Bulls

Bulls getting more than just a point guard in versatile Tomas Satoransky

Bulls getting more than just a point guard in versatile Tomas Satoransky

The belief when the Bulls signed Tomas Satoransky to a three-year deal was that the 27-year-old would fill an immediate need at point guard. He had filled in for the injured John Wall the final 54 games of the previous season in Washington, and performed well. But for as much as the Bulls love their free agent acquisition’s ability to run an offense, it’s his versatility that may wind up having him fill other needs throughout the roster and depth chart.

It was one of the items VP John Paxson discussed at Monday’s Media Day, mentioning how the 6-foot-7 Satoransky won’t be limited to only time at the point. As he did in three seasons with the Wizards, he’ll be capable of playing three different positions. In fact, he spent 60% of his time off the ball in Washington, filling in at the point last season after Wall suffered a season-ending injury.

“He’s just a basketball player,” Paxson said. “He knows how to play. He’s a good passer, a good shooter, a good decision-maker. He can play off the ball.”

Satoransky agreed with the assessment. He said Tuesday at the Advocate Center that he hasn’t been focused too much of winning a point guard battle or keeping track of who he’s playing with in different lineups. The Bulls plan on moving their Swiss Army knife, who played 60% of his minutes in Washington off the ball, around to mix and match with different lineups. Versatility was a buzzword at Media Day, and Satoransky fits the bill.

“For me (it’s) more to get used to who I’m playing next to, and today I played a lot with Zach, Lauri, KD and OP in the same five,” Satoransky said. “So for me it’s just getting used to those guys, to their tendencies and just make the best out of every position I play.

"I played a lot of the point guard position in Europe and throughout my career, but I played a lot without the ball; cutting baseline, cutting without the ball. It wasn’t that tough on me, but still it’s a different type of play here in the NBA and guys are obviously more physical and athletic. So defensively, it was much tougher. But when I found out our tendencies of the players and I did scouting on them, I was fine."

The Bulls want to use Satoransky for more than just his point guard skills, but they also may need that versatility. Sophomore Chandler Hutchison, who was already nursing a strained hamstring and wasn’t practicing, went home sick on Tuesday with a virus. Denzel Valentine will be worked back in slowly after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.

That leaves very little depth behind Otto Porter Jr., who spent two-plus seasons in Washington with Satoransky and played 1,155 minutes alongside him. Porter discussed Satoransky with the front office in the lead-up to free agency, and he’s seen first-hand how the do-it-all guard can contribute in multiple ways.

“Very versatile, can play many positions, and his knowledge of the game,” Porter said. “It continues to grow and it continues to get better, and that’s impressed me.”

That’s not to say Satoransky won’t see minutes at point guard. There’s still a scenario – it may even be likely – in which he’s the starter. Satoransky is still the team’s most talented point guard, even with Kris Dunn drawing rave reviews in September and talented rookie Coby White waiting in the wings.

That competition will likely last throughout training camp – it’s a true position battle – but head coach Jim Boylen says the fight for minutes and rotation spots is a healthy one, not only because it’s breeding natural competition but because it will provide others opportunities at other positions.

“The point guard competition is a healthy thing. It's a positive thing for this franchise, for this team. It's a good thing. The other thing is, we're building a system where – yes, we'll have a point guard – but in a multi-handler system, everybody handles it. Everybody brings it. In our actions, we can put the 2 in there, the 3 in there. With that, Sato can play 1, 2 or 3; Dunn can play 1, 2 or 3; Shaq can play 1, 2 or 3; Archie can play 1 or 2.

“So I understand that we have to answer these questions and I understand why they're being asked. It's an important issue. But we are going to play a little different where the flexibility and versatility is almost more important than the position, old-school points guard, 2, 3.”

Four observations: Bulls falter down the stretch, lose season series to Warriors

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USA TODAY

Four observations: Bulls falter down the stretch, lose season series to Warriors

The Bulls have been swept by the league-worst (by record) Golden State Warriors after losing 100-98 on their home floor, Friday night. Observations from a tough loss:

Flashes of Lauri the Leader

The Bulls phased in and out of funks on both sides of the court for most of the first half, yet led 51-50 at the break. Credit Lauri Markkanen in large part for that.

Every time the game appeared to be slipping, it was Markkanen who snapped the Bulls back to attention. Trailing by four early in the first quarter, he had two strong drives and finishes to draw the game even. Then, after the Warriors began the second on a 16-5 run, Markkanen scored eight straight Bulls points to draw the game level. That’s leadership.

He finished the first quarter having taken seven shots, and the first half 7-for-11 (3-for-5 from three) and with a game-high 17 points. His teammates were clearly looking for him, and he thrived cutting and popping off on screen-and-roll. 

The second half wasn’t as fruitful — he went almost two full quarters without scoring after a cutting dunk to knot the game at 41 midway through the second period. So has been his season. 

In the fourth, he stroked a critical catch-and-shoot three to tie the game at 97 with just under four minutes left. Then, he turned the ball over on a travel and bricked a forced and contested 3-pointer. 

Unusual Zach LaVine performance, and a stilted offense

LaVine didn’t get his first bucket until an and-one layup with 1:27 left in the second quarter. Then, he ripped off 21 in a seven-minute run spanning the end of that period and the beginning of the third. Then, he didn’t score again. 

His most meaningful attempts of the game were two bricked iso jumpers in the final minute, one with the game tied, one at the buzzer that would have one the game.

His six assists were a team-high, but that will be overshadowed by those late-game possessions and night-long inconsistency.

This was his first time in three games not eclipsing 10 free throw attempts. As a team, the Bulls attempted only five all night. The bench was up (Denzel Valentine, Coby White) and down (Luke Kornet, Ryan Arcidiacono). Wendell Carter and Tomas Satoransky combined for only 12 points on 12 attempts. That offensive passivity will be a storyline, as well.

The Bulls do the Warriors some favors, and the Warriors do just enough

The Bulls led the Warriors for most of this one — in the second half, Golden State didn’t lead until the 5:30 mark of the fourth. 

But they did just enough to win — out-rebounding the Bulls 39-37, outshooting them on 17 less field goal attempts and going to the foul line a whopping 17 more times. Draymond Green was a beast defensively, and the difference-maker in the game. The Bulls defense generated some sparkplug turnovers early in the game — and got 20, by the end — but the stretch run was littered with defensive fouls, fumbled balls and more traveling violations.

The Bulls did them some favors, late. Boylen rolled entirely with the starters down the stretch and the offense stagnated. Questions there will start and end with LaVine, who waved off a Carter screen on the final possession. After a run of great fourth-quarter execution, a 17-point period tonight is dour. 

Obligatory silver lining: Coby White delivered the full Coby White experience

There was a couple of fun Coby White mini-runs in this one that livened up the United Center. 

In the first quarter, White had eight points by way of two threes (one a near buzzer-beater to end the period) and a turbo-charged drive past Kevon Looney on a mismatch for a finger-roll finish.

He then opened the second with a miss on a contested step-back jumper and a(nother) failed poster-dunk attempt. He hasn’t punched one of those home yet, but Bulls fans seem to appreciate the gumption, regardless. Then, in the last two minutes of the third, he had two 3-pointers over the course of an 8-0 run to pull the Bulls ahead after a Warriors surge. The UC was buzzing.

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Special guest 5-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway

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USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Special guest 5-time NBA All-Star Tim Hardaway

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Jason Goff is joined by Chicago native and former NBA star Tim Hardaway

1:10       On how a Chicago kid went to play college basketball in Texas

6:15       On growing up a Bulls fan

9:20       What did Chicago basketball make Tim?

16:30    On starting his NBA career in Golden State

22:30    On the 90’s dynasty era Bulls and what he appreciated about them

25:25    Which players did he enjoy playing against the most

26:50    On today’s game and the point guard position

29:15    On the influence of analytics on today’s NBA

34:15    On balancing what a player’s skills are vs what the system wants

38:00    On Zach LaVine and his ceiling as a player

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

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