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Bobby Portis could solve the Wizards' frontcourt issues this summer

Washington needs to get younger and add more shooting and rebounding to their frontcourt this summer. That could start with the selection of Bobby Portis at No. 19.

Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Player: Bobby Portis.

School: Arkansas.

Class: Sophomore.

Position: Power forward

Expected draft position: Mid-late first round

The Wizards enter this summer with a couple of big decisions to make in their frontcourt. They have players who can either leave in free agency (Paul Pierce and Kevin Seraphin), as well as a few they could potentially dangle in trade talks. It doesn't need to be completely revamped, but diversity will be critical next season as they look to speed up their offense and transition from the Nene-at-power forward era.

Enter Bobby Portis, the 6'11" Sophomore from Arkansas. Skill-set aside, he's a fiery guy, much like Trevor Booker was, and presents Washington with the exact type of tenacity they desperately need injected into their frontcourt. You don't believe me? Well, take this, from an interview he did at the draft combine:

"I'm very crazy," Portis said. "I play angry. I play mad. I play very angry because every game, I sit in the locker room and I envision that the other player on the team slapped my mom. That's why I get mad, and now I've gotta get you because you slapped my mom.

He says he's the best-kept secret in the draft, and I don't disagree. He left high school as the 16th best prospect in ESPN's top-100 list, but chose to stay home in Arkansas while the fellow big men in his class -- Aaron Gordon, Noah Vonleh, Jabari Parker -- went on to be one-and-dones at the biggest programs in the country. He may have taken a step back, but he's made up ground this past year as he beat out a couple of Kentucky big men for the SEC Player of the Year award, all the while showcasing the type of skill-set that's become ubiquitous at the next level.


The Wizards want to emulate their playoff offense next season, hence why you see Kris Humphries diligently working on his three-point shot, and why Drew Gooden became a fixture in their playoff rotation. If you're playing the four in this offense moving forward, you should be able to pop out to the three point line and coax defenders to run out at you.

Portis admitted he isn't comfortable shooting the NBA three yet. His shot mechanics look choppy -- he cocks the ball back behind his head -- but the groundwork toward being a stretch-4 is already there. He shot 47 percent on a modest 30 attempts from distance this past season -- hardly a great indicator for what's to come -- but the 74 percent free-throw shooting and overall body of work from midrange suggests he can develop into one down the line.

Here's his shot chart, courtesy of Shot Analytics (subscription required).

portis shot chart

Arkansas played at an unusual breakneck pace, known as the "Fastest 40." Offensively, they wanted to push the ball off makes or misses, squeezing out as many possessions as they can by beating the other team down the floor. In the halfcourt, they played exclusively out of their four-out alignment and under one principle: you pass and then screen away. They want to score quickly, and with as little nuance to their offense as possible. They ran ball reversals up top to get into dribble handoffs, which gets Portis into open spaces where he can fire away from midrange:

Mike Anderson wanted his players ready to catch-and-shoot, particularly Portis who had the green-light to showcase his range:

Pick and rolls weren't the centerpiece of their offense, but they'd run the occasional high ball screen with Portis popping out. He showed his pump-and-go ability to attack closeouts, and while defenders didn't always bite on his fakes, he still had enough variance to his floor game to get to the rim.

portis fake

He could bully smaller players on the block, but his rudimentary footwork and lack of countermoves doesn't project well moving forward. He can read where the help is coming from and pick out cutters, and though you see reports of him not being highly athletic, he runs the floor well and has good finishing ability.


Arkansas' "Fastest 40" philosophy extends to their defense as well. They pressure you at the point of attack with full-court presses, traps, and switches to spur their transition game. This bodes well for Portis in this position-less state of the league. He moves extremely well laterally as he hounds ball handlers and cuts off their driving lanes on switches.

But he's not a good rim protector. This may improve once he gets stronger and works on his technique, and theoretically he could still operate as a small-ball five down the line, but with just a 7'2" wingspan and average athleticism, there's only so much he can improve.

He'll often cede layups at the rim when he's in perfect position in order to get in rebounding position.

portis rim d

And he gets pushed off his spot too often (more on this later).

portis rim d 2

It's not for a lack of effort. He's had a few highlight worthy blocks this season as a help defender, but this is probably a scenario where you take the good with the bad. Pair him with a rim protecting big man that clears the lane with box outs like Marcin Gortat, and he'll be fine.

The offensive/defensive rebounding dilemma

The knock on Portis is that he's not great at anything. He has an incredible motor which explains how he's able to snag 4.5 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes. His sense of timing is excellent as is his ability to track down loose balls, but that hurts him on the defensive glass where it's more about discipline and holding your ground. He doesn't have great lower body strength (which is something to consider with his post game), and he has a bad habit of going after the ball as it goes up rather than finding his man on boxing him out. Kentucky's frontline made his life miserable in the SEC championship game for that reason alone, as he managed just two rebounds in 30 minutes of play.

That's not to say he's an empty stats guy. In the NBA we chide those high volume rebounders like David Lee or JJ Hickson because their teams tend to rebound better with them off the floor. Trevor Booker had that same problem too, but his energy made up for it in a big way, netting extra possessions for his offense when they needed it most (see his first round series against the Bulls in 2014). Portis is a lot like that, and better yet, he just turned 20 years old in February. He's tacked on 30 pounds since his senior year of high school and still should be able to fill out his body nicely in the NBA.


I don't normally make player comparisons, but I see a lot of Terrance Jones in Portis. He may not be the ideal stretch-4 candidate for the Wizards, but he'll bring a jolt of energy to this aging frontcourt now, and has plenty of room to grow.