Milwaukee Bucks: Bobby Portis finding his niche off Bucks’ bench

On the heels of putting in a season-high performance in the Milwaukee Bucks’ win over the Orlando Magic, Bobby Portis has relished in his role off the bench.

It’s only been 11 games into his stint with the Milwaukee Bucks, but it’s safe to say that Bobby Portis has enjoyed his growing time in the Cream City thus far.

The 25-year-old big man has seen many stops over his six-year career, but has repeatedly talked at length about landing with a team that has championship aspirations like the Bucks do this season. Judging by his early season play, Portis has embraced the opportunity to make a sizeable contribution in return.

It was Monday night where Portis put in his best showing of the season to date during the Bucks’ 121-99 victory over the Orlando Magic as he scored 20 points on 13 shots, including going 2-for-3 from downtown, and chipped in five rebounds, all in 24 minutes and 38 seconds on the floor.

Ports, along with sharpshooter Bryn Forbes, helped lead the Bucks’ bench charge as they collectively combined for 53 of the team’s 121 points on the night.

For this to come after Portis stepped into the Bucks’ starting lineup for their recent 100-90 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers where he put in his fourth double-double performance of the season (17 points, 11 rebounds) says something of the early impact he’s making in his new surroundings.

The Bucks clearly looked to improve their offensive punch within their supporting cast during their busy offseason. While the majority of those additions came on the wing and within their backcourt, Portis gives a different dimension by having a proven frontcourt scorer, the kind of which the Bucks haven’t had within their bench for some time now.

Bobby Portis has been instrumental in giving the Milwaukee Bucks a more productive bench unit so far this 2020-21 season.

In his 11 appearances on the season so far, Portis is averaging 11.8 points on .563/.435/.800 shooting splits, 8 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 0.9 steals across 24.2 minutes per contest. Portis has been limited to single digits in two of his 11 games so far.

The fact that Portis has provided quite a spark from the Bucks’ reshaped bench unit has been key in their depth averaging 38.9 points per game this season, which has certainly been helped by the Bucks’ massive blowout victories. And doing it all at a blistering 63.4 true shooting percentage has fully optimized his complementary role at either frontcourt position, depending on the lineup configuration.

While Portis has been a modest floor spacer, as evidenced by his relatively low 24 percent 3-point attempt rate, he’s been effective as a mid-range marksman as he’s 10-for-21 on such shots, per NBA.com/stats.

Along with that, Portis’ nose for the ball has helped contribute to the Bucks’ presence on the offensive glass as seen by their 29.2 offensive rebounding percentage. Portis has been averaging 2.5 second chance points per game and has converted 27 of his 35 shots in the restricted area on the season, good for 77.1 percent.

For all of Portis’ individual production, he’s been keeping the league’s best offense humming over his minutes both with the starters and his fellow bench mobbers. The Bucks are scoring 114.2 points per 100 possessions in his 266 minutes on the court, which is down from the 116.8 points per 100 possessions Milwaukee is averaging with Portis off the floor. For reference, that step down in efficiency is the equivalent of going from the league’s best offense to the fourth-best offense in the league.

As sharp as he has been offensively, Portis has been slow to grasp the Bucks’ defensive concepts as has been established under head coach Mike Budenholzer. With that said, Portis has looked more comfortable and engaged when blitzing or defending in space where his active hands have shined when harassing opposing ball handlers.

Of course, Portis is still adjusting to his new system and getting used to the Bucks’ principles and tenets set under the two-time NBA Coach of the Year. And how he’ll find his place on both sides of the ball will continue to shape the Bucks’ depth moving forward into the season.

More than five years after he nearly came to Milwaukee through the draft, Portis has seemingly made up for lost time with how he’s carved out his role with the Bucks so far this season. For the man he embraces his role as an underdog, he’s clearly relished his chance to play for a winner.