Bulls Veteran Makes Crucial Contract Decision Ahead of Draft

Getty Otto Porter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen

It came as no surprise, but on Sunday, Chicago Bulls veteran small forward Otto Porter Jr. made it official. OPJ opted-in on the final year of his four-year, $106.5 million deal, which will pay him a whopping $28.4 million for the 2020-21 season, per Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes.

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Why Porter Jr. Opted in

Opting in was a no-brainer for Porter Jr. The 27-year-old has played in a total of 70 games over the past two seasons, and averaged just about 13 points per game during that time. During the 2018-19 season, Porter Jr. showed flashes of excellence after the Bulls acquired him from the Washington Wizards.

He shot a blazing 48 percent from three, played solid defense and averaged 17.5 points per game before some of the injuries that have hampered his production limited him to just 15 games that season. Last year, Porter Jr. played in only 14 games and averaged 11.9 points per contest.

While there may still be some upside to his game, he hasn’t put together the kind of production or stints of good health that would suggest he could earn anything close to what he was guaranteed by opting in had he become an unrestricted free agent.

Also, NBA teams figure to be more frugal in the upcoming season because of the pandemic’s impact on the salary camp and league revenue. All of that is a perfect storm for Porter Jr’s decision to secure the bag.

What Does This Mean For the Bulls?

The Bulls and their new leadership (Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley) have to determine if they believe Porter Jr. can be a part of their future core–especially at such a high price tag. Trading him seems like the best possible answer, but dealing a player with such a big contract can be tricky.

The Bulls will have to take back a major deal, and it’s likely that player will have more years remaining on their deal than Porter Jr. who is now in the final campaign of his pact.

That said, if the Bulls believe the player they would be getting in return offers more in the big picture, they might be willing to pull the trigger on a trade. That’s why some of the talk around Oklahoma City’s Chris Paul makes some sense.

If a Trade Happens, When Can We Expect It?

NBA trades can be made official on Monday, so theoretically, something could happen at any time. There is even a chance a trade could be announced on draft night, which is Wednesday, November 18. That would seemingly be a very popular day for deals considering free agency will get underway shortly afterward and the season starts on December 22.

Because of the impact of the pandemic, things will happen rapidly, and it could be a very exciting stretch for the Chicago Bulls and the NBA as a whole. If Porter isn’t traded on or near draft-day, I’d look at a potential deal happening at the trade deadline when the Bulls may believe they can get more from a contender who believes Porter Jr. could be a valuable piece toward their championship efforts.

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