Bulls pass on point guard, pick power forward Bobby Portis

SHARE Bulls pass on point guard, pick power forward Bobby Portis
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Bobby Portis of Arkansas was the SEC Player of the Year. He has an NBA body and big hands, and he can score around the basket. | Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Karl-Anthony Towns said before he was taken No. 1 in the NBA draft by the Timberwolves that it was a weird feeling, this waiting.

He had chosen his high school, his AAU team, his college, everything that had to do with his basketball career. And now he had no control at all.

Neither did Bobby Portis, the Bulls’ first pick in the draft, No. 22 overall.

The Arkansas power forward seemed excited to be a Bull, clapping his hands as he walked up the stairs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to greet commissioner Adam Silver. But you wouldn’t expect him to act any other way because players say they’re happy wherever they go, even Salt Lake City or Cleveland, and there really might be a nice upside to coming onto a team with Derrick Rose and Co.

There’s something else. There might be a loyalty factor trickling down from new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg, who has coached nary a second of NBA ball but might have a lot of emotion wrapped up in the first player taken under his reign.

Hoiberg played four seasons with the Bulls, 10 in the league, worked four years as a front office guy with Timberwolves, and, after a stint at Iowa State, seemed destined to have a fulltime NBA career. But replacing mostly successful coach Tom Thibodeau means he needs to show something to fans who feel Thibs was shoved out the door for being too demanding.

What’s the opposite of too demanding? — too soft? No, Hoiberg wants to show that the opposite is reasonable and demanding just enough to get what players can give without destroying them mentally or physically in the process.

Portis could be a player ready to work hard and respond well to a coach fresh from college. He should be. He was the SEC Player of the Year and a consensus second-team All-American last season, and still there were 21 players — four full starting lineups, plus a sub — taken before him. “We had him ranked much higher,’’ Bulls general manager Gar Forman said. “As we saw him start to slip, we got excited.’’

Portis, just 20, came from poverty in Little Rock, Arkansas, and had his moment of manhood stamped when at age 15 he stopped his mother’s boyfriend from beating her up one more time.

“I stood up and [said], ‘No, don’t do this,’ ’’ Portis stated in an interview last winter. “He tried to hit me, but I grabbed his hand in the act of hitting me.”

At 6-9 ½, 246 pounds (8.9 percent body fat), Portis has a good NBA body and a good ability to score around the basket. He and Hoiberg should work well together, too, because just about everybody was expecting the Bulls — with president of basketball operations John Paxson and Forman actually making the personnel decisions — to go after a point guard to study behind and spell the unpredictable Rose.

But this pick was “a unanimous decision,’’ said Hoiberg, who remembered Portis starring against his Iowa State team.

Indeed, the Bulls could have snagged Duke point guard Tyus Jones, who went 24th to the Cavaliers. A lot of people thought that was the natural match — both for the Bulls and for Hoiberg, who loves to push the ball up the floor and is known as an offensive innovator. But after drafting and failing with Marquis Teague recently, the Bulls brass clearly has decided to fill the spot behind Rose the way they otherwise have — with a veteran (usually short) point guard such as D.J. Augustin or John Lucas III or Nate “Bouncing Ball’’ Robinson.

Portis is a good fit behind — or possibly even beside — surgically damaged veteran Taj Gibson when he returns. Gibson is expected to be out until the start of the season, rehabbing. So filling his spot now is a smart move, too.

What else we know about Portis is that standing flat-footed he can reach to within 11 ½ inches of the rim and his hand goes 9 ¼ inches across. He has had problems with his temper when he was younger, but that, considering the conditions he came out of, is understandable.

All that stuff is just stats and reports and what have you. And the fact is, nobody knows how well Portis will do on a team with high but cautious expectations. We don’t know how he will respond to playing against LeBron James, for instance, or Tristan Thompson or anybody else on the Cavs or the any team.

But for now, this looked pretty good. Not bad at all.

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