Tomas Satoransky

Bulls questions: Evaluating last offseason's additions, how they fit long-term

Bulls questions: Evaluating last offseason's additions, how they fit long-term

Two times per week, we'll be breaking down a pertinent Bulls question for you all to chew in during the NBA's hiatus.

Past installments: What is Zach LaVine's ceiling? | Should Bulls lock in Kris Dunn long-term after career-reviving year?

The buzz around the 2019-20 Bulls season crescendoed last offseason. With a promising core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. already in place, the addition of an electric Coby White through the draft and savvy, supplementary vets through free agency appeared to be a winning formula in the third year of the rebuild. 

That calculation was made on paper. In practice… Well, you saw the results. 

But how did those additions for the 2019-20 seasons perform? How should they fit into the team’s long-term plans? Let’s evaluate (all contract figures via Spotrac):

Thad Young — signed to a three-year, $44 million contract last summer (third year partially guaranteed at $6 million)

Young’s season can pretty tidily be divided into three subsections (all per game averages):

  • First 24 games: 21.2 minutes, 8.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 0.9 steals; 40.9/34.2/56.7 shooting splits (8.5 attempts)

  • Next 21 games: 23.7 minutes, 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.4 steals; 43.3/34.8/64.7 shooting splits (8.9 attempts)

  • Next 19 games: 30.8 minutes (15 starts), 13.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.2 steals; 49.8/37.7/56 (11.1 attempts); 17 double-digit scoring performances

Those segments aren’t arbitrary. The first 24 games represent (approximately) the first third of Young’s 64-game season. At that tentpole, he was averaging the second-lowest minutes total of his 13-year career (to only his rookie campaign) and looked largely uncomfortable navigating the Bulls’ up-tempo, 3-pointer-heavy offensive system.

Segment two begins on Dec. 11, when Young logged a then season-high 33 minutes in a 35-point home victory over the Atlanta Hawks, notching 15 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. The next day, a report surfaced from the Chicago Sun-Times that Young was unhappy with his playing time, which Young addressed at length to the media soon after. From there, trade rumors and rumblings of broken promises festered. Through it all, he remained publicly professional and a keen advisor to many of the team's young players behind the scenes. His play subtly began to improve, especially on the defensive end, with a modest uptick in minutes.

Segment three starts with Markkanen sidelined for a little over a month with an early stress reaction in his pelvis. Young started 15 games in his stead and played his best ball of the season, even as the Bulls floundered. The correlation between increased opportunity and production is one Young never shied away from.


The question moving forward is whether his interests and the Bulls’ are at odds. In general, this wasn’t the season he and fans expected from him, but he proved he has enough in the tank to be a contributor to winning basketball. If the Bulls aren’t ready to do that, the question of a long-term fit here is a legitimate one. Juggling Young and Markkanen’s minutes was already a point of friction this season, and if anything, Markkanen should be doing more next year. Plus, what if the Bulls invest their impending top-10 draft pick on a forward? They couldn’t find any takers for Young at the deadline, but finding an outlet for the final two years of his deal (and finding him a winning situation) could be on the team’s radar.

RELATED: Top 10 draft picks in Bulls franchise history

Tomas Satoransky — signed to a three-year, $30 million contract last summer (third year partially guaranteed at $5 million)

The specter of Satoransky was always intriguing. A low-maintenance, pass-first, heady floor general to start alongside LaVine while White developed in the wings. Facilitate, hit open jumpers and defend at a clip reasonable for his 6-foot-7 frame, and Satoransky would be the quintessential complementary piece.

And while he showed flashes — a 27-point, 9-assist outing in Atlanta (oh man, is there a trend here?) and multiple stat-sheet-stuffings against the Wizards — his production largely didn’t pass the sniff test. Among the most alarming figures from Satoransky’s first season in Chicago: From Dec. 1 on, Satoransky shot 26.8% from 3-point range (3.1 attempts per); on the season, he converted 32.9% of his catch-and-shoot 3-point looks — a steep dive from his 42.8% career mark entering the season (a huge part of what made him such an intriguing option in the first place). Moreover, his general assertiveness on the offensive end seemed to wax and wane at times.

A positive: If this rebuild has proved anything, it’s that availability is an ability, and Satoransky was certainly that. He and White were the only two players to appear in all 65 games before play was indefinitely suspended. In the final game before the league shut down, Satoransky gracefully ceded the starting spot — a title he coveted upon signing with the Bulls — to White, admitting that he hadn’t performed up to his own expectations this season. He’s another guy that draws rave reviews from teammates and coaches at every turn.

As of the current roster construction, Satoransky continuing to back up White is probably the team’s best course moving forward, though that’s subject to change depending on how the Bulls use that aforementioned top-10 draft pick. Satoransky running the team’s second unit can still be a winning formula, and $10 million next season with a non-fully guaranteed third year isn’t the end of the world.

Luke Kornet — signed to a two-year, $4.5 million contract last summer (fully guaranteed)

To say Kornet didn’t meet expectations doesn’t feel fair. He was always a low-risk flyer, and the emergence of Daniel Gafford softened the blow of his tumultuous campaign.

What’s more, he overcame a debilitating nasal ailment that marred his first three months in Chicago to flash spurts of productivity in January and February. After Carter badly sprained his right ankle on Jan. 6, Kornet re-entered the rotation for 19 games and averaged 8.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and nearly a block per game while shooting 47.4% from the field and making 14 starts. A severe right ankle sprain sustained in practice ended his season in late February.

But the 3-point shooting never came around. Kornet converted a career-low 28.7% of his long-range attempts and only 30.4% in that aforementioned 19-game stretch. The Bulls’ blitzing defensive system that draws bigs up and away from the basket is not suited to his strengths. He’s not on the short-list of the Bulls’ biggest problems, but isn’t a part of the long-term solution either.

Non-Coby rookies

Bonus section for the non-Coby White rookies, because they warrant mention (and White’s going to get his own column soon enough):

  • Daniel Gafford: A gem if the Bulls have ever found one. Scooped up with the No. 38 pick of the 2019 draft, Gafford led all rookies in total blocks (56) and players with more than 20 games played in blocks per 36 minutes (3.3) while clawing his way into the Bulls’ rotation after starting the season off the map. His energy, high-flying capacity and rim-protecting potential make him an incredibly viable — if not ideal — cost-controlled backup center option. First on his to-do list for year two is working on limiting his fouls. But he exceeded expectations this season (something not many Bulls can say) and should figure into the team’s plans for at least the immediate future. 

  • Adam Mokoka: He signed a to a two-way deal for this season and appeared in 11 games as the Bulls balanced his NBA days down the stretch. It would have been nice to see more of him. Two times Mokoka caught eyes over the course of this season — once with a record-setting 15-point outburst against the Pelicans in February, then with lockdown defense on Luka Doncic to key one of the Bulls’ few quality wins of the season. If the team decides to let Kris Dunn walk this offseason, Mokoka (along with Shaq Harrison) is a young and potentially inexpensive option to replace some percentage of Dunn’s production and defensive energy. And not for nothing, Mokoka has a solid stroke and shot 40% from 3-point range (15 total attempts) in those 11 games. A heftier 31-game sample size in the G League saw him convert 32.7% of his long-range looks on 5.4 attempts per game, but there’s cause to believe that can be built upon.

  • Max Strus: Another two-way guy, and a local product. He tore his ACL in December after appearing in just two NBA games. It’s hard to discern what Strus’ future with the Bulls might be, but he has been a consistent presence around the United and Advocate Centers throughout his rehab process.

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Bulls' Tomas Satoransky on NBA's suspension of games and U.S. response to COVID-19

USA Today

Bulls' Tomas Satoransky on NBA's suspension of games and U.S. response to COVID-19

It’s been a little over a week since the NBA postponed its season indefinitely, and there doesn’t appear to be an end in sight — for the league’s suspension or the rapidly spreading COVID-19 that has ground the world as we know it to a halt.

In a recent interview for NOVA Sport, Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky talks about his experiences during the NBA hiatus, and his perspective on what should come next. He think it might be best to cancel the season altogether.

Editor’s note: All quotes are translated from the original Czech on NOVA Sport’s site by Google Translate

“It is not pleasant to stay here and watch the team owners try to finish the league in order not to lose so much money,” Satoransky told NOVA Sport. “It is not very pleasant, perhaps because we would like to travel to the Czech Republic with my wife and daughter. We perceive the situation logically as Europeans. We perceive that all the right measures are already in place in the Czech Republic, and we think that in the USA, it will only get worse and worse.

“I personally think those teams (NBA teams) will want to finish [the season] and try to circumvent all the different rules. The European view is different for logical reasons. The way I see it is that the season will not finish and the whole year will be canceled, but it is not up to me.”

Satoransky added that he’s been staying in shape from home because he’s “not comfortable doing nothing.” That’s no surprise, as Satoransky’s work ethic and professionalism are lauded by everyone with the Bulls and beyond.

RELATED: Bulls to quarantine after Nets test positive for COVID-19

Still, based on his comments to NOVA Sport, he doesn’t appear satisfied with how people in the United States have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are fewer people here (than normal), for sure. All bars and restaurants are closed, but there are still a lot of people on the walk, dogs coming out, children playing outside,” Satoransky said. “You can still feel that people don't take it very seriously, and you don't see too many people in the streets with masks that my wife and I have already bought. That is one of the things that makes us nervous.”

If or when the NBA resumes remains to be seen. As of this writing, a mid-June return to action appears to be the best-case scenario, and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported that there have been discussions about shortening the remainder of the regular season to seven games and early playoff rounds to best-of-five.

But all of that depends on how the country collectively responds. Satoransky’s view is that we can all do more for the long trek ahead, and it’s hard to disagree.

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Bulls' Tomas Satoransky still making impact after accepting demotion

Bulls' Tomas Satoransky still making impact after accepting demotion

Tomas Satoransky could have taken a couple different directions when Jim Boylen told him he’d be moving into a reserve role in favor of rookie Coby White.

He could have sulked or pouted. He could have kicked and screamed. After all, he chose the Bulls in free agency to be a full-time starter for the first time in his NBA career.

Or, he could do what he did Tuesday night — act and play professionally. And then make a critical impact late in the Bulls’ 108-103 victory over the Cavaliers to match last season’s paltry victory total of 22 games.

“I respected that because I kind of expected that, also. It was logical the way I’ve been playing since All-Star break and the way Coby has been playing,” Satoransky said of Boylen’s decision. “Sometimes that happens to you as a player. I’m just happy for him. He’s been helping us win the game. He’s been balling out. I felt like he deserved that chance.”

Satoransky has shot miserably since the New Year, connecting on just 22.4 percent in January, 28.1 percent in February and 18.2 percent this month from 3-point land. Nevertheless, his floor game has remained strong. His five assists marked the 44th time this season he has posted at least that many in a game, while his eight rebounds included a huge offensive one which he dished to Thad Young for a 3-pointer late.

“Sometimes, it affects your game,” Satoransky admitted about his slump. “The shot opens up a lot for me, opens up space. Now people are letting me shoot sometimes. That was kind of frustrating for me. I hope I can build from the second half I had. I always try to affect the game in different ways like rebounding and organizing the game.”

Satoransky said he plans to ditch the brace he has been wearing to protect a hyperextended thumb that he is quietly playing through, having never landed on the injury report. He and White are the only Bulls to play in every game.

This comes on the heels of him also playing a hugely prominent role for his Czech Republic national team at last offseason’s FIBA World Cup. Boylen said Satoransky never misses a practice and theorized that the load could finally be taking a toll on him.

“I’ve been starting since the beginning of the season, playing a lot of minutes, not taking days off. I kind of feel like the summer had something to do with it. It was a very physically tough summer with my national team where you basically play all the minutes and all the games are super emotional,” Satoransky said. “I have to be smart about it next summer and try to take some lessons from the season. Sometimes I’m forcing it too much. I’m not probably in that age where I can still let myself do this.

“I think inconsistent is one off the best words to describe it. There is a lot of up and down for me. Right now, it’s obviously affecting the way I’ve been underperforming since the All-Star break. I can’t be happy about it. I think it helps after the season is done to look at it from the bigger picture. I think I had some good moments. We’ve been playing great, me, KD (Kris Dunn) and Zach (LaVine) some of the games. I don’t like being inconsistent.”

His teammates like Satoransky’s professionalism.

“Nothing really had to be said. We have a strong enough relationship to move past it and keep doing what we're doing,” White said of Satoransky accepting his demotion. “At the end of the day, me and him both just want to win games. And Sato handled it like a professional, like a grown man, and hats off to him. I can't thank him enough for the way he handled it because a lot of people could have handled it differently.

“It may not always show up in the stat sheet, but Sato does a lot of little things for us that we need and he's willing to do. That's just who he is. He's a great player.”

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