If Bobby Portis proved one thing this past season, it was his high energy off the bench. Despite this, the Knicks should probably avoid bringing him back next year.
The absence of NBA basketball has been a negative in so many ways, but it’s provided us with an opportunity to get the ball rolling earlier on speculation regarding how the New York Knicks could potentially look next season.
As we know, New York signed a slew of veterans in the offseason to short-term deals. Unfortunately, it didn’t equate to much winning.
Bobby Portis is one of the consolation prizes of an underwhelming free-agency period in the summer of 2019. The signing of the University of Arkansas product to a two-year, $31 million deal left a lot of people scratching their heads, wondering why the Knicks invested this much money in a guy who has been average at best so far. Going into this season, Portis wasn’t expected to move the needle much, and sure enough, he was pedestrian, giving the Knicks and their fans no reason to want him back next season.
Apathy and lackluster effort have characterized a lot of Knicks teams and players over the past couple decades. Too often the Knicks have played like they didn’t want to be there and have lacked the intensity necessary to compete at a high level.
One thing nobody can question about Bobby Portis is his passion and intensity. His patented, bug-eyed facial expression when he’s fired up has become his most recognizable trait. The forward’s underdog, chip on your shoulder mentality is refreshing and an excellent quality.
However, sometimes the 25-year-old’s competitive spirit gets the best of him, both on and off the court. We all remember the incident in which Portis punched teammate Nikola Mirotic earned him an eight-game suspension and a one-way ticket out of Chicago. This also raised some questions regarding Portis’ ability to coexist in a locker room setting.
On the floor, Portis tried to play hero ball too often this season. He also let his emotions get the best of him on a few occasions, including getting fined for a very hard Flagrant 2 foul on Lakers guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
It seems like Bobby still needs to work on getting himself under control and strengthening his basketball I.Q. On a young, impressionable, and rebuilding team and at $15.5 million a year, I don’t believe New York is ideal situation for him to properly develop the mental aspect of his game.
Another reason keeping Bobby around for the next season doesn’t make sense is the fact that there are better options on the roster at the power forward and center positions.
The Knicks ended up inking four different forwards to deals last summer (Portis, Taj Gibson, Julius Randle, and Marcus Morris), making it difficult for Portis to stand out and garner a ton of minutes.
Despite his struggles at times, Randle is a better player than Portis, and will likely be here longer due to the financial commitment the Knicks made to him. Additionally, Taj Gibson, who is significantly older and more past his prime than Portis, saw 56 starts compared to Bobby’s five, per Basketball-Reference. Gibson, who is also on a partially guaranteed two-year contract, seemed to win over the Knicks’ coaching staff and, if I had to guess, will return next season.
Another thing to consider is Mitchell Robinson. Robinson has an upside that blows Portis’ away, and he has shown much more finesse around the rim and ability to impact the game defensively. Portis was a defensive liability for much of the year, and would not get favored over Robinson to play the most minutes at the center position.
Also, it’s possible the Knicks draft another big like James Wiseman or Obi Toppin, which would make Portis even more obsolete.
Bobby Portis finished the shortened season averaging 10.1 points and 5.1 rebounds, while playing about 21 minutes per game, per ESPN Stats. I wouldn’t label Portis’ season as a bad one, and I don’t think he is a terrible player, but does he really excel in any facet of the game?
In his lone season as a Knick, he drove fans crazy with his poor defense, his affinity for unnecessarily camping out on the perimeter, and his questionable shot selection. Sure, Portis graced all of us with some memorable moments, most notably his electric performance against his former squad, the Bulls. Bobby dropped 28 points and had the Garden fawning over him for one night back in late October.
Unfortunately, that performance proved to be a flash in the pan, as Portis has just not been productive enough to justify the Knicks bringing him back at that hefty price tag.
Usually after a sample size of five seasons, you know who a player is—and Bobby’s ceiling in the NBA seems to be a high energy, solid role player.