Bulls’ Highest-Paid Player out Through All-Star Break: Report

Otto Porter Jr. Bulls

Getty Otto Porter Jr. shoots a free throw in a December 31 game against the Washington Wizards.

The Chicago Bulls took a swing on Otto Porter Jr. at the 2019 trade deadline, and that swing is shaping up to be one of their biggest misses in recent memory. The 27-year-old forward has played just 45 out of 124 possible games since joining the team.

After a strong start to this year, Porter has now missed Chicago’s last 13 contests and will be out even longer, according to head coach Billy Donovan, who spoke with reporters about Porter’s status on Friday.

“He’s been able to do a lot more the last three days,” Donovan said, via NBC Sports Chicago. “He’s ramped up quite a bit where he’s running, doing conditioning, shooting. Still no contact, but I was on the court with him yesterday, and he’s just working to get himself back into shape. I think he’s made progress, he’s gotten better, and I think he’s certainly getting advice from the doctors. … He’s meeting with them on a consistent basis.”

Porter was initially ruled out of the team’s January 10 matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers due to “lingering back pain,” and despite playing six of the subsequent eight games, was ultimately sidelined to allow for a full recovery.

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Donovan: ‘I Don’t Have a Date We Are Targeting’

While Porter’s back may be fully recovered, the coaching staff is most worried about the former No. 3 overall pick being in game shape at this point.

“I think the biggest part is conditioning,” Donovan elaborated. “He’s clearly way behind there. I don’t say that in a way it’s anybody’s fault, but he’s been limited in what he’s been able to do physically.”

Donovan didn’t leave Porter’s return timetable up to guess, in that, he made it clear the eighth-year forward will be sidelined through the NBA All-Star break, which this year will run from March 5-10. Chicago has three games to go until then.

“Having a little less than a week before the All-Star break and then having just a week in that break he’s fully planning on working and getting himself close to ready as possible,” Donovan said. “I don’t have a date we are targeting to be honest with you, because he hasn’t been able to do too much. … I think we’ll have a lot more clarity of where he is at physically coming out of the break because he will have some real opportunity to get some work in.”

Bulls Pushing for First Playoff Appearance Since 2016-17

The Bulls were stringing together a win streak prior to Friday night’s blunder of a loss to the Phoenix Suns. The team is now 15-17 overall and 6-4 in its last 10 games, standing just half of a game back of the eighth and final playoff seed in the Eastern Conference.

Over 16 games played this year, Porter is averaging 23.3 minutes, 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game. The nightly point total marks his lowest since 2015, Porter’s third season as a pro.

His return will undoubtedly help the Bulls’ postseason push in what could be the club’s first playoff appearance since 2016-17. Yet one can’t help but wonder what this means for the future of Porter and his $28.5 million salary cap figure in Chicago, given the approaching trade deadline on March 25. He, along with fellow forwards Lauri Markkanen and Cristiano Felicio, are set to become unrestricted free agents this offseason.

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