Since his second year in the NBA, forward Otto Porter Jr. has averaged 72.4 games per season.
That number is about to take a huge dip this season.
The Bulls announced Tuesday that further testing revealed Porter’s injured left foot has a small fracture, and he’ll be on the shelf at least four more weeks before he’s re-evaluated.
But the calendar is working against Porter, 26.
Another four weeks will take Porter to the first week of January. Even if everything heals and there are no setbacks, rehab and reconditioning might keep Porter out until at least February. Then there’s the All-Star week to consider.
What if the Bulls are all but out of the playoff race by then? Why risk further injury, especially with Porter having a $28.4 million player option for next season.
He already is costing the Bulls $27.2 million this season, and the last thing the organization wants is spending two years of dead money with a price tag of almost $56 million attached to it.
Either way, some tough decisions might have to be made when he’s ready to return, and coach Jim Boylen has to deal with life sans Porter for a long spell.
“Well, it’s heartbreaking for him,’’ Boylen said Wednesday. “It’s difficult with us. He’s that big-wing component. Positional size, you know, a 40 percent three-point shooter. His experience, talent, versatility is something we need. We’ll work our way through it without it like we have. But I think about the player first. OP is a great guy, he’s a passionate guy about the team and what we’re trying to build. I’m just worried about him, gotta keep him up.’’
With Porter sidelined and Chandler Hutchison still dealing with a shoulder issue, Kris Dunn has moved back to a starting role as the Bulls go with a three-guard attack. One scenario being kicked around is letting Thaddeus Young play some small forward.
“We’ve thought about it, talked about it, talked to him about it actually,’’ Boylen said. “We’ll see how it goes. Thad’s great about everything. No issues. He’ll do whatever he can to help the team. That’s how Thad is.’’
Finally getting defensive
The Bulls’ defense has been a top-10 unit from an efficiency standpoint the last few weeks, and Boylen is hoping to get the offense up and running in that direction, especially now that they know Porter won’t be walking through that door anytime soon.
“I was concerned the first five games,’’ Boylen said about his defense. “I think we talked about it, how our defense had to grow, our commitment to shifting and closing and contesting had to be better, and I think we’ve done that.
“Offensively, I think we’ve made some changes that have been good, but they’ve been different for us. We took Dunn out of the second group — second group was humming — and now he’s with the first group. The second group has been trying to figure it out, and that’s been an issue. There have been droughts, and that’s what we’re trying to figure out.’’
The second unit is a work in progress with Daniel Gafford and Denzel Valentine moving into the rotation.