How Bobby Portis has found new life since joining the Milwaukee Bucks

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 06 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - DECEMBER 06 (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

When the Milwaukee Bucks signed Bobby Portis to a contract in the summer of 2020, no one thought too much of it at first. The Bucks would be the big man’s fourth team in three seasons, having bounced between the Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, and New York Knicks. The team needed another serviceable piece in the frontcourt with Ersan Ilyasova and Robin Lopez both out of the picture, and Portis was viewed as someone who could help. It was a solid signing, but not one that looked like it would change life for Milwaukee.

How Bobby Portis quickly turned into a fan favorite for the Milwaukee Bucks during the 2020-21 NBA season

Portis quickly proved throughout his first season with the Bucks that he could indeed be a huge difference-maker off the bench. With his hustle, intensity, and endless drive, Portis came to play every night as he provided a sizeable amount of scoring and rebounding. Coming off the bench for a championship contender was something that he took pride in, and it showed. Due to his passion whenever he stepped onto the court, Bucks fans easily latched onto Portis and embraced him as it did not take long for him to become a fan favorite.

After a solid regular season, Portis’ role fizzled in the postseason. There were nights where the big man did not get off the bench and could only watch, particularly in the second round. Yet, following Milwaukee’s seven-game set against the Brooklyn Nets, Giannis Antetokounmpo found Portis and told him to stay ready as the team would need him with their championship hopes still alive and well. Antetokounmpo’s assumption proved to be accurate as Portis not only reentered the rotation during the final two rounds of the playoffs, but he played a massive role.

With Antetokounmpo suffering a near-devastating knee injury in Milwaukee’s Game 4 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals, Portis would be thrown into the starting five. The big man had big shoes to fill, but he embraced the opportunity and helped the Bucks defeat the Hawks in consecutive games to advance to the NBA Finals. He returned to the second unit as the Greek Freak miraculously returned to the lineup following his hyperextended knee. Portis proved to be pivotal off the bench, particularly when it mattered most as he delivered 16 points off the bench in a title-clinching Game 6, trailing only Antetokounmpo’s 50 point masterpiece.

Following the title run and a fitting celebration, Portis was set to opt-out of his player option with the Bucks and test free agency. No one could fault him after playing such a crucial role all season on an incredibly team-friendly deal. Portis could have likely earned more money elsewhere, and it was reported that he did receive offers from the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks. Yet, Portis opted to stay loyal and re-sign with the Bucks on yet another team-friendly deal. A decision that played into the move was helping the team acquire his Bird rights, meaning they will be able to offer him more money down the line. Yet, it was also about his love for the city that embraced him so dearly and the ability to compete for a championship day in and day out.

How Bobby Portis is taking his career to new heights with the Milwaukee Bucks in year two

After primarily coming off the bench last season, Portis has started for the Bucks in 17 of his 21 appearances this year. With starting center Brook Lopez missing all but one game this season with back soreness, Portis has been the next man up. It seemed like a move that would be brief, but with Lopez recently undergoing a back procedure, Portis will be the new full-time starter for the foreseeable future. Losing Lopez has undeniably been a significant blow for the champs, but Portis has done his part to help keep them afloat as he is playing the best basketball of his career.

Through 21 games, Portis is averaging new career highs in points, rebounds, blocks, and minutes per game. His 15.1 points on average have been given the Bucks a massive boost, particularly as he is having yet another efficient shooting season by knocking down 47.3 percent of his field goals and 40.4 percent of his 3-pointers (career-high 4.5 attempts). Portis is the team’s second-leading rebounder behind Antetokounmpo as he continues to be a force on the glass, constantly battling for boards on both ends. Without Lopez, this high-energy play from Portis has been essential for the Bucks early on. Where would they be without him?

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Fans did not need more reasons to root for Portis, but his play throughout the first quarter of the season has only added to his fan-favorite stature. His loyalty, determination, and production have all been impactful for the Bucks, and the big man is only trending upward. He will continue to play a key role as the defending world champions aim to go back-to-back.