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.”