to let RFAs hit the market and then decide whether to match, as the organization did with Zach LaVine‘s deal last offseason. Drafted in 2015, Portis is the Bulls’ longest-tenured player and he doesn’t “want that to change.’’
“To be around this long … obviously Bulls across my chest means a lot to me. I really take pride in that every time I step on the court. It’s a big-time honor to be the longest-tenured Bull, but at the same time I feel like I’ve got a long way to go,” Portis added.