NBC Sports Chicago is breaking down the 15 full-time players on the Bulls' roster. Next up is Tomas Satoransky.
9.9 PPG, 5.4 APG, 3.9 RPG | 43% FG, 32.2% 3P, 87.6% FT | 16.5% USG
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
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.
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.
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.
Jimmy Butler has always been comfortable taking the road less traveled.
So his answer to whether he’ll wear one of the league-approved social justice messages on the back of his Miami Heat jersey shouldn’t surprise.
“I have decided not to. With that being said, I hope that my last name doesn’t go on there as well,” Butler said during his remote media availability session from the NBA’s restart on the Disney World campus in Florida. “I love and respect all the messages that the league did choose. But for me, I felt like with no message, with no name, it’s going back to like who I was. And if I wasn’t who I was today, I’m no different than anybody else of color.
“And I want that to be my message in the sense that just because I’m an NBA player, everybody has the same rights no matter what. That’s how I feel about my people of color.”
Butler would need NBA approval for his unique idea. If he received it, it would symbolically place him back in the same status of anonymity as many African-Americans who have experienced police brutality, a crucial point in the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I’m hoping I get that opportunity though,” Butler said. “I really am.”
Butler admitted he considered sitting out the league’s 22-team restart to make a statement in that fashion, a strong admission from one of the league’s most competitive players. But ultimately, the former Bulls All-Star forward said just as much positive impact can occur by playing.
“Being away from your family is hard. What’s going on in the world right now it’s hard. But being here, it’s also hard. It’s not easy for anybody,” he said. “But we get the opportunity to talk amongst each other, learn about each other and everybody’s stories that’s here. And knowing that we’re all in this together, we’re all in this for the greater good. And I can tell you that everybody here is with the equality because it’s real. It needs to happen. There just has to be more action behind it.”
Butler called life inside the so-called bubble “easy,” a testament to the intricate and exhaustive planning undertaken by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association. The Heat have been one of the surprise stories of the NBA season, and Butler offered a colorful answer when asked how he kept sharp during the four-month hiatus since COVID-19 paused the league.
“The whole thing was just find a way to compete, whether it be at cards or at dominoes or a footrace, whatever it is. Keep your mind thinking, ‘I have to be the best. I have to win,’” Butler said. “And then as far as working out goes, if you have a gym at your house or a basket, yeah, go ahead. Work out. Shoot. But just ride the bike. Lift some weights. Do some yoga. Do some pilates, whatever that might be. And I think the Miami Heat did a great job of using Zoom to do pilates, yoga, lift together, talk. I think that was huge to getting back to where we are right now.”
Back in April, Butler even sent portable baskets to all his teammates. So, yes, Butler is ready. He always is.