At the Advocate Center on Thursday, Tomas Satoransky knew it was time. The Bulls second-year point guard cleared his throat and gave a sharp whistle in the direction of Coby White. The confused 20-year-old turned around, and the two met eyes.
“Heads up,” Satoransky said as he threw something in White’s direction.
The object met White’s sweaty palms, and he quickly looked down. There they were: The Point Guard Keys.
“Ready to take it for a spin,” Satoransky asked.
“You know it,” White replied.
Just kidding, White and Satoransky didn’t have that sitcom worthy father-son moment. At least … I don’t think. However, all signs point to some kind of conversation being had over the past few weeks about the future of the Bulls starting point guard position (and I just really wish it was like the one above). New head coach Billy Donovan wasn’t shy about admitting that he views White as the team’s primary ballhandler. And one day after Donovan spoke to reporters, White confirmed that the coaching staff wants him to play lead guard as they head into the 2020-21 season.
After White’s red-hot performance to end the 2019-20 campaign, most expected this, including the previous starting point guard.
“I think he deserves that,” Satoransky told reporters on Friday when asked about White’s starting role. “I really like the progress he did last season, especially how he ended the year. From after the All-Star break, he had an unbelievable run. Even after I saw him after nine months, he did huge progress. You can tell that he was working out a lot. I can see the difference from also a mental standpoint and just from conversation with each other that he really matured over that year. And I think he deservingly should be in this role.”
The Bulls signed the veteran point guard last offseason, hoping he could be the distributor this team desperately needed. The opportunity with Chicago was his first real shot at playing the starting role. In his previous, rather successful, seasons with the Wizards, Satoransky did earn plenty of starting experience but that came knowing John Wall was still the team’s priority. In his new role for Chicago, it was his first real opportunity to prove he was more than a quality role player. Unfortunately for him, he failed to impress.
All things considered, he had a fine season. He averaged a career-high in points per game (10) and assists per game (5.4). One of his best attributes is limiting turnovers and finding open teammates, which he continued to do at a relatively high-level. His assist to turnover ratio (2.71) was still 7th-best among starting guards who played 50 or more games. Additionally, Satoransky’s assist percentage finished in the 81st percentile, and his assist to usage ratio fell within the 97th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass. Pretty good.
The problem was that these numbers didn’t make a big enough impact. Even worse, White proved to dominate in the area where Satoransky took the biggest step backward – scoring. Satoransky’s effective field goal percentage dropped from 54.5 percent in 2018-19 to 48.8 percent in 2019-20. Thought to be a more than equipped 3-point threat, Satoransky also saw his clip from behind the arc drop from 39.5 percent to 32.2 percent. Uh, those are two very different numbers.
Satoransky was open about his poor offensive showing with the media on Friday, and he included it in the reasons why White surpassed him on the depth chart. He said he spent a lot of time re-energizing and shooting this offseason to get back on the track he once was. And while he is ready for some friendly competition with White in training camp, he also said that he is ready to “help him with anything he needs.”
Look, I love both White and Sato. I’ve been open about that from the moment they were both brought on board. I’m bummed Satoransky didn’t pan-out, initially, as many hoped. However, bias aside, I genuinely think he can have a strong bounceback year this season. Coming off the bench might not only be a more familiar feeling for the 29-year-old, but it will also allow him to more freely play his game. Satoransky is a gifted athlete and playmaker, but he was also clearly overwhelmed with the talent and scorers on the court last season. I think his position in the second unit, and playing against opposing second units, will be beneficial for him and the Bulls.
Watch Satoransky’s full training camp interview below: