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updated: 3/3/2018 6:21 PM

Portis ready to start for Bulls, not ready to be a draft evaluator

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  • Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis is expected to start at center on Monday as part of coach Fred Hoiberg's lineup changes for at least the next five games.

    Chicago Bulls' Bobby Portis is expected to start at center on Monday as part of coach Fred Hoiberg's lineup changes for at least the next five games.
    Associated Press

 
 

This much is pretty clear about the late-season, rebuilding Bulls:

While many fans would prefer they lose in hopes of getting a better draft pick, the players are planning to win as often as possible.

But the Bulls will have two first-round draft picks in June. Are any players game-planning this out, thinking about college guys who would fit in?

Bobby Portis has a guy -- Arkansas center Daniel Gafford, who is the sort of athletic, rim-protecting big man who could be a nice complement to the long-range shooters like Portis and Lauri Markkanen.

"I know him really well," Portis said. "He actually played for my AAU team, the Arkansas Wings. He's a crazy, top-tier athlete. He gets up and down the floor, runs, flies around, blocks shots, highlight reel each and every night."

A couple weeks ago, there was a good "draft watch" game at Arkansas when Kentucky came to town, and Gafford played against Wildcats' forward Kevin Knox and some others who could go in the first round.

"Actually, (Bulls general manager) Gar (Forman) was at that game too," Portis said. "It was cool to see him at my old college. They sent me a picture of the fans had me in the stands. So that all puts a smile on my face."

Kris Dunn has some guys for the Bulls to watch, too. Basically the entire Providence team.

"I got a couple people from Providence -- Rodney (Bullock), Jalen (Lindsey), Kyron (Cartwright), Maliek (White)," Dunn said. "If you could bring the whole team over here, that would be great. I'm not too big on college right now. I try to stick to the NBA."

In reality, Bulls players tend to watch their old schools' games and little else. Their 2018 draft expertise is limited.

The task ahead for the Bulls is to test drive a new starting lineup, with Portis at center. Coach Fred Hoiberg announced the change after Friday's win over Dallas. This plan is expected to be in place for the next five games, beginning Monday against Boston.

The Bulls have finished games with Portis and Markkanen playing together. Now they'll see how it goes at the start.

"I think that helps because we have five shooters basically on the floor," Markkanen said Saturday. "I'm looking forward to see how it works out."

Since Feb. 3, basically after Nikola Mirotic was traded, Portis has been the Bulls' second-leading scorer and rebounder, averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 boards.

He talked about his progress after scoring a team-high 22 points against the Mavericks.

"I grinded my tail off each and every day last summer. It paid off on me this year," he said. "Now it's easier for me because I know I'm going to get minutes. I know when I'm going go into the game. I don't have to try to impress coach anymore, because I've earned my time.

"Now it's very easy on me because I don't have to sit there and wonder if coach is going to put me in the game or not."

If this starting lineup experiment pans out, it might be Portis time all the time.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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