If the Chicago Bulls seek a big-splash upgrade at the point guard spot this summer, it could open the door for the Boston Celtics to pursue Tomas Satoransky to add backcourt depth.
The Athletic reported Tuesday that the Bulls and Clippers are among the teams interested in making a play for restricted free agent Lonzo Ball this summer. Chicago missed the playoffs last season despite adding All-Star Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline and now has urgency to build a contender, particularly as Zach LaVine enters the final year of his deal.
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A bloating payroll, however, complicates offseason maneuvering for the Bulls. And that's where the Celtics could swoop in. Satoransky’s $10 million salary — only half of which is guaranteed until August 1 — would fit into the remainder of the Gordon Hayward trade exception, offering immediate cap relief for a Bulls team that might need a point guard boost with Coby White likely sidelined for the start of the season.
White’s injury could also make Satoransky valuable to retain but if the Bulls need to trim salary — particularly with a decision looming on their own restricted free agent in Lauri Marrkkanen — then Boston is in position to help the Bulls by not sending back salary (unless Chicago improbably yearns for Tristan Thompson’s expiring contract).
The Celtics have $11 million remaining on the $28.5 million Hayward exception after using $17.5 million to acquire Evan Fournier at last season’s trade deadline.
Boston cannot use any of its trade exceptions as part of sign-and-trade deals without triggering the hard cap, which makes it more agreeable to land an under-contract veteran like Satoransky this summer. While Ball is a lustful target for Celtics fans given his size and skill set, we’ve already detailed why it’s nearly impossible for Boston to pursue him.
Satoransky, who will turn 30 near the start of the 2021-22 season, would give the Celtics some desired size (6-foot-7) at the guard spot. He’s an efficient scorer, shooting 51.4 percent overall last season and 36.6 percent beyond the arc for his career. His 27.9 assist percentage last season ranked in the 87th percentile among all combo guards and his assist-to-usage rate (1.53) ranked in the 99th percentile, per Cleaning the Glass data.
Satoransky will be in an international spotlight this summer as the lone NBA player on the Czech Republic roster at the Olympics. The Czechs and Team USA meet in pool play on July 31.
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Satoransky is an intriguing splurge at the guard position but would fill a void left by Kemba Walker’s departure. As previously discussed in this space, Boston could make a play for Patty Mills, or settle for a low-price tag free agent like Ish Smith, but Satoransky’s size and skill set would give the team an intriguing collection of perimeter talent.
And in the absence of means to pursue bigger-splash names on the free-agent market, Satoransky might be about as impactful a role player the team can find using its collection of trade exceptions.