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It’s time Otto Porter earns that money, and other keys for Bulls camp

With no real battles for starting spots, the beginning of Bulls camp on Tuesday would seem to have little intrigue. Not so, as all eyes remain on Porter and Lauri Markkanen, who have to start answering some serious questions.

A healthy Otto Porter Jr. is the Bulls’ best small forward, and the team’s highest-paid player.
A healthy Otto Porter Jr. is the Bulls’ best small forward, and the team’s highest-paid player.
AP

There are no training-camp battles to look forward to.

At least none that will have an impact on the Bulls’ starting lineup.

That became evident when the front office let Kris Dunn walk and basically handed Coby White the keys to the lead-guard car, dents in his game and all.

The defensive-minded Dunn likely wasn’t going to beat out White, especially considering he couldn’t do it last season, but the competition would’ve been intriguing.

Instead, White can feel pretty confident and continue to build on what he displayed in the September minicamp, working with the first-teamers and, more important, demonstrating that his ability to run an offense has improved.

Tomas Satoransky, who was the starter at the point when the 2019-20 season began, will see minutes off the bench behind White but has only two more years left on his contract and could be an expendable trade piece at some point this season.

That leaves White battling White.

Basically, the same can be said for the rest of the starting lineup.

There’s no threat to Zach LaVine at the other guard spot, a healthy Otto Porter Jr. is the best small forward on the team, Lauri Markkanen is a must-start at the four with high expectations from the new regime and Wendell Carter Jr. is well-regarded in the middle despite those draft-day trade rumors.

When camp officially starts Tuesday, this isn’t about which five will start. This is about playing time off the bench and which five will finish games.

Here are three keys for training camp:

1. Stock building

Porter will be the highest-paid player on the roster by a good amount. In opting in for $28.4 million, Porter also becomes a trade chip that could be played at some point this season.

He’s a veteran with an expiring contract who has the talent to be a perfect glue guy on a playoff team. That could entice some teams and fetch a future asset in return. But that only holds true if Porter shows up to camp healthy and performs at a high level.

The Bulls drafted Patrick Williams fourth overall because he represents the future. Porter is the present.

Williams, 19, will be learning the ropes with no Summer League and without much time to work out with his new teammates.

If Porter can be the player the Bulls thought he would be when they acquired him during the 2018-19 season, everyone wins.

2. Forward thinking

All eyes will be on Markkanen. All eyes should be on Markkanen. The No. 7 overall pick from the 2017 draft is eligible for a contract extension and still has the highest talent ceiling on the roster.

The new coaching staff needs to get Markkanen to play to that talent level and emerge as a star big man in the East.

If Markkanen can make that leap and recapture his form from February 2019, when he averaged 26 points and 12.2 rebounds, the Bulls would enter the 2021 offseason with a lot more to sell to elite free agents.

3. Billy Ball

With Billy Donovan as the new coach, the Bulls actually have an adult in the room. He comes in with an impressive résumé after his success with the Thunder and Florida and has a history of getting the most out of his players.

So excuse time is over for these players. The right coach is in place. It’s sink or swim, and the water wings come off Tuesday.