Category: Articles

Why Nwaba’s Time in Chicago Seems to be Over

The Chicago Bulls claimed David Nwaba off waivers last off-season. Nwaba at the time was 24 but only had 20 games of NBA experience, playing less than 400 minutes during this time. Nwaba ended up with a even bigger role in Chicago. He played in 70 games for Chicago last season, and played well throughout the season. Nwaba’s strengths were his defense and rebounding.

Nwaba

You see the numbers from https://cleaningtheglass.com/. When on the court, Nwaba is top in the NBA at his position for rebounding %. The blue/red numbers indicate the % he ranks within in his position for each category. Simply put when out there, Nwaba is one of the better rebounders on the court. Nwaba is also a quality defender. Even with his limited offensive skill set, Nwaba brought value to the Bulls last season. Nwaba entered restricted free agency for the 2018 off-season, and at the start of the off-season it seemed the Bulls were going to bring Nwaba back. They extended the qualifying offer to him, and seemed to have interest in bringing back the 2 year pro. But on July 14th, 2018 the Bulls removed the qualifying offer, and renounced the rights to Nwaba.

The move was done to make room for free agent Jabari Parker, but the Bulls didn’t have to do this. Nwaba had a cap hold of 1.7 million as a restricted free agent. The Bulls could have kept him restricted, kept his hold, and still offer Jabari Parker a 2yr/38 million contract(18.9mil salary for 18-19). But for some reason the Bulls decided to remove the qualifying offer, and also renounce his rights. Clearing the 1.7 million cap hold, and giving Chicago ability to offer 2yrs/40 million(20mil salary for 18-19). Was that necessary? Was there a fear Parker wouldn’t have accepted 18.9 million salary for 18-19, and demand an extra 1.1 million to bring it to 20 million? I doubt that. So why did the Bulls do that?

I imagine the Bulls were honest with Nwaba about his potential role. The Bulls have Lavine, Parker, Valentine, and Hutchinson on the roster. These are all players who play Nwaba’s position, and are all players Bulls have interest in seeing play next season. There is also Holiday, and now Antonio Blakeney who was promoted to an NBA contract for the next 2 seasons. The realization of there is no guaranteed playing time for Nwaba was there. Nwaba likely expressed his desire to not only get raise, but mainly be in situation where he can have a role and opportunity to showcase his skills. That would have not been a guarantee with Chicago. Seems both sides came to realization that Chicago is not the ideal fit for Nwaba due to potential limited role, and it was inevitable the relationship wasn’t going to work moving forward.

The possibility of Nwaba coming back is still there. Bulls have the room exception worth 4,449,000. They can offer up to 2 years, with a starting salary up to that amount. But the money doesn’t change the lack of a role Nwaba could experience in Chicago next season. The only way I can see Nwaba back in Chicago is if the interest in Nwaba from other teams just isn’t there for him, leaving Chicago as one his few options for next season. I see that as unlikely, as Nwaba is a player that can help teams in any system. And I have to imagine there is a team that can offer him a back end rotational position throughout the season.

I would have kept Nwaba restricted, and hoped to work out something with him. If he didn’t want to come back, he didn’t have too. But the Bulls made him unrestricted, leaving them without a first right to refusal opportunity. I still see value in Nwaba, and would have liked if the Bulls tried to keep him around purely as an asset, let alone a player that could help you next season. But at this point, it doesn’t seem Nwaba coming back is going to happen.

My One and Only Reason Bulls Trading for Melo Could Make Sense

Carmelo Anthony has made one thing clear this off-season, and that is he wants no part of coming off the bench. Melo during his exit interview said the following, “Yeah, I’m not sacrificing no bench role. So, that’s out of the question.” Anthony has an ETO for the 2018-19 season worth 27,928,140, which pretty much means he can opt out of his contract if he wants. But it’s widely believed Anthony wouldn’t risk losing most of his money, because there is a high possibility he doesn’t even come close to half of that in the 2018 free agent market. Reportedly if Melo is staying, OKC would ideally like to move Melo in a trade. Which could not only help their tax bill next season, but help save money and help them retain Paul George. But because Melo has a no trade clause and is making so much money next season, that will not be an easy task. But there is a scenario where Melo could make all his money, and still become a free agent. That’s where the Chicago Bulls come in.

Why would the Bulls want to trade for Melo? Well in most cases, they wouldn’t nor should. Melo on the decline and at this point of his career would probably do more harm than good for the young Bulls team. Also why would Melo even accept a trade to the Bulls? First let’s cover why the Bulls should consider trading for Melo. And it relies on one thing, the Thunder taking Cristiano Felicio.

The 4 years 32 million contract the Bulls gave Felicio last off-season was a mistake, and I’m sure they would admit that publicly if it made sense too. He has an average cap hit of 8,000,000 that hurts the Bulls cap space unnecessarily in the upcoming off-seasons, mainly because he produces at a below average level. If I was the Bulls I would give OKC a call and offer to take Carmelo Anthony off their hands if they are willing to take back Crisitiano Felicio and someone like Jerian Grant. A move like that for OKC would not only save them 17 million in team salary but could save even more in taxes next season. And would make it easier for them financially to justify keeping Paul George. But why would Melo agree to a trade to the Bulls?

Well there would be no intention on keeping Melo if you are the Bulls. You would waive Melo immediately and just eat the money, try to work a buy out first but not a big deal if he doesn’t agree. The idea is you are paying 27 million(Melo’s salary) now, to rid yourself of Felicio but mainly his cap hit in 2019-20 and 2020-21. The sell to Melo would be you still get your 27 million, but also get to go wherever you want via free agency. That would be why he would accept the trade to Chicago. The Bulls could also throw in Grant and Holiday(expiring contracts) if they wanted to ease some of the “dead” money they are creating by waiving Melo.

The trade itself would leave the Bulls with little cap space in 2018, but leave them with about 8 million more in 2019 and 2020 because they traded Felicio. Which arguably is when the Bulls were going to use space anyways because they should be a better more appealing team moving forward. Because of that I do believe trading for Melo could make sense for all 3 parties involved.

 

 

Should the Bulls Extend Bobby Portis’ Contract Now or Later?

12:00am July 6th, 2018. That is the exact moment Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis is eligible to sign an extension. As a player entering his 4th season on his rookie scale contract, Portis has up until October 31st, 2018 to agree to an extension. If one is not reached by then, then Portis will be eligible for restricted free agency for the 2019 off-season. Portis showed his offensive potential in his 3rd season, showing he can be a productive player for the Bulls moving forward. Extending Portis makes sense, but when is the right time?

Just based off reports, the Bulls are waiting for the 2019 off-season to spend big money on free agents. Here is a quote from Mark Scharnowski, Bulls reporter/host:

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Whether or not that is true, what is true is the cap flexibility is there for the Bulls to have max space in the 2019 off-season. And what could be more true is the Bulls could be more appealing to free agents by that time as well. But let’s get back to Bobby Portis. A Bobby Portis extension now will eat into Bulls cap space for 2019, the question then becomes how much space do the Bulls need? If offering a player like Thompson or Irving a max contract is their goal, going off the 2019 cap space projection of 108,000,000, the space needed to offer them the max is 32,400,000(30% of the salary cap). So how much space are the Bulls projecting to have in 2019?

There are a lot of factors that go into that projection. Factors such as the Lavine/Nwaba extension, the Bulls 2018 6th and 22nd pick salary projections, and their 2019 draft pick salary projection. And most importantly the final salary cap number for the 2019-20 season. Let’s assume it will be close to and use that salary cap projection. Let’s also assume the Bulls extend Lavine and his 2019-20 salary cap hit is 16,000,000, and they also extend Nwaba with a 2019-20 cap hit of 5,000,000. Also let’s assume they stay at 6th and 22nd spots for the 2018 draft which would be a 2019-20 cap hit of 4,707,600 and 1,927,100. And let’s go ahead and say the Bulls will just miss the playoffs next season and end up with the 14th pick. (Just to be clear not my prediction, but I assume they won’t be too far from that 14th spot.) The 14th pick for 2019-20 would have a cap hit of 2,851,900. And until the Bulls make additional moves I assume; Felicio, Dunn, Markkanen, and Valentine will still be on the roster with their salary cap hits along with Portis’ cap hold. That would give the Bulls a team salary of 64,814,736, which projects the Bulls to have 43,185,265 in cap space.

Again, that is just a projection. It is not accurate as I mention because of all the factors that will determine that number. But it is clear the cap flexibility is there to have max space for those players, more than enough. And according to our projections, they could have about 10 million in space left over. Which is somewhat important because it is over the MLE projection amount for 19-20, which is 9,161,000. Which means the ability to offer a max and still outbid teams who could only offer the MLE  is possibly there for other free agents. But let’s get back to Portis’ extension.

Does it make sense for the Bulls to extend Portis this off-season? The Bulls have recently let most of their upcoming restricted free agents hit the open market; Jimmy Butler, Miroitc, and Lavine recent examples. And personally that is what I believe what will end up happening and I would tend to agree with that. I get the risk, but most teams aren’t projected to have space in 2019. I like the Bulls chances at retaining Portis at a reasonable contract in 2019 while maximizing the space they can have that off-season. That to me makes the most sense for the Bulls if they are valuing cap space in 2019. Gives you the most flexibility while still allowing yourself to likely retain Portis.

How Good Can Bobby Portis Become Offensively?

The 3rd year player Bobby Portis has had a solid 2017-18 season. He is finally getting over 20 minutes per game, and is showing he can be a productive offensive player. Let’s look at Portis’ career numbers.

Portis Numbers

You can see with minutes, Portis is showing his offensive potential. For a big he is a decent shooter, he gets offensive rebounds, and can get 15-20 points in starter minutes. Here’s a quick look at Portis’ per 36 minutes numbers.

Portis per 36.png

The per 36 stats just gives you an idea with more minutes, what Bobby can do. No it doesn’t necessarily mean he will put up these exact numbers. I do think however it’s fair to say with about 25 minutes plus a game, Portis is good for 15 points or more on average. Portis has shown he can be a solid offensive player, but the question really is how good can Portis become? Could he become a reliable starter? Or could he even become an All-Star? A more in-depth look at how he gets his points will help us figure out his potential.

Looking into Portis’ numbers, it’s clear he likes to shoot the ball away from the rim more than the average big.

Portis shooting freqency.png

The chart you see is from Cleaning The Glass. It is a site run by Ben Falk, previous Vice President of Basketball Strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers, and former basketball analytics manager of the Portland Trail Blazers. The stats from this chart exclude “garbage time stats”. You can see here what garbage time is defined as,  garbage time. Portis shoots 38% of his shots at the rim, which is below average compared to his position. You see he shoots 26% of his shots from 3 which is above average and 36% from mid-range which is above average at his position. Portis unlike most bigs, relies on outside shooting just as much as at the rim shooting. Let’s take a quick look at how he shoots from each of these areas.

Portis accuracy.png

You can see why Portis likes to shoot as many jump shoots as he does. At the rim Portis shoots 57% which is in the bottom % compared to his position. Portis is a good mid-range shooter though as you see he is in the top % compared to his position from there. From 3 he is slightly below average. We will dive deeper into whether or not Portis can improve at the rim, but looking at these stats his game reminds me of someone similar. Someone who is a former 4 time All-Star. That player is Paul Millsap.

I’m talking about the Paul Millsap from 2013-14 to now. The Paul Millsap who became a better shooter once he signed with Atlanta. Let’s take a quick look at how Millsap likes to score. Here is where he likes to shoot from since 2013.

Millsap 2.png

You can see the numbers are very similar to Portis. Millsap takes more shots from mid range, than he does at the rim. For a big, Millsap shoots a lot of jump shots. Let’s take a look at how he shoots from these areas.

Millsap 3

The numbers are very similar between Portis and Millsap. They both shoot about the same from 3. They both like to rely on jump shots really when you break it down. For 4 seasons in Atlanta, Paul Millsap was an All-Star. Let’s take a quick look at those numbers.

Millsap ATL

These are Millsap’s numbers all four All-Star seasons. When you compare these numbers to Portis’ per 36 numbers, they really start to look similar.

Portis per 36

The question becomes can Portis be as good as Millsap? What are the differences between their games? One thing difference you notice is Millsap gets to the line more than Portis. Let’s take a look at their drawing shooting foul numbers.

Portis foul.png

Millsap foul.png

Looking at the SFLD%(shows the % of the shots player is fouled on), clearly Millsap gets to the line more than Portis. One of the reason for this is likely speed. Millsap blows by his man more, which causes defenders to foul him more than they would with Portis. Defenders are caught out of position more guarding Millsap. This is important because neither are great shooters. Not just relying on shooing and being able to get to the line produces more consistent numbers, which has helped Millsap put up All-Star numbers.

But one advantage Bobby Portis has over Millsap is offensive rebounding. Portis offensive rebounds 10% of his team’s misses, which is way above average for his position. Being able to rebound and get easy baskets should help Portis, but he needs to get better around the rim. You saw as we talked earlier, Portis doesn’t finish well around the rim. But why is that? It seems to me it is mainly a lack of explosion. He is athletic but just not explosive. He also struggles to finish over players with similar or longer height. Here are a few examples of this:

I don’t expect Portis to ever become great under the rim, or even good. But he needs to get closer to average for his position. Getting stronger, working on jumping, and getting better footwork will help Portis. I also think getting more comfortable with his left will help a lot. Portis at times forces shots with his right, when the shot would be easier with his left. Working on these little things can get Portis 2-6 extra points a game.

I think the potential for Portis to become good offensively is there. The things I would like to see Portis improve is his shooting, footwork down low, his left hand, his strength, jumping, and offensive awareness.

I think Portis can become a better shooter than Millsap. He is a better free throw shooter, and I do believe Portis has a nice shot. I think the more he works on his shot, he can become closer to a 38%-40% shooter from distance. Footwork down low can improve which ties in with his left. Portis most of time is looking to finish right. All his set up moves in the post are to set him up going right. Defenders know this and will play him that way, getting them to respect his left will only help his game. Getting stronger comes with age, and the stronger Portis becomes the more separation he will be able to get for his shot down low. And just offensive awareness but more so his shot IQ. This has improved but still needs work. Portis at times settles for bad shots. Contested 3’s or just quick 3’s in general. Usually experience will fix this, Portis just needs to learn what a good shot is and when it’s better to just pass the ball.

If I had to guess I don’t think Portis will ever become an All-Star but I do think he will become a good offensive player teams can rely on. Portis has at least shown the offensive talent that can keep him around the NBA for another 5-6 seasons. Maybe more with hard work.  The Bulls for now should realize they have an offensive talent in Portis, that could help their bench for a long time moving forward.