Tomas Satoransky’s first eight games in a Chicago Bulls uniform probably have underwhelmed a bit. Averaging a timid 6.5 points on under 40 percent shooting from the field, not rebounding much, and not do anything defensively that jumped out at you.
....but that perspective isn’t entirely fair or his fault. Fan expectations for Satoransky were high entering the season, unusually so for a non-star free agent pickup. Maybe because of the carousel of point guards the Bulls have employed since Derrick Rose set the bar low to where mere stability would be a tremendous upgrade. Then the FIBA Basketball World Cup happened this summer, where Satoransky averaged 15.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 5.6 rebounds.
So especially against those raised expectations, Satoransky wasn’t performing up to par. Until a career-high 27 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night offered a glimpse of what an aggressive Satoransky can bring to this offense.
Back to what we saw prior to Wednesday, James Herbert at CBS Sports offered some insight into what wasn’t going well for Sato.
The way NBA coaches and players typically talk about aggressiveness, you might get the impression the winner of each game is the team judged to be the most forceful, not the one that scores the most points. Stars credit their teammates for telling them to have an attacking mentality; coaches say that they are more than willing to live with “aggressive mistakes.” You will not hear anything like that out of the 28-year-old Satoransky, a purist from Prague who still checks in on Euroleague games and the Spanish ACB.
“He’s very intelligent,” Boylen said. “And he wants to be perfect, which I kind of talked to him about: ‘Don’t worry about that, just play.’ He wants to please, and he wants to raise his teammates up. And what I’ve asked him to do is don’t lose yourself within that. You gotta take your open looks.”
When Satoransky hesitates or passes up a good look, it is not because he lacks confidence. He believes that sharing the ball is contagious. If he is not allergic to selfishness, he is at least extremely averse to it.
Here is an example of a less-than-aggressive Satoransky, ironically from his breakout game in Atlanta. Honestly, this is a criticism of a lot of Bulls players, but here Satoransky is on the side of the floor opposite the ball just kind of spectating.
Then there has been a re-occurring issue eluded to in the quotes above that Satoransky has passed up good shots during his time with the Bulls. In the video below, he passes up a wide open 3-point attempt for a contested, circus layup.
Now let’s look at the good from this game, where it was the most aggressive Satoransky has played all season.
For much of the game, Satoransky was matched up with the much smaller Trae Young (six inch height difference). For all his obvious brilliance offensively, Young gives a lot of it back defensively. Satoransky recognized this and took advantage of the matchup all night.
Of course, the bread-and-butter of Satoransky’s game is his playmaking. And playing with a little bit of urgency/aggressiveness whatever you want to call it is extremely helpful here as well.
On this play, there’s less than four seconds left in the quarter so that’s part of the reason he’s playing fast, but Satoransky does a good job of keeping his eyes up the floor and then making a quick decision to find Ryan Arcidiacono streaking behind most of the defense for a score before the quarter expired.
Even early in a season where Satoransky hasn’t played as well as he would like or as well as Bulls fans would have hoped, Chicago’s offense is nearly 15 points better when he is on the floor.
The aggressive version of Satoransky creates offense for his teammates while still looking for his own shot. If he keeps this up, he’ll live up to even these raised expectations.