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Player breakdowns: Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky is his own harshest critic

With the NBA season still up in the air, the Sun-Times will look at all the Bulls, the seasons they had and the upcoming seasons they could have, in Chicago or elsewhere. Next up is the guy called “Sato.”

“There is a lot of up and down for me. … It’s obviously affecting the way I’ve been underperforming since the All-Star break. I can’t be happy about it,” the Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky said of his performance this season.
“There is a lot of up and down for me. … It’s obviously affecting the way I’ve been underperforming since the All-Star break. I can’t be happy about it,” the Bulls’ Tomas Satoransky said of his performance this season.
Mark Lennihan/AP

The criticism of guard Tomas Satoransky’s play before the coronavirus shut down the NBA was harsh.

It’s difficult to categorize it as unfair, however, especially because it was coming from Satoransky himself.

“I think inconsistent is one of the best words to describe it,’’ Satoransky said. “There’s a lot of up and down for me. . . . 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 don’t like being inconsistent.’’

Neither do the Bulls.

When the team acquired Satoransky, 28, from the Wizards last summer in a sign-and-trade, the front office had its reasons: his analytics were strong, he had a reputation as a tough-minded guy and his versatility at point guard would be beneficial.

Some of those boxes were checked in the 65 games he played, but there were far more underwhelming moments than highlights.

His 9.9 points per game were a career high, but that was expected, especially because Satoransky was an every-day starter — that is, until rookie Coby White took his spot just before the league went on hiatus. But Satoransky’s three-point shooting was a career-worst 32.2 percent, and his field-goal percentage (43 percent) was a three-season low.

He did show playmaking ability, leading the Bulls with 5.4 assists, and his team defense was solid, but the fact that Satoransky couldn’t hold off White has to be deemed a failure when it comes to the Bulls’ expectations.

On too many nights, Satoransky just looked like another NBA guy out there -— not a starter and definitely not a game-changer at the point.

As a reserve? Great. He’d be a rotation player on all 30 NBA teams, but the fact that the Bulls sold him as a starter showed just how weak they were at lead guard.

The one hope is that Satoransky’s shooting struggles were more about fatigue than a new norm with the Bulls.

Satoransky barely had a breather last offseason, going right from the Wizards to the Czech national team for the FIBA World Cup. By the time that tourney came to an end, it was welcome to Bulls training camp 2019-20.

When, or if, the NBA season resumes, Satoransky already has a plan in place for the finish and, more important, for how he wants to tackle the offseason.

“I’ve never had a role that big on an NBA team for a whole season,’’ 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 at that age where I can still let myself do this. I have to change my mentality.’’

The Situation: Satoransky signed a three-year, $30 million deal when the Bulls acquired him, so unless there’s a team interested in trading for him, he’s a keeper. Not that it’s a bad contract by any means, especially for a 6-7 versatile player who can run a second unit as well as defend ones, twos and threes.

The Resolution: The emergence of Coby White has pushed Satoransky to the second unit, but he’s actually better equipped to handle a reserve role. This was by no means a bad acquisition, just not the acquisition the Bulls hoped it would be.

Bold Prediction: Satoransky will remain a valuable backup guard over the last two years of his contract, then move on to play elsewhere when the deal is done. No harm, no foul.