Eye on the Draft: Bobby Portis

The Boston Celtics have been trying to fill the leadership role on their team ever since trading Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in 2013. In the case of Garnett, a lot of that leadership came from his attitude, work ethic, and his voice on the court. Some of the same qualities can be seen in 20 year old Arkansas power forward Bobby Portis as he enters this year's NBA Draft.

Should Boston keep the number sixteen overall pick, you may just see Portis headbutting the stanchion at the TD Banknorth Garden next season in green & white.

Portis, at 6'11", 235 pounds, stands at the same height that Garnett entered the league at, but with an extra fifteen pounds on him. He plays with fire and tenacity on both ends of the floor. Non-stop action. Relentless in transition and on the glass, and a more than capable scorer in the low post who has no problem setting up on the block and establishing deep post position with his back to the basket. He can also face up and shoot, or put the ball on the floor and take defenders off the dribble.

He can guard multiple positions inside and out on the court. Quick enough to guard small forwards on the wing, and still has enough size where he could go man-to-man against most centers in the league. But the Garnett likeness doesn't stop there.

Portis is deadly with the mid-range game for his size, and possesses range that will stretch opposing bigs out to the perimeter and open up driving lanes for teammates. Via Draftexpress.com, Portis shot 41.2% on all jump shots, including 43.5% on jump shots measured from 17 feet to the three-point line. He’s got an unorthodox shot with a release behind his head, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

And in case you needed more on why the Garnett comparisons, there’s also this...

Sounds like something KG would say right? As a young teen, Portis watched his mother become a victim of domestic abuse, which is why he uses that mindset as a pre-game ritual. It helps drive him. There’s a certain edge to Portis. Garnett makes his opposition his enemy, just ask Ray Allen. Portis follows that mold, and he is not going to back down, because you slapped his mama damn it.

I’m very crazy. I play angry, I play mad, I bring something different to the basketball court that I think most 20-year-olds don’t bring, I bring a sense of urgency. I play with a log on my shoulder; not a chip. I play with a log on my shoulder simply because I feel I’m one of the best kept secrets in this draft.

These are the kind of answers I imagine scouts look for in these combine interviews. Not the cliche, generic response everyone else is going to give. Something unique that stands out from the pack. But it has to be backed up on the floor, and those who’ve seen Portis workouts and his play in games know he has the high-motor to back up his claim.

The former Arkansas Razorback averaged 12.3 points per game as a freshman, and upped that to 17.5 this past season when he won SEC Player of the Year honors. He also improved his rebound averages from 6.8 to 8.9 a game, and shot the ball 54% from the field (up from 51% the year before).

He really doesn't have three-point range, but he did shoot 46% from downtown last season albeit in limited attempts. Not exactly a threat, but someone you may think twice about leaving wide open from deep. Defensively in both years Portis averaged 1.5 blocks and a steal per contest. If given the minutes, he's going to fill up the stat sheet one way or another.

After watching him workout in Chicago, ESPN.com’s Chad Ford reported last week that Portis is one of the lowest risk players in the draft. Ford projects that No. 13 to No. 20 will be his draft range. His lack of explosive athleticism his only glaring weakness, it's also one he should be able to overcome due to his length and his will to win.

Ford is on record saying that one NBA GM told him, “He's going to be in our league a long time, he plays hard, he rebounds, and he has a shot that is ugly, but it goes in and will be very hard to block. If you're looking for a solid rotation guy with an upside as a potential starter, he's your guy. And honestly, that's all you can really expect from this portion of the draft."

Here’s to hoping that no one in the 12-15 range wants him, because I’m sold. If it means a trade involving Kelly Olynyk or Jared Sullinger would have to happen to clear up a spot in the rotation for him, I think you do it. This kid is the right pick if he’s there at sixteen and the Celtics don’t move in the draft.

There are definitely better options available depending on whether they were to move up, but as Ford put it, he’s very low-risk and is going to have a high floor even if the ceiling is low. So if the market price to move up is too high, I think you fall back on sixteen and hope Portis is there. He’s solid all-around and would immediately improve the Celtics offensive rebounding and transition defense. Just imagine him and Marcus Smart anchoring a relentless defensive attack. It would basically shut down teams abilities to fast break.

Now the KG comparisons are warranted for the reasons stated above, but let's not set the bar that high for the kid. Those are some lofty expectations for anyone to fulfill, and Portis's offensive game just isn’t quite as dynamic as Garnett’s was in his prime. But with the work ethic, NBA ready body, and NBA ready attitude/swagger, I like what I hear and see from Bobby Portis. It’s likely that the Celtics do too, as Portis will work out with the team prior to the draft.

If the Celtics keep number sixteen, would you be in favor of them drafting Portis? Or are you burnt out from all the power forward picks in the first round in recent years?

top photo: USA Today Sports
block photo: Bruce Newman/Associated Press
Combine Photo: AP/Charles Rex Arbogast

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