Why the Milwaukee Bucks should keep Bobby Portis in free agency

MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - MARCH 24 (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images) /

Running it back after a season that ended in disappointment is always a tough sell. After a title, sure, it’s easy to say that the Milwaukee Bucks should bring everyone back and do it again. But after falling a couple of rounds short of their ultimate goal, it’s not so simple.

There were plenty of guys who did not give enough and step up in their second-round series against the Boston Celtics, but despite all of this, there are reasons for optimism. As the organization faces a crossroads this offseason regarding how they want to build the team around Giannis Antetokounmpo, bringing back Bobby Portis should be a priority.

Why the Milwaukee Bucks should bring back Bobby Portis this offseason

First of all, Portis is a massive fan favorite, and while the opinions of fans shouldn’t be the deciding factor in whether or not a player is brought back (see P.J. Tucker last offseason), Portis is a different story.

The energy that he brings to Bucks home games and the way that fans react to him creates an environment inside Fiserv Forum that is unmatched by any other role player. Again, this shouldn’t be the deciding factor but it’s hard to argue against the energy and effort that he exhibits doesn’t give a little boost to the home crowd.

But let’s focus on the actual basketball and why Portis should be retained.

We’re all human and that means our brains will focus on the last time we saw Portis play basketball which wasn’t pretty on the offensive end.

He played all seven games against the Celtics and started two of the games. Portis averaged 9.9 points on 48.1 percent true shooting along with 9.0 rebounds and that’s about it. He was under an assist, block, and steal per game in that seven-game series.

But what we likely won’t remember is that Portis stepped in while Brook Lopez was out for the majority of the regular season and provided stability within the starting lineup and gave the Bucks another dependable frontcourt player alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Milwaukee came into the season with a severe lack of depth upfront and Portis was one of the only dependable bodies that could contribute. He averaged a career-high 14.6 points on 57 percent true shooting (second-best of his career) and 9.1 rebounds as well as 1.2 assists a night in 72 games (59 starts).

Perhaps the biggest reason for him to be re-signed is that he’s a fantastic floor spacer and can gobble up rebounds.

In the early going without Lopez, Milwaukee was getting out-rebounded to the heavens without their big man in the middle to box out and create easier rebounding opportunities for the surrounding players. Portis helped stabilize that area.

Offensively, though, if you’re a big on a team with Antetokounmpo then you need to be able to space the floor. Portis has shot nearly 42 percent from 3 as a Buck and shot 39.3 percent this past season on nearly five attempts per game.

The majority of his attempts came on catch-and-shoot looks (4.5 per game) and he connected on 39 percent of those attempts. He also benefitted heavily from the attention that Antetokounmpo drew as he shot 44.6 percent on “wide open” attempts (closest defender further than six feet away) this season.

Defensively is where Portis still has to make strides. He is a much more mobile big than Lopez but he still has difficulties in certain situations. The Bucks found a way to use Portis during the regular season as they would have Portis hedge against pick-and-rolls.

It was an effective strategy for the early portion of the season but teams were able to exploit the weaknesses of having to play such an aggressive style of coverage pretty quickly. In the series against the Celtics, Portis closed a lot of games because he was a better option to switch defensively over Lopez.

Portis had his ups and downs but the Bucks shouldn’t give up on him so soon as he provides a much different coverage and ability to defend pick-and-rolls than Lopez.

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The Milwaukee Bucks need to bring Bobby Portis back if they want to continue to have reliable depth this season.