Bulls

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

Tomas Satoransky's key to finding footing with Bulls after adverse 2019-20

NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Tomas Satoransky.

Past: Zach LaVine | Coby White

2019-20 Stats

9.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG | 43% FG, 32.2% 3P, 87.6% FT | 16.5% USG

Contract Breakdown

Age: 28

July 2019: Signed 3-year, $30 million contract (partial guarantee on third season)

2020-21: $10,000,000 | 2021-22: $10,000,000* 

*$5,000,000 guaranteed, fully guaranteed on June 30, 2021

(via Spotrac)

Strengths

Satoransky is always available and a wonderful team player — he and Coby White were the only Bulls to appear in all 65 of the team’s games, and Sato led the Bulls in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.72) in 2019-20. His advanced feel for the game and willingness to jabber on the floor make him an effective traffic director, and his 6-foot-7 build allows him to see over the tops of defenses to find teammates.

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When he’s “on” offensively, that translates into an effective drive-and-kick game, and his track record is one of an good spot-up shooter. He’s a veteran, solid team defender and one of the more congenial guys on the team. Not a break-down-the-defense player, which factored into him having a limited impact on the Bulls' offense this season, but a capable glue guy on the floor and off it.

Areas to Improve

Though Satoransky posted career-high counting stats across the board in his first season as an NBA starter, his inaugural campaign with the Bulls didn’t live up to his or the team’s expectations after his signing was widely lauded in the 2019 offseason. The highs were high, but they were too few and far between by season's end. White usurped him in the starting lineup in the Bulls' final game before the hiatus, via a combination of the rookie’s torrid play and Satoransky’s uneven production. In line with his character, Satoransky handled the demotion with grace.

The quickest way for Sato to right the ship is to bounce back in the shooting department. A huge part of his sell as a free agent signing was his ability to complement Zach LaVine in the starting backcourt as a facilitator and off-ball scoring threat. The former panned out at times, the latter not as much. Satoransky entered 2019-20 a 44.5% catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter (1.5 attempts per game) in his past two seasons. In 2019-20: 32.9% on 2.6 attempts per, and he made just 26.8% of all of his long-range looks from December on. 

The good news: He’s reportedly working with renowned shooting coach Stefan Weissenböck this offseason, who Satoransky has credited with drastic improvements to his jumper in the past — chiefly, a leap from 24.3% to 46.3% from deep between his first and second NBA seasons. Him finding his footing there could unlock a lot for his game and the Bulls offense, even if he’s relegated to a reserve role moving forward.

Ceiling Projection

Satoransky would be an integral role player on most any team in the league. He’s not the Bulls’ point guard of the long- or short-term future — that slot is best reserved for White or their impending top-10 draftee. But as, say, a seventh man, he can be useful for a young team in need of a steady hand at the controls for spurts. And his $10 million salary for next season, plus a partial guarantee for 2021-22, isn’t overly-debilitating to the Bulls' books. We’ll call his ceiling a top-five reserve lead guard in the NBA, and a capable spot starter.

Whether he sticks in Chicago depends on the new front office regime's impression of his game, and draft fates.

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Bulls’ Zach LaVine shouts out Damian Lillard during 61-point explosion

Bulls’ Zach LaVine shouts out Damian Lillard during 61-point explosion

Damian Lillard is not of this planet.

As the Portland Trail Blazers scrap for a spot in the Western Conference’s play-in round, Lillard dropped a career-high-tying 61 points on 17-for-32 field goal shooting (9-for-17 from 3 and *rubs eyes* 18-for-18 from the charity stripe), eight assists and five rebounds in a 134-131 victory over the red-hot Dallas Mavericks. Flames spit from his fingertips.

It was Lillard’s third 60-point outing of the season (and second straight game with 50-plus; he’s had six of those this year and 11 in his career). Twenty-two of his 61 points and 11 of his 18 free throws came in the fourth quarter. It was a magnificent, all-encompassing performance — one that has become all too commonplace in a campaign by Lillard that is historic in its prolificity.

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When these shots are falling, you know it’s your night. Or, for that matter, your season.


What’s more, Lillard followed that friendly roll — which tied the game 130-130 — by drawing an offensive foul on Trey Burke on the ensuing defensive possession, then immediately setting the table for a Hassan Whiteside dunk that put the Trail Blazers ahead for good.

The win secures Portland (34-39) full control of its destiny in the Western Conference play-in race. A victory over the Brooklyn Nets Thursday guarantees them a swing at the eighth seed (and should the Memphis Grizzlies fall to the Milwaukee Bucks that night, Portland will move into the No. 8 spot, granting them a one-game handicap in the play-in). Lillard’s outing epitomized clutch.

And another electric scorer with ties to the Pacific Northwest took notice:

Real recognize real. As it's always been.

Bulls fans will remember Lavine’s 49-point, 13 3-pointer eruption against the Charlotte Hornets way back on Nov. 23, 2019 — it was one of the few bright spots of the season, though it feels decades-old now. 

“It was fun to see,” Lillard said of LaVine’s night on Nov. 25, with the Trail Blazers in town for an early-season date with the Bulls. “Any time you see that type of performance, you hope that it comes in a win. And I think how they just came up big hitting 3 after 3, you know, he hit a couple tough ones… He has that type of talent, that type of ability to have a night like that.”

Lillard would know.

LaVine enjoyed his career night just 24 hours after being yanked by Jim Boylen from a loss to the Miami Heat for what Boylen termed “three egregious defensive mistakes.” Lillard’s comes three days after a close loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in which he missed two crucial late-game free throws that could have pulled Portland ahead by a point. An unsavory beef with FS1’s Skip Bayless followed.

“I think that's a separator, you know, being able to have that type of mentality,” Lillard said on Nov. 25 of LaVine bouncing back from being benched. “He could have easily came out and pouted and not showed up for his teammates, but he responded in a kind of way that a player at his level should.”

Lillard embodied that mentality Tuesday. And LaVine, via Twitter, put respect on his name.

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How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

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How Sky are approaching WNBA season, from advocacy to unprecedented schedule

The 2020 WNBA season is one like no other. While the league is playing out its truncated, 22-game campaign in a bubbled campus at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla, it’s also dedicating the proceedings to social justice advocacy.

To name a few ways the latter has come to fruition: Players across the W have honored the lives and called for justice for Breonna Taylor, Sandra Bland and other victims of police brutality and racial violence with jersey messages, on-court demonstrations and comments to the media. The Sky, specifically, launched a fund to benefit Chicago-based community organizations based on team performance called #SkyTakesAction. There was even a leaguewide thrust to publicly endorse Raphael Warnock, a Democratic challenger for Kelly Loeffler’s Senate seat in Georgia, after Loeffler repeatedly came out in opposition of the W’s social justice initiatives and the Black Lives Matter movement. Everything enacted by the league on this front has been pointed and unified.

Meanwhile, there’s basketball to be played, as well. And the Sky is on the rise. Despite dropping two of its last three contests, the team is off to a 5-3 start to the season, with mammoth victories over the Las Vegas Aces, Los Angeles Sparks and Washington Mystics embedded in. It’s a group with championship aspirations one year after bursting onto the scene under first-year coach James Wade and bolstered by a high-octane, free-flowing style of play; and it returned much of the core of that breakout squad, even as many stars across the W traded threads.

Sky forward Gabby Williams recently joined the Bulls Talk Podcast to discuss all of the above — from her commitment to pushing for change to the high hopes, and strange circumstances, surrounding the team this season.

“Our decision to come to the bubble really was, if we're going to go, fighting for social justice is going to be at the forefront of our season,” Williams said. “That's going to go hand-in-hand with the WNBA.”

And on grinding through a season with games near every other day: “It’s going to be hard on our bodies, it’s going to be hard mentally, it’s going to be hard physically, emotionally, everything, it’s going to be exhausting. So we’re just going to try to keep each other up. It’s going to be gritty, it’s going to be a season that we have to grind out, and it’s not going to be easy for anyone. So we’re just focused on our bodies, and staying healthy and staying together.”

Listen to the full conversation here or via the embedded player above.

Bulls Talk Podcast

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