Full disclosure, I was pretty darn high on Tomas Satoransky last offseason. Do I regret that? No, but I certainly set myself up for some disappointment. The 28-year-old point guard averaged just 9.9 points, 5.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds per game this season, starting 64 of the team’s 65 contests in very underwhelming fashion (he shot 43 percent from the field and 32 percent from behind the arc, the worst in each respective category since his rookie season).
Considering the $30 million investment poured into Satoransky overall ($20M still due over the next two seasons) … I think it’s safe to say that’s not exactly the most desirable Year 1. Fortunately, we’re not the only ones who feel that way. During an interview with Dionysis Aravantinos of Eurohoops on Instagram Live, Satoransky called himself out for his own lackluster season:
“I wasn’t as effective as I was in D.C. I had a very tough summer before that, and I don’t want to sound like those are excuses. But it was tough because the whole team was new too. A lot of ups and downs. A very young team. I really believe the second year will be much better. But I can’t be fully happy with my performance this year.”
I’m prepared to give Satoransky a mulligan. Sure, that’s partly fueled by stubbornness (I really believed in him!) … but it’s also a genuine belief in this guy’s talent.
Let’s be clear, Satoransky wasn’t signed to come in and be a sure-fire, day-1 difference-maker. He isn’t the kind of player, and I don’t think that was ever intended. Instead, he’s supposed to be a decent all-around talent, who can play multiple positions and (typically) make those around him even better. And, indeed, if the Bulls were looking for a true facilitator, they certainly got a guy who looks to do just that when on the court.
Among starting guards who played 50 or more games this season, Satoransky had the 4th-best AST/TO Ratio and the 2nd-best AST Ratio. Compared to last season, those numbers hold up. He was also in the 97th Percentile this season in Assist to Usage ratio, a stat that measures “how often the player got an assist given how much they got the ball” which demonstrates further that while he was on the court, he was focused on distributing the basketball.
However, while Satoransky might be careful with the ball and look to help his teammates, his AST% (the percentage of field goals he assisted on while on the court) sits right outside the top-15. Part of that might be his teammates’ inability to score the basketball, but regardless, you’d like to see this higher if he’s mainly in your starting lineup to be a facilitating point guard.
And since he wasn’t adding exponentially in any other category, the Bulls finally decided to bench him in favor of Coby White, the rookie who’s expressed little knack for distributing the basketball, but has been an offensive sparkplug.
While it was a decision Satoransky said he understood, it certainly sounds like a decision that will add some fuel to the fire heading into 2020-21:
“I’m always about the team, and obviously I would be lying if I said I don’t want to start, because everyone wants to start, everyone wants to have a big role. But I think he’s very young, he’s a good guy, he was drafted very high, and fans loved him, so you know it’s always tougher for the guy who comes from Europe or some team they didn’t follow him much, he starts for someone who was drafted high. He was playing unbelievable after the All-Star break and the last game before the Coronavirus outbreak he started, and I was okay with that because I was struggling at that time. But it’s good to have competition on your team as well, it gives you something positive for the season and the team.”
Satoransky’s is correct: When the Bulls drafted White, he was in a tough position. The guy came to Chicago for a bigger opportunity, but almost instantly, he had a newer, younger point guard (with way better hair) right on his tail. I’m sure that’s less than ideal. However, he’s both accustomed to and has thrived in a backup role before, which is good news for the Bulls, who will likely use him in that capacity moving forward.
Not to mention, I can’t help but think this new front office leadership can help find exactly the right role for Satoransky down the road, be it via personal input or indirectly through the hire of an – *ahem* – adequate head coach. It’s good to know too that whatever decision they plan to make, Satoransky will be onboard:
“Well, I think the project looks really good and really bright. I mean, we had some new changes in the front office that I love. Both very successful guys … I really believe they can give us a new push, new fire to the organization.”
Do you think Satoransky was one of the players to bad-mouth on Boylen? He kind of alluded to the Bulls running a wonky system in his interview when he talked about Lauri Markkanen’s shared troubles this season, so I wouldn’t put it past him.
“It was a tough season for Lauri, he got injured after a little bit. He had some good stretches, but I think his performances was a little bit up and down as well because I think, like myself, we were struggling with the shot. But he has so much potential. Tall guy, strong who can dribble, who can rebound actually, go coast-to-coast. Like all of us, he’s very young and has to work on some decision-making on the court, but like I said, his potential is amazing.
I don’t know if that’s him expressing some kind of frustration with the way guys were used or what, but I certainly agree with him.
At the end of the day though, both he and Markkanen aren’t simply victims of circumstance. Both guys will have to show an increased level of competitiveness whenever the NBA returns to better carve out their role (especially Markkanen whose up for an extension this offseason).
Satoransky is certainly demonstrating that he can (1) own up to his own faults and (2) recognizes what’s best for this team moving forward, but soon he’ll have to express progress on the court. Show not tell.