Bobby Portis
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis is just 24 years old, and should not be discounted when discussing the franchise’s future and young core. 

Between Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and RJ Barrett, New York Knicks fans have some summer acquisitions to be excited about heading into next year.

But fans have somehow forgotten the lineup’s sixth man, and the Knicks’ sixth signing of the summer: Bobby Portis.

A fourth-year forward and former first-round pick (2015), he’s a more-than-capable stretch five who can knock down the three.

Tough, long, and trigger-happy.

The exact archetype for the NBA’s newly transformed center position. And yet, Portis will play the role of sixth man, the team’s primary firepower off the bench.

He nearly confirmed it when speaking with Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“Julius and Mitchell will probably be starting power forward and center, but we have a lot of weapons coming off the bench that will be fun to watch.”

At that very moment, and maybe even prior, Portis banished himself to the background of any New York fan’s mind.

After posting 19.7 points and 11.2 rebounds per 36 last year, he is no longer relevant. When discussing the Knicks youth core, fans are forgetting the 24-year old forward, who signed on for a two-year deal in July.

When discussing the likes of Kevin Knox, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson the fact is this: Portis is just as, if not even more, relevant when discussing the youth movement.

A look at what the big man’s bringing to New York, and why dismissing him so soon is entirely unwarranted.

Three-Point Shooting

Any modern NBA fan will argue that almost every player from this era has to have honed some form of a shot beyond-the-arc.

Whether you agree with that or not, Portis has adapted his game with the rest of the league. After making just 128 deep balls on 320+ attempts his first three seasons, he knocked down 75 last year on a .392 clip.

Both Chicago, and later Washington, saw Portis develop into a three-point threat at different times last season.

And they adjusted their offenses to endorse such. Portis had games with both teams in which he knocked down four or more shots from long range.

His addition, along with the other sharpshooters joining New York next season, couldn’t be any more timely. The Knicks ranked in the bottom half of the league last season in nearly every three-point related statistic.

Per NBA.com, they were 22nd in attempts (29.5), 24th in makes (10), and 28th in percentage (.340). And look, I’m well aware the trio of Wayne Ellington, Reggie Bullock, and Marcus Morris have been perimeter threats for much longer.

But Portis is by far the best shooter out of the new free-agent class. And I’ve heard little to none about his arrival, and what that could mean for the Knicks’ hopes of establishing identity.

Aside from Hardaway Jr, Basketball Reference has just Knox (1.7) and Dotson (1.7) as the only Knicks to have made more threes per game than Portis (1.5) last year. They’re also the only two guys on the roster to have made more on the year (125, 117 vs 75).

The on-paper fit more often than not suggests a different outcome than how things actually pan out. But we’ve already seen big men with a three-point shot thrive in that role under Fizdale (Luke Kornet, Noah Vonleh).

Size, Length

Portis averaged 7.9 rebounds for the 2018-2019 campaign. And New York lost their top-three rebounding big men from last season to the summer’s free agency: Kanter, Jordan, Vonleh.

Without that trio, and even with the addition of Gibson; New York is left with little to no help along the boards beyond the starting five. That’s where Portis comes in.

To say he could see a career-year behind the boards isn’t far fetched by any means. The 6-foot-11 big man is second only to Robinson (7-1) on the roster in terms of height.

He averaged no less than seven rebounds in either of his stints with the Wizards or Bulls last year. Despite playing on two very different teams, with two very different levels of talent.

Portis adjusted well then, and he’ll adjust well now. Playing next to Gibson in New York is a prime opportunity for him to dominate off of the glass. And possibly compete for Sixth Man of the Year.

When faced with larger frontcourt duos, Fizdale would be wise to turn to both the big men at the four and five.

Having both Portis and Robinson in the post makes for an almost unguardable offense, and intimidating defensive garrison.

While the younger big is capable of wreaking absolute havoc within the post; his new teammate is just as capable, and even more equipped, being a perimeter threat.

It’s also worth noting that Portis was in rare company among the rest of the league last year, regarding his size and ability to shoot the ball.

Per Basketball-Reference, only 10 players 6-foot-9 or taller made 75+ threes on a .370 or better shooting clip last season. Another name on the list: new teammate Marcus Morris.

So again, despite my unavoidable optimism, it’s hard to ignore the rare skillset that this big man brings to New York. And somehow, most of us have at times.


Bobby Portis’ size and reliable three-point cannon suggest he’ll prove much more than a backup power forward.

He could very well snag the starting job from either Randle or Robinson as early as December.

The 24-year old and his gameplay are legit. And I’ve got an inkling Madison Square Garden and her fans will come to that conclusion sooner rather than later.

 

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