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Pacers draft prospects: A closer look at Bobby Portis

Arkansas big man, Bobby Portis is projected to be drafted outside the lottery but appears to have skills that translate into a solid NBA career.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Everyone asked for a guy out of left field, so here we are with a guy who is flying way under the radar. I have heard hardly any talk on this guy and looking at his numbers, they are pretty solid. Bobby Portis of Arkansas is currently projected to go mid to late first round in several mock drafts. Portis and the Arkansas squad were in a weaker SEC and I personally did not see them play very much and did not even know Portis' name prior to this write up. However, digging into him it is found that he won the 2015 SEC player of the year and was a beast for the up tempo, defensive minded, Arkansas squad that was very good in 2015. Here are some of his strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths

  1. Mobility- As I said in the opening paragraph, I had personally never heard, or seen, anything related to Bobby Portis. So to fix that I sat down and watched his SEC tournament championship against Kentucky. Watching the game, while he didn't play well, he did show some good skills. One that immediately stood out to me was his ability to get out on the break. He showed superb quickness up and down the floor and seems confident on the break. He looked to be confident enough to handle the ball himself and make plays on the move. Early in the game he struggled, but a few times beat Stein and Towns down the floor for some easy buckets. This makes him appealing for the Pacers right away. As has been discussed with other players, mobility is a huge key in today's game, especially for the way Vogel is looking to run things offensively next season. Watching him run up and down the floor, he looks fluid and not clumsy while making moves. He comes in at 240 which is a pretty solid weight for a guy at 6'10. Being 6'10 and able to easily get up and down the floor leads to easy buckets in transition, wearing down other big men, and speeding the game up overall. Compared to Hibbert and West, Portis' ability to get up the floor improves the Pacers speed at the 4/5 immediately and offers a change of pace from the slower, post up style, big man, which could help open up the game for the Pacers. Portis offers the ability to finish with both hands, confidently, and has a pretty good mid-range game. Although watching the Kentucky game, I personally felt his free throw release (usually a good indicator jump shooting stroke quality) was a bit odd, but if it is effective that is truly all that matters. Adding this decent mid-range game with his mobility makes him a tough ask on the break, which for next season, could be a serious plus.
  2. Defense- Portis has some good defensive numbers from this past season. Portis blocked 1.4 per game and 1.9 per 40 minutes. His steal numbers were 1.1 per game and 1.4 per 40. Know taking a look at some other players we have discussed so far he is way above Lyles stats, and right on par with Kaminksy who is at 1.0 steals per 40 and 1.9 blocks per 40, however compared to Turner he is way below as Turner was an outstanding defender at Texas. So, based on his defensive numbers it is safe to say that Portis is a good defender. He offers the ability to block shots and make plays on the defensive end. Another thing that has been seen is his ability to defend the perimeter. Portis was not seen getting blown by on the offensive end by smaller defenders, something that bodes well in the current game. However, he did struggle on the low block often giving up low post position and had trouble keeping bigger guys out of the paint. His block numbers aren't amazing, but are still solid, meaning he may, provide some average rim protection, but not at the level of Hibbert or other elite defenders. Overall his defense is good and his ability to guard on the perimeter makes him a valuable asset.
  3. Size/Rebounding- Portis offers good size at 6'10 and his weight is a solid 240 lbs. While it would be nice for him to be a bit bigger, his body does seem to be pretty NBA ready giving him time to focus more on areas of weakness. Portis also offers a 7'0 wingspan, which is good for NBA players. His length and size enable him to have an impact on the glass and with his mentioned perimeter defense. Taking a look at his rebounding stats we see a total of 133 offensive rebounds for the year, 188 defensive rebounds for the year, 321 combined total rebounds, and 11.1 total rebounds per 40. These stats are on par with other top big men this year in the draft which is a good sign for the NBA. 133 offensive rebounds on the year is pretty solid and if it continues in the NBA offers a good fit for the Pacers in keeping the rebounding stats up. His body being NBA ready is a good sign as most of the other prospects still need some weight room time. one thing to keep an eye on is Portis' growth, as he grew one inch taller than he was two years ago, so he could still gain a few inches, greatly helping his size.
  4. Upside- This could be seen as a potential strength or weakness, so I put it in the middle. Portis is raw, basically sushi raw, so he will need a lot of work to become a good NBA player. However, he does have that ready NBA body meaning his off season and prep time can be spent on perfecting the coachable skills. First of all he needs to work on his post-game, in hopes of developing a go to move that offers consistent scoring opportunities. While is great on the fast break, his pull up jumper and mid-range game, need to improve in hopes of becoming a more dynamic offensive threat. His post defense needs improving in being able to keep bigger defenders out of the lane for easy buckets. His possible growth offers more opportunity for improved post-game and low block abilities, while increasing the low block defense. At the age of 20 he is still very young and able to develop the skills necessary to become a good NBA player. If Portis can continue to put in the work defensively, offensively, and keep the transition abilities, he could end up being a good fit for the Pacers. Portis is the most interesting case so far as he offers a lot of good and bad, but is also risky. As is been, his main asset is through his ability to get out on the break and finish, but lacks a lot of key NBA skills, currently. However, many of those skills can be learned and given time, as he is only 20, could pay off in the future. As he is out of left field, I personally do not think he is a wise first round choice, especially at 11, but second round or in the undrafted pool, he could be a nice pick up.

Weaknesses

  1. Post-Game- As has been eluded a couple of times, Portis does not offer the low block game that most want to see out of their big men. Out of the gate he will not be the beat em up, throw him the ball type player. Rather, he seems to enjoy settling for the mid-range jumpers, three's, etc making him a pretty poor post presence. His back to the basket game is also very weak as he possess no go to post move that gives him the opportunity to score consistently against even the best defenders. With his lack of back to the basket game, Portis needs some work with his footwork as well in carving out deep post position. As a Pacers fan this can seem a bit scary as he played his natural role at Arkansas, yet in two years has not developed a solid post-game. It can bring thoughts of Hibbert to mind as he has been seen struggling for position and scoring on the low block. But, as I have pointed out, Portis is only 20 and his NBA ready body give him the chances to work hard on his post-game and improve dramatically.
  2. Explosiveness/Athleticism- While Portis is a pretty good athlete, he is nothing too special. He offers the ability to get up and down the floor, but will not be wowing anyone on the basketball floor with his crazy athletic plays. This ties to his weak defensive abilities that would greatly benefit from some better athleticism. His low block scoring and defensive would also benefit from being more explosive around the basket which could help create a lot more scoring opportunities, as he develops his post-game. Defensively his rim protecting abilities may come into question with low athleticism, as making tough plays on the ball may not be as easy for him as other guys. Many will argue that this is not as key for big men on the low block, but as eluded to his low block game needs work, so initially he may be utilized more in perimeter defending, which ties more explosiveness and athleticism.
  3. Jump shot- Portis' jump shot was pretty average overall. He possessed the ability to make the three ball and the mid-range jumper, but not in a consistent manner. Again, his free throw release seemed to be a bit strange with a slight hitch/hinge in his release, but his number show that he was solid from the line (73.3%). In order to become a good NBA player, this jump shot is essential for both the fast break in creating his own opportunities, turn-around jumpers on the block, and in regular offensive sets. Adding a more consistent jumper makes him much more difficult for bigger defenders to guard, in tandem with his driving abilities for some easy buckets. Portis had a field goal percentage of 52.7% per 40, which is pretty solid, but is not truly indicative of his jump-shooting abilities. Portis had low three point numbers, but they could easily be improved as he shot 36.5% from deep per 40. Lastly, his TS% is at 57.4% which is also pretty solid. His jumper is a mixed bag and needs work.