When the Chicago Bulls traded for Otto Porter Jr. from the Washington Wizards, some were worried about how much money was owed to the wing.
The former No. 3 overall pick makes $26 million this season and can earn up to $55.6 million over the next two seasons as well if he opts into the final year of his player option during the 2020 offseason. Of course, that is a huge sum for someone unlikely to even earn All-Star candidacy during that time.
But as recently noted by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Chicago’s young star Lauri Markkanen has been “scorching” since the trade between the Bulls and the Wizards at the deadline. The Bulls have won three games and lost two since the move.
Markkanen is averaging 24.0 points and 13.8 rebounds per 36 minutes during his time with the former Georgetown star. Porter is averaging 22.7 points per 36 and shooting 12-for-20 (60.0 percent) from three-point range when he has played alongside the 7-foot-tall sharpshooter.
During his career, Porter has been above average from nearly every zone on the floor. Defenders can no longer sag off the forward to simply double the 7-footer, allowing the Finnish-born Markkanen more room to get his shot off.
Jonathan Tjarks also provided an interesting explanation for why Markkanen has looked so sharp since Porter arrived (via The Ringer):
“Defenses have a harder time sending help toward Markkanen with Porter next to him, while playing in more space in the half court has made it easier for him to read the floor and make plays for his teammates.”
It’s not just Markkanen who has recently looked sharp in this type of offense. Porter has averaged 1.23 points per possession since landing with his new team. According to Synergy Sports, that ranks in the 93rd percentile among all players.
Chicago, overall, has produced 123.5 points per 100 possessions when these two have been on the court together.
Among all two-man lineups that have played at least 100 minutes together in the Eastern Conference, none have produced more points than the Bulls have when Porter has appeared with Markkanen.
When adding Zach LaVine to this group, Chicago has actually outscored their opponents by a team-high 15.8 points per 100. LaVine recently spoke about the acquisition that landed them Porter (via NBA.com):
“He’s a knockdown shooter; you can’t leave him. If I drive on his side of the floor, I know pretty much I am going to have an open lane or a one on one with the big. Anybody attacks it’s an easy kick out to an assist every time. It’s been good. We just put in some more stuff with me and him, so we’re looking to build that chemistry as well.”
The positive net rating is a welcome change of pace for the Bulls. They have been outscored by 9.6 points per 100 during the minutes that they’ve played without Porter, per NBAWowy.
While fans of the team in Chicago might prefer to see the team losing games because it would give them better odds at the No. 1 overall draft pick, they’d also admit that Porter playing well would be fantastic news too.
If they have a small forward of the future, that gives them fewer questions to answer via the draft and free agency. This means they would likely have their frontcourt solidified with Wendell Carter Jr. as their big with Markkanen at the four and Porter at three.