Position-less basketball might be going too far. Just about every guard has “off-ball capabilities” and can “handle the rock if needed,” and every small forward “can play the 4 in a small-ball lineup.” In reality, just about every player *can* play multiple spots. It’s a matter of whether they should be playing there. Can Shaq Harrison play the point? Yes, he’s 6-foot-4 and can defend the position. Should Harrison play the point? Absolutely not. Can Chandler Hutchison play a small-ball four? Sure, he was forced into that role as a rookie because of injuries to Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis. Should he be playing there? Absolutely not.
So, when coach Jim Boylen discusses versatility and flexibility, it’s important to distinguish what that really means. The Bulls don’t have eight Giannis Antetokounmpos. They don’t really have a handful of Swiss Army Knives – though they are far more versatile this season. Here’s where the Bulls’ backcourt stands in terms of versatility.
Satoransky is the closest the Bulls have to a true three-position player. He’s a 6-foot-7 natural point guard who started 54 games for the Wizards last season. He backed up John Wall in 2018 and spent most of his overseas career running the point, too. Despite the Bulls’ lack of wing depth, it’s a safe bet to assume Satoransky is going to be the lead point guard the majority of the regular season.
He’s also pretty good off the ball. His length is the obvious plus here, with Satoransky able to guard either wing spot. Offensively, he’s a perfect off-ball wing for Jim Boylen’s system. He’s going to keep the ball moving and give the Bulls a second ball handler (in addition to whoever is playing point guard) and is also an excellent wing shooter: Over the last two seasons, Satoransky is shooting 105 of 236 (44.4%) on catch-and-shoot triple attempts. Satoransky is going to play everywhere.
Dunn might be the anti-Satoransky. This author is a fan of what Dunn is capable of a traditional pass-first point guard. That could play very well on the second unit away from ball-dominant Zach LaVine. But Dunn isn’t going to provide much of anything off the ball. He’s physical enough to defend on the wing, but he simply isn’t capable as a shooter. Dunn does his best work with the ball in his hands, and isn’t much of a threat without it. For his career, Dunn has shot 40.0% on pull-up 3-pointers and just 27.8% on catch-and-shoot triples. Any lineup with Dunn and another point guard will likely mean that other player shifting off-ball, not Dunn.
The Bulls drafted Coby White to be their point guard of the future, but he could wind up making a bigger rookie impact as a shooter. White is still incredibly raw – he won’t turn 20 until February and has one year of point-guard experience – and posted outstanding 3-point numbers in his lone season at North Carolina. He’s been a quick learner in training camp, but with good depth at the point, the Bulls could shift White to a wing spot to provide much-needed outside shooting on the second unit. The preseason will tell us plenty about how far he’s come as a lead ball handler, but there’s a spot for White in the rotation because of his scoring abilities. He can play either guard spot.
The beauty of Ryan Arcidiacono is that he’ll play wherever he’s asked. He was essentially a 3-point specialist through the season’s first month, stepped in with a couple high-assist totals in spot starts for Dunn, and then logged critical minutes down the stretch for the injury-riddled Bulls (someone had to play).
Basketball Reference pegged Arcidiacono for 96% of his minutes at point guard. He won’t defend much on the wing – he’s 6-foot-3 – but is certainly an interchangeable part within the offense. Like he did a year ago, Aricidiacono can and will wear different hats within what Boylen wants to do. He’s versatile and valuable.
This is an easy one. LaVine will never be a true full-time point guard but is more than capable of being a lead ball handler. He’s so lethal off the dribble, he attracts multiple defenders and is an above-average pull-up shooter. He works as a second ball handler in the multi-ball handler system. The beauty of pairing him with a player like Satoransky is LaVine can still be the lead guard, but Satoransky can still run/initiate the offense. LaVine isn’t going to guard many small forwards, but in an offensive-minded lineup he could work with two other guards.
The preseason will tell us plenty about what Valentine can provide after missing an entire season with an ankle injury. In a best-case scenario, Valentine plays a similar role to Satoransky as a wing passer. We know Valentine can shoot it – the ankle shouldn’t affect much – and he has the size to guard either wing position (the agility is another story). But his passing ability will be just as important for a second unit that needs as many open looks as it can find (there aren’t many shot creators on it). Valentine’s skill set should help in multiple areas, assuming he can stay on the floor.
Harrison can defend three positions, but he needs to be used properly on offense. Harrison had the ball in his hands out of necessity far too often, and it resulted on too many 4-on-5 sets for a Bulls offense that was already outmanned. Harrison is utilized best as a cutter off the ball. He’s pretty athletic around the rim (the finishing is a different story) and obviously has speed, so he could run himself into a few easy buckets a game. Harrison’s defensive worth and versatility should have him in the rotation, but – as tough as it is for this author to admit – he is going to need to show something more on offense. Defense is important, but the Bulls can’t afford to play guys who provide nothing on the other end.